“When women come together and collectively decide to stop being well-behaved—to shuck the shame and have the courage to stand up for ourselves, with our sisters—then that’s a movement. Banding together to speak our truth and effect change allows us to get through the barriers of shame and fear, as well as barriers of law and custom… If you want to change the system, you need to function like a movement.”
On my reading list for this winter is Marianne Schnall’s What Will It Take To Make a Woman President? In my dialogue work, my colleagues and I think a lot about which questions have the power to spur people to action and we often arrive at questions starting with this same “What will it take…” set-up.
“What will it take to reach leadership parity by 2025?” “What will it take to take today’s women’s movement to the next level?”
For a long time, I didn’t like questions like these because they felt so damn unanswerable. If we’re looking for just one answer to the “What will it take?” question, then sure, it’s a daunting question that leaves us feeling stuck. But if we allow for many different answers, what we’ve got then is an abundance of possibilities and potential pathways forward.
We can choose to view even this as a problem, too. There are just too many different opinions! Too many different ideas about how to make change happen and too many competing goals! Or we can choose to view all of this energy, difference, controversy, competition, even conflict as a source of strength. If we want to spark a new women’s movement, if we want to accelerate the movement we currently see happening, don’t we want and need all of our intelligence? As much of it as we can get?
At Take The Lead, we believe that in order to reach leadership by 2025, women must fundamentally change their relationship to power and step into their own leadership in new and different ways, and that together, women and men must change the narrative of women. We’re talking about a total paradigm shift. But here’s the thing… this is just what we believe and we know lasting, systemic change on the women’s leadership problem/opportunity will require all of our ideas and input. So what are your ideas for mobilizing women and men to help women reach leadership parity by 2025? What specific changes with regard to women and women’s participation and representation would you like to see?
As for me, I’m still interested in a feminism that works for everybody. A larger call to action (call it whatever you want) that gets us all thinking and moving toward a common goal on behalf of the well-being and opportunities made available to women and girls, knowing full well we won’t agree about everything or like what each other has to say. I want to see a women’s leadership panel that includes both Sheryl Sandberg and bell hooks, working and thinking together because I know they each hold a piece of the puzzle when it comes to taking our collective work to the next level. My dream women’s movement includes women and men, straight women and queer women. Heads of financial organizations and grassroots community activists. Businesspeople and artists. I want to see what that movement looks like, and I know it’s out there. Part of movement building is making our good work visible, not just doing the work, so we can keep the momentum going.
I want to see us back each other up, acknowledging our differences while refusing to let them stop us in our tracks. See us listen well to each other, make room for each other, give each other credit, admit our mistakes and blind spots, amplify and celebrate each other, and challenge each other. I want to see us each step into our power, and then see what power we can create together.
Take The Lead Co-Founder Gloria Feldt calls this “sister courage”—be a sister, have courage, put the two together and create a movement—and it’s much easier said than done.
What does it really mean to be a sister? To demonstrate sisterhood/brotherhood? (Think about how often we hear the word brotherhood, how rooted in our nation’s history this word is, versus sisterhood). And I think most of us know what courage feels like personally, we know how we want to grow and challenge ourselves, but what might collective courage look like in today’s women’s movement?