OK you beautiful women leaders, this one’s for you. Your gentlemen friends are, of course, welcome to read, but be forewarned, they may have a few questions for you afterwards. (Two wink emojis, followed by one shocked emoji, and a giggle.)
Let me just start with the elephant. By now, we leaders are not only exhausted from a constant barrage of competing work priorities and trying to figure out how hybrid schedules could possibly work for our organizations, we’re also tired of talking about el pandemia.
Right? I certainly am! Can we just get on with things already?! The answer is yes, yes we can. It’s mission critical that we do. Here’s why: Women in the workforce are at their lowest numbers since Madonna filed assault charges against Sean Penn, and “Jessica Rabbit” hit No. 1 in the box office (1988).
There we were, charging ahead with women’s rights, leaning in hard, elbowing our way onto earnings calls. Pre-pandemic, we had achieved the position our foremothers dreamed of for us. Women were 50 percent of the labor force. We were fueling the economy and taking names.
And then … pandemonium. In one year, nearly 3 million American women emptied their lockers and walked — or were escorted — out the door. We, and I do mean we, were fired, laid off, furloughed, and left the office to care for home-schooled children.
Some of us just got sick of the game and decided to retire early. To Belize. Hah! I’m sure we’ve all had moments over the last 15 months when we thought, “Too hard. Not worth it. I’m out.” I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve had those days. Wine helps.
But seriously, we’re smart. When work goes haywire, we start to think, “Is having this career really worth my time?” Or, as Betty Friedan put it so succinctly, “Is this all?” We start to wonder if all the blood, sweat and tears we’re putting into our careers, our people, our organizations, our customers, our industries is actually going to pay off at some point.
I say yes. Absolutely yes. Because 2020 proved that the women’s movement, the push for true gender parity isn’t over. Not even close. And finishing it is not going to be easy. Things that come easily are rarely worth it anyway. Marshalling a renewed push will be worth it.
Just like we moved in our careers from innocent newbies to seasoned professionals to the courageous executives we are today, leadership for women is entering a new phase. That’s why everything feels topsy-turvy.
We’re finished with the fighting to get into the workforce phase. Now that Betty, Gloria, Jane, Michelle, Kamala, Sheryl, et al. have helped wriggle the toes of our oh-so-chic Jimmy Choos in the door, now that we’re included in those earnings calls, we need to show them what we’ve got.
“It doesn’t really matter how we get the jobs. What matters is what we do once we have them.” — Natalie Figueroa (aka Fig), “Orange is the New Black”
That’s right ladies. We’re the leaders we’ve been waiting for. It’s our job to regain the number of women in the workforce that 2020 took from us. It’s our job to invite the next generation of young women into management and leadership roles.
Here’s the sticky part: it’s our job to help our male counterparts feel comfortable with our success. We need them to actually want us in the room. In some ways, our part of the women’s movement is even harder than the battleground fight our activist predecessors fought.
“You have to lead by example. You can’t preach. You can’t make people want to work hard. You have to work hard yourself, and harder most of the time. And unfortunately, as a woman you probably have to think longer and harder about the way that you say things.” — Alecia Beth Moore (aka P!nk), via The Wall Street Journal.
It’s time to muster our courage because 2021 is a pivotal moment in the gender parity movement. And instead of boxing gloves, angry words, and cries of unfairness, we need to call upon our most feminine super powers — our courageous leadership skills — to make the final run to 50/50 boards, 50/50 C-suites, 50/50 Supreme Courts.
This is our generation’s moment. If you move to Belize now, you’re going to miss something truly amazing. Join me at the Women in Retail Leadership Summit, taking place Oct. 11-13 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, to learn how to build your Courageous Leadership skills for what comes next. I’ll be presenting a pre-conference workshop all about Courageous Presence and how to build the skills you need for the career you want. In addition, I’ll also be presenting a keynote session all about the Unwritten Rules of Success. I can’t wait to see you all there!