The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is balance for better. The emphasis is on the fact that our world will be a better place when we are able to achieve gender balance in all aspects of our society. For centuries women have been fighting for gender equality. Let’s begin with Native American women who fought alongside the men in their tribes to protect their land, families and culture. Then we think of the fight of African women to free themselves and families from slavery. We journey on to the suffragettes who fought for the right for women to vote. Then there were the many brave African American women who fought for civil rights in this nation. Flash forward and we have the Me Too and Time’s Up movement fighting for an end to the sexual victimization of women and girls. Last year, a record number of women ran and won legislative positions, giving women more representation and a bigger voice in the political arena of our nation.
We see through the years how women are warriors in a war for gender equity. We have fought many battles seeking gender balance − seeking to be seen as an essential and equal member of our society. As we reflect on the various movements we have had throughout the years, we see that success would not have been achieved if not for the strength, courage and intellect of women.
Despite these and many other achievements, we are still on the battle field. We are still fighting to win the war for gender balance and equity. While there are many reasons, I believe one is that there are times when we, as women, are divided in our efforts to accomplish this task. Often our socio-economic status, race and political affiliation divide us. The truth is there is power in the collective. Gloria Steinem articulated this point best when she stated, “the story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
I was reminded of this truth when I gathered with six other women early last year to discuss women as leaders and how we can support each other and other women to be our best. What we realized was how isolated we are at work. How we don’t seek each other out as frequently as we should for guidance. How we do not leverage the intellectual power of the women around us. We decided that it is critical that we change that dynamic if we want to elevate each other and win the war for gender equity.
That night left me thinking of how we frequently miss the opportunity to learn from each other and to teach each other. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with each other, if we learn to trust each other, if we learn to stop competing against each other, if we could learn the ultimate lesson that we are stronger together and unite as one powerful sisterhood of women, then gender balance can become a reality.
I wrote the following poem after my gathering with those powerful women last year. It illustrates the importance of offering what we learn on this journey of life to others in order to elevate them.
When You Learn
When you learn not to limit yourself,
When you learn to shatter the glass ceiling,
When you learn to be bold,
When you learn that your potential is limitless,
When you learn to be the light in dark places,
When you learn that you are enough,
When you learn to balance your life and work,
When you learn to live without fear,
When you learn that you are powerful,
When you learn the importance of a sisterhood,
When you learn that love heals,
When you learn to harness your strength,
When you learn to speak your truth,
When you learn to love yourself, accept yourself, and celebrate yourself,
(Yvette Young, May 2018)
If gender balance is what we seek to enrich and make our world better, then let us begin to teach each other.