Entrepreneur Magazine, in 2016, featured an article that focused on why women are the best opportunity for business. The article highlights that “Women are now a record-high 57 percent of U.S. college graduates and will comprise more and more of the employee and customer base in the years to come. There will be many more households in which women are the primary economic drivers — one estimate is that as much as 85 percent of consumer purchasing power will be held by women. This creates market opportunities.” This trend towards more women working will almost certainly continue. The big challenge is that “many corporations remain male-dominated in their approaches and leadership — only 5 percent of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women. Quite often, the default offerings don’t fully account for the female perspective.”
Let’s not fool ourselves. This is an epic endeavor. As Ane-Marie Slaughter wrote in The Atlantic Magazine 2012 article the reality is that we face huge challenges. None the least of which is women judging career decisions of other women. Here is what Ane-Marie Slaughter said about the moment she realized she was one of those women when she made the decision to leave a government job and go back to academia:
“But I routinely got reactions from other women my age or older that ranged from disappointed (“It’s such a pity that you had to leave Washington”) to condescending (“I wouldn’t generalize from your experience. I’ve never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great”).
The first set of reactions, with the underlying assumption that my choice was somehow sad or unfortunate, was irksome enough. But it was the second set of reactions—those implying that my parenting and/or my commitment to my profession were somehow substandard—that triggered a blind fury. Suddenly, finally, the penny dropped. All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”
This needs to change and opportunity – a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something – is the way to do it. Opportunity is one of the guiding principles of Strong Women Action Network. The key here is “to do something”. But what is “something”? How is it valued? Our goal is to have more women in positions of power. What a position of power is, and when and where in the lifespan of a woman happens, is what we are all about. Our goal is to change policies and norms so that women, especially women of color, have the resources, connections, and support needed to have the opportunity to decide at every stage of their lives what is best for them. These choices should not affect their long-term goals. We need to create the safe spaces where we can have conversations and figure out how to support each other, whatever our current choice is. We need the tools and connections to make long-term plans and then implement them. We need guidance through coaching and sharing our experiences to make our choices come true.
In order to do this, we need the female perspective in key decision making positions. We need women’s leadership styles to be valued, and we need to address gender and race systemic barriers. This paradigm change will make it possible for women, especially women of color, to impact our culture, work environments, and communities in a way that will make the choices women make respected, valued and supported. We need to create circles of support at the local and state level to share our wisdom, our resources, and our connections.
Join us as we explore how to make this change a reality. Your first step is the most important. Register for a Group Coaching Session or for one of our Regional Retreats. Opportunity awaits all of us who are ready to take action!