Language Matters: Two Words You'll Want to Use in 2014
I don’t believe men don’t want a better world for women. I suspect a lot of men (and plenty of women, too) just REALLY don’t know how to get there. And how could they? Most men in leadership positions are largely working without us. There aren’t many of us in Congress, on boards, leading major businesses and institutions. You can’t see what you can’t see… And if the world is working for you the way it is now, why change things?Perhaps it’s less that men don’t care about the need for women’s leadership and more that they don’t have enough of a handle on the problem, let alone its solution.Which brings us to the question of just how exactly the world will change for women. Will organizations change policies and practices first? Or will enough women demand change and then the rest of the world will follow suit? I used to be really concerned about the how. Now, not so much. It will take a combination of change strategies for us to reach gender parity.One way change happens is through language, through simple conversation. Gender isn’t a new word. Parity isn’t either (although you don’t hear it very often). But more and more now, we’re beginning to hear these two words side by side. Gender parity. Just saying them creates a kind of spark, don’t you think? Try it and see if you can feel it. GENDER. PARITY. Now, together. Gender parity. Sounds pretty good, right? Say something, type something, tweet something enough and it begins to carry a certain weight and speed.The VIDA Count (a project tracking the ratio of published women to published men in major literary journals and book reviews) from VIDA (Women in Literary Arts) released it’s numbers for 2013 this week and the picture isn’t pretty. Why are literary journals and book reviews important? Because these things make our culture. The voices we broadcast determine the culture we live in, celebrate, see, miss entirely, or ignore. The media we create and give to others to consume matters. If you haven’t read the 2013 VIDA Count report, check it out. In it, you’ll see those two words again: gender parity.I’m starting to get the idea that if we say these two words enough, get them in print in enough places, say them on TV enough, use them with our bosses and our colleagues enough, the scales will start to balance more and more. Not because change is easy, but because people need to see and understand something before they can support it.Images help, too. Read a lot of magazines and never see something like The VIDA Count charts and you might miss that most of the voices you read and hear every day come from just half of the actual population of the world, reinforcing just half of everyone’s worldview, drawing upon just half of the world’s knowledge and experience. See them and things begin to feel different. You get a feel for all of the voices we’re missing.We can’t change the world for women overnight, but we can aim for parity across top leadership positions across all sectors now. This is Take The Lead’s mission, and with your help, we plan to do it by 2025. Check out Take The Lead’s learning programs here and be sure to get Take The Lead’s CLOSE THE GAP APP, collaboratively designed by the founders of Take The Lead and She Negotiates.Still just uncomfortable with this idea of gender targets? Read Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s fantastic piece on why gender targets matter in Harvard Business Review.Interested in learning more? Join me for one of two webcasts, May 1st or June 26th to talk authentic leadership, influence, and power. You’ll leave with a new understanding of the difference between the three and learn how you can use principles of authentic leadership to advance your career or move your projects forward, whatever your field. This will be a highly interactive discussion. Join us!
Read more posts by Lex Schroeder.