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The Human Family is Crying Out for Women to Step Up

Wednesday, January 02, 2013 @ 10:36 PM

As I reflect on the progress and slippage of the female half of the human race in 2012, as well as the mighty challenges we face in the year ahead, it's clearer than ever to me that the human family is crying out for women to step up to leadership roles in numbers we've never done before.

Here are the some of the thoughts I shared recently in Washington, D.C. when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce invited me to their Center for Women in Business podium.  You'll also find them on Forbeswoman.com, including the video and lively Q&A. 


 

The Human Family is Crying Out for Women to Step Up and Lead 

 

As I reflect on both women’s progress and set-backs in 2012 and look ahead to the challenges that await us in 2013, it is clearer than ever that the human family is crying out for the world’s women to step up and lead.

Everywhere we look, whether inside the halls of a dysfunctional Congress, as far away as India, where thousands of women just marched to protest the gang rape and murder of a med student, and Pakistan,where cowards tried to silence a courageous 15-year-old, or as close as an elementary school in a peaceful Connecticut hamlet, I can hear the plaintiff call. Can you?

In my book of life, it’s not enough to take great care of our own families once we know that millions of children are starving, being sold into sexual slavery or slaughtered in their own classrooms.

Another year has now passed with the collective intelligence of the other half of the human race -- female brainpower, perspective and life experience -- barely tapped.

How long will we wait before millions of women find the courage and commitment to take our rightful places in leadership roles, side-by-side with men -- to shape the kind of communities, nations and planet we want to leave as our legacy?

According to Catalyst, men still hold over 80% of the most powerful economic and political positions. While, according to the U.S. State Department, women  . . .

  • Are 52% of the world’s population
  • Are responsible for 66% of the world’s output
  • Earn 10% of the world’s income
  • Own 1% of the world’s property

There is so much wrong with this picture.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce women leaders, Kelley Cox, Roberta Phillips and Natalie Masri with speaker Anne Doyle

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization, invited me to their podium in Washington, DC to talk about women and leadership. The luncheon event marked completion of the first year of the Chamber's new Center for Women in Business (CWB) initiative and was live-streamed on its website.

For me, it was a fantastic opportunity to engage with three generations of aspiring professional women (and a few courageous men!), who had more questions than I had time to attempt to answer.

What was my message? Of course I celebrated our progress, and women definitely had some gold medal moments in 2012. My favorites include:

U.S. Senate's marble ceiling rises with 20 of 100 Senators now women

But it would be naïve to ignore the headwinds aspiring females still face, including:

  • Demeaning, insulting gender-based attacks by national commentators on women who dare to raise their voices, even regarding our own reproductive health.
  •  Millions of females, old and very young  -- Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai is just one -- who pay a high price for speaking up for their desire for education, freedom to dream big and a culture that takes violence against its women seriously (Every 18 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa).
  • The onslaught of over-sexualized images of women in our movies, advertising and music videos that insidiously ingrains in our girls and young women that “hotness” is still their strongest card.
  • National magazines continuing to beat the drum that women “still can’t have it all.” Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article was excellent. But why it it that high-achieving  men EXPECT to have it all – great careers and wonderful families. Yet  equally talented and ambitious women are repeatedly reminded of all the reasons we must compromise our dreams?

Engaging the Strengths of Our Gender: We’ve all read the research that repeatedly confirms the unique skills that women bring to leadership.

How much more research do we need to finally believe it ourselves? To recognize that the strengths of our gender are needed more than ever to address the increasingly complex conundrums we all face as members of the human family and residents of planet earth.

Despite all of the United States' flaws, Americans are blessed to live in a country where we take for granted legal rights, social freedoms and educational and economic opportunities millions of our global sisters only dream about. Women throughout the world look to us to lead the way.  As one Moroccan woman told me during my trip to west Africa this year,“When you rise, it helps us all rise.”

Let's Make a Quantum Leap in 2013: I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing the same old statistics about women’s progress, with only infinitesimal change. It’s time for the millions of overly-qualified women Achievers now in the workforce to make the leap to leadership. As we begin a new year, I hope you will remember this: No one is going to invite you or me to the leadership dance. It’s time to invite ourselves and invite other women.

I hope this is the year you'll:  Run for office. Raise your hand for stretch leadership roles. Be a rainmaker for other female professionals. Raise your voice to ensure that women at your company are paid equally with men for similar responsibilities. Become a Girl Scout leader and help innoculate our girls from the cultural quicksand that slowed us down.

The list of ways we can all put our shoulders to the wheel to help close the gender leadership gap are endless. Sooner or later, it's going to happen. Let’s not leave it for later. Let’s do it on our watch.

Here’s to POWERING UP! in 2013.

 

 

 

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