It’s been boiling for years, decades. It’s been in the headlines for months. This week Time Magazine recognized the enormity of this sea change and named the women they call “the silence breakers” as Person of the Year. Women who have come forward and named the men who have sexually harassed and abused them. And Time did not forget those still too afraid to speak out.
I started a blog post a few weeks ago that I was going to call “I believe the women”. But I was unsure how to approach the topic, and I set it aside and covered other subjects. I had commented on the topic when the Harvey Weinstein story was breaking in October in my post, “Time to support, not harass women”. This week, I have decided to write about three unique programs that are committed to developing girls and women.
The sea change or watershed moment, as news commentators call it these days, is long overdue. And it is not over. It has just begun. There will be more women speaking out, more denials, and ultimately more men facing up to what they have done. More industries and sectors will be affected, although Hollywood and politicians will be the most talked about stories.
Let’s advance this sea change by talking about ways to develop strong girls and women. Let’s provide them with every opportunity they deserve in a society that treats them equally and with respect. Sticking with that theme, here are those three programs I mentioned:
Girls, Inc. is a national program which inspires all girls to be “strong, smart, and bold”. I recently learned about it at the CHIME Fall Forum in San Antonio. The Women of CHIME group hosted a session titled “Breaking Down Barriers and Paving the Way”. The program featured Lea Rosenauer, President and CEO of Girls Inc. of San Antonio. She discussed issues that prevent women from career advancement and suggested strategies to get women into leadership roles. Girls, Inc. focuses on the development of the whole girl. Their website says about the impact of their programs on girls: “She learns to value herself, take risks, and discover and develop her inherent strengths. The combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and research-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent”. Girls, Inc. has local organizations throughout the U.S. – you may want to check if there is one in your area you could support.
Path Forward is a non-profit aimed at getting women back into the workforce. It announced recently that 10 new companies are joining its ‘returnship’ program next year including tech giants, Apple and Oracle. Path Forward works with companies to create positions for mid-career professionals who want to get back into the workforce after time off to care for children or other family members. This is an important initiative because women often need to make such choices and they shouldn’t be punished in their career aspirations.
2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020. According to their website, “the campaign redefines successful corporate governance, gender diversity standards, and creates a cultural imperative for corporate action”. In the article, “Why Diversity Matters: Women on Boards of Directors”, Erica Hersh talks about research that shows companies with female board members are more successful than those without women. For women interested in serving on boards, there is an excellent program, “Women on Boards – Getting On and Adding Value”, offered by Harvard School of Public Health Executive and Continuing Professional Education.
I will pick up the Time Magazine issue this week and read the cover article. I expect I will cry as I read the stories. I am glad to see that finally the stories are coming out. I hope that my granddaughters will grow up in a more supportive and respectful world and have every opportunity that my grandson will have. Let’s do everything we can to create that environment in our workplaces and world.