“We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men and women are created equal…”
These stirring words made a resounding statement when they were written in 1848 as part of the Declaration of Sentiments, a document that was signed by 68 women and 32 men at the first women’s rights convention organized by women in Seneca Falls, New York.
The Declaration of Sentiments launched an organized American women’s movement. The significance of the convention at Seneca Falls might have been lost in the pages of history were it not for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
I recently had the privilege of visiting the Park, which is fitting, as March 8th is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month in the United States.
Spending an afternoon at the birthplace of the Women’s Rights movement among the ghosts of these incredible women gave me pause: We’ve come so far since the days when women marched in the streets demanding the right to vote and to be treated as equal citizens under the law.
Yet, I was reminded of how far we have yet to go.
It’s been almost 170 years since the first Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, yet we are still shouting to be heard in boardrooms, in workplaces, and in communities around the world. We’re still fighting for parity in the U.S. where women represent only 20% of Congressional seats, 4% of Fortune 500 CEO’s and less than 18% representation on Corporate Boards of Fortune 1000s. We’re still raising awareness of unconscious bias, unequal pay, and gender equality both in and outside of the work environment.
March is the month we remember how far we’ve come. But, let it also be the month we ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” Are we willing to pick up the torch these brave women lit for us so long ago, and continue to push forward toward gender equality?
I want to make 2016 the year we stop talking and start doing. Taking action or taking a stand will look different for each woman, depending on her circumstance and the opportunities she’s afforded right now. The good news is that every step gets us closer to the goal. Even the smallest pebble can make ripples.
Make March the month you ask yourself, “What can I do? What action can I take toward a Pledge to Parity?”
For me, it means speaking and writing about equal access to opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and the elimination of unconscious bias — not just in the workplace, but in political, social, and cultural spheres, as well. It means building communities where ambassadors can carry the torch and use it to light the torches of women and men around the world. It means using our voices, our dollars and our networks to influence others to see the importance of moving gender equality forward.
I truly believe it’s time for each of us to stop talking about the hurdles and start working toward solutions to break through them. It’s one thing to sit at our computers and talk about the need to change; it’s another thing entirely to be on the ground taking action and making change happen.
So, I ask you? What can you do?