By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Wednesday, August 26th is Women’s Equality Day. This year, the U.S. commemorates one hundred years since the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted female citizens the right to vote. When it comes to equality for women, the nation has made excellent progress since then. But there’s so much more we can do as a society to make sure women always have a seat at the table.
Today, it’s more important than ever that we encourage and support women in leadership positions in all fields. Here are a few key steps we all can take to help unlock the amazing potential of womankind.
The U.S. Congress established August 26th as Women’s Equality Day in 1973. Introduced by Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York in 1971, it celebrates the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on August 26th, 1920. The 19th Amendment prohibits the federal and state governments from denying any American citizen the right to vote on the basis of sex. Its formal adoption effectively guaranteed suffrage to all American women, a huge victory for the women’s rights movement in the United States.
In the last century, our country has made great strides in its support of women’s rights and of women in leadership positions. Today, women are CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs, university presidents, and senators. They’re also attorneys, professors, artists, writers, and engineers. Regardless of where a woman’s professional life takes her, her leadership skills are a great asset to her and those around her. Providing strong support to women leaders benefits us all. But, as far as we’ve come as a nation, there’s still work to be done.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the wonderful accomplishments of American women. Here are some highlights:
If I were to begin naming the achievements of individual women in the U.S., I could be here all day. Despite this, the gender wage gap is still significant, with women earning less than men in almost every field with available data. And in many industries where the majority of the workforce is female, such as healthcare, men still dominate the leadership positions. Clearly, there’s much more our society can do to bolster the leadership of women professionals. The good news is that so much of this can be done voluntarily, without waiting for legislation to produce its intended outcomes.
If we want to see more women in leadership positions, it’s crucial that we build their confidence while they’re young. Teaching young girls how to become successful leaders prepares them for a lifetime of ambition and achievement. Here are some great ways you can help.
Too often, girls who express their opinions and desires are branded “bossy,” which can have a negative connotation. This can lead to a decrease in their confidence and self-worth. Join the movement to #banbossy and encourage girls to speak up in class, on the playground, and everywhere else. Rather than scolding girls for taking charge, give them the tools to develop great emotional intelligence in leadership.
Programs like Girl Scouts of the USA help young women to explore their interests and talents and to participate in meaningful community outreach efforts. These groups focus on relationship building and group collaboration, offering members many opportunities to experiment with taking the lead. Learning first-hand how to be a leader of a peer group is an incredibly valuable opportunity for young women. It shows them how successful people think and act in order to make things happen. And they’ll make good girl friends along the way.
When young women speak up, do more than just listen—commit to helping them make their voices louder. If you see a thought-provoking post by a young woman on social media, share it and give her credit. Attend some of the public events at a nearby women’s college and share what you’ve learned with colleagues. Or give to a foundation or institution whose mission is to support women and women-led groups. You can reinforce the work of young women in many ways—simply choose a way that best speaks to you.
Supporting women leaders, both present and future, will be of great benefit to us all. Women offer unique and valuable perspectives, whether they’re in the boardroom, the classroom, or the operating room. They’re brilliant, innovative, thoughtful, and clever, and they bring that wonderful energy to their work in a myriad of fields. And having a strong role model in a female supervisor helps the next generation of young women professionals to grow and thrive. Ensuring that women always have an equal voice in the workplace (and elsewhere) promises a more equitable and just world for all of us.
I encourage you to think about what you can do to promote the leadership of the strong and amazing women you know. You could commit to making sure your female colleagues receive full credit for their work in an office meeting. Or you could reach out and thank a woman who has served as a mentor to you in your career. Whatever you decide, know that even a small gesture can help to encourage a bright, talented woman to keep using her voice. So make one on August 26th, Women’s Equality Day—and every day after that, too.