By Rachel Felice, Manager
I’ve always been passionate about politics and advocacy, which is one of the reasons I’m so thankful to be a part of Lambert’s Education and Social Impact practice. I’m the person, albeit a bit obnoxious, who is always on their friends and family about registering to vote and making their voice heard in local elections. When asked why I care so much, the answer is always the same: because women haven’t always been allowed to vote.
The 19th amendment to the Constitution officially took effect on August 26, 1920. This amendment promised women that their right to vote could not be denied based on their gender. This date is widely celebrated as a great achievement for women, but it’s also important to remember that Black women could not vote until decades later after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
We’ve accomplished much as a nation in the last 100 years or so. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, Sally Ride was recognized as the first woman in space in 1983 and in 2020 we elected our first Black female vice president. While much as been accomplished, there is still more that can be achieved on behalf of all women.
Empowering Women in the Workplace
Women have made great strides in the workplace, with many taking on C-suite roles in their companies—including our very own CEO, Michelle Olson. But the truth remains that women still face a gender gap in the workplace. While this gap is ever-so-slowly closing and the glass ceiling gets a bit lower every decade, women still make only 84 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make. Women—and even more so women of color—remain underrepresented at nearly every level, from entry to executive suite.
What’s more, women and men often experience very different workplaces, despite working at the same company. Historically, men have more access to promotions and senior management, and they feel more confident speaking up at the table. Women, on the other hand, often feel intimidated, silenced and apprehensive even when given a seat at the table.
Empowering women in the workplace starts with clearly defining diversity goals and holding each other accountable to reaching them. It also means creating opportunities for women within the company to grow, thrive and take on new responsibilities. To young women in the workplace, my advice to you is to find a mentor, someone who is willing to advocate for you and make meaningful networking connections. As women, it’s important we support one another in our careers. The table is big enough for all of us, and we can always pull up more chairs.
Empowering Younger Generations
Celebrating Women’s History Month is about more than recognizing the great women of our past. It is equally important to celebrate our future leaders and changemakers, our young people. Young girls are more than Barbie Dreamhouses and toy kitchens; they are dreamers, innovators and explorers. To empower the next generation of women we must empower our little ones, remind them that they can do anything they want and create new opportunities. This can be done at school by teaching lessons about the achievements of notable women and sharing the many careers available to women—from the trades to STEM—as well as in the home. The future is female, and rockstars Mari Copeny and Greta Thunberg demonstrate exactly the leadership and passion we can expect from our younger generations.
It may seem dubious or counterproductive to talk about empowering men during Women’s History Month, but allies are an important aspect of any movement. During the suffrage movement, men were privileged members of society and had the advantage of being affluential and well respected. While some used their status to fight against women, many others—such as Frederick Douglass and James Mott—used their position to support the movement. Today, it’s just as important to encourage men to continue supporting the fight for gender equality. Being an ally in the women’s rights movement can mean talking with the women in your life about their experiences or refusing to be a bystander in the face of discrimination in the home, workplace or public.
When every person feels heard, empowered and respected, our communities are better positioned to thrive. This Women’s History Month and beyond, I encourage you to not only celebrate the past but to think toward the future and play an active role in supporting the women in your life.