I literally can’t imagine A Day Without A Woman. I work with women, mentor women. I have sisters. And friends. The majority of my business and professional interactions are with women.
So with the general strike by women called for March 8 on International Women’s Day, what are women leaders to expect? And what can all leaders expect? We need to aim for outcomes to emerge beyond a symbolic show of solidarity.
Organizers declare this a day when “women and our allies will act together creatively to withdraw from the corporations that harm us and find ways to support the businesses, organizations and communities that sustain us.”What are we to expect from the general strike by women called for March 8? #womenleaders Click To Tweet
Still, the U.S. is not Poland, France or Iceland where strikes by women have instigated changes in policy.
“But what does it mean for women to go on strike in 2017?” asks Sady Doyle in Elle.
“In an earlier era of highly segregated career paths, a ‘women’s strike’ had a specific, tangible effect: It made invisible work visible. No women meant no food on the table, no mysteriously emptied trashcans, no one to change diapers or type letters. Forcing men to handle ‘women’s work’ was the only way to get those men to admit that it existed.”
One hundred and four years after 8,000 suffragists marched on Washington, D.C. in 1913 for the right to vote and 47 years after the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality launched by the National Organization for Women, we see that articulating the goals, outcomes and tangibles for such a demonstration this year are necessary. And, as some have put it, this March 8 strike is best if it is not about what women as leaders are protesting, but what women leaders are creating.
Putting this in context, particularly as we launch this week into March as Women’s History Month, it is important to follow Take The Lead President and Co-founder Gloria Feldt’s first of the 9 Leadership Power Tools. Of those insights, Power Tool #1, “Know your history” concerns knowing where you have been, and also where other women have been on the timeline of history. That knowledge helps you to create the future of your choice.
Doyle in Elle continues, “Women’s strikes have typically succeeded when they have some clear idea of what women’s work is, some obvious problem that will become clear through women’s strategic withdrawal—for example, a French strike in which women left work early (to symbolize the time of day they stopped getting paid, as compared to men with the same job). Without a specific, labor-related point, after all, a ‘strike’ is just a particularly righteous personal day.”
Doyle adds, “Certainly taking a day off work without pay is not a possibility for millions of women working minimum wage jobs, who are early career, or are paid hourly for contract work. One day as an enormous gesture of solidarity does not necessarily drive change. But it’s a start.”Will International Women's Day Strike call attention to workplace gender inequity? #change Click To Tweet
After the millions of women and men around the country –and the world– demonstrated in January for the Women’s March, are we to continue to march for change, to use physical protest as a tool?
Take The Lead co-founder and president Gloria Feldt wrote about the January March here, writing: “Sometimes you have to speak truth to power with your whole body.”
Mobilization and working towards a larger mission mean that and more.
“Systemic change takes time and a lot of hard work,” writes Joanne Cleaver in the Chicago Tribune.
“Every woman can advance the cause by making a single change that directly affects her co-workers and that sparks conversations about how her workplace can remove barriers to women’s success,” Cleaver writes. She adds specific actions:
- ”Form lunch discussion groups of women at various points in their careers and share honestly about how each person overcame career sticking points.”
- ”Encourage their organization’s sales and marketing managers to shift default invitations to networking events from ‘first come, first served’ to deliberate rotations that ensure that women are equitably included.”
- ”With other women in their departments, agree to back each other up in meetings to ensure that each woman is heard on her own terms and that her ideas are credited to her.”
- ”Revise their online biographies to short narratives that tell their integrated life and career stories (as opposed to condensed resumes), weaving in important family and personal milestones.” (This aligns with Take The Lead’s Leadership Power Tool #9, Tell Your Story, as created by Gloria Feldt.)
The goal of the strike and beyond is to consider three key questions:
- Do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities?
- Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression?
- Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children?
If you do decide to participate in the International Women’s Day Strike, Cate Carrejo writes in Bustle, you can take a few steps to optimize the experience. Be sure to involve men, realize that not everyone has the capacity to strike and be inclusive of women of color and trans women.
“Once the strike is over, you still have to keep your activism going,” Carrejo writes. “Showing up is just the first step — now it’s time to call your representatives, attend community mobilization meetings, and work with progressive candidates running for public office.”As women leaders, we need to ensure our professional days aren't without women #womenforchange Click To Tweet
As women leaders, we all need to ensure our professional days are not without women, and that we reach gender parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025, as is the goal of Take The Lead. Now that would be a lucky strike.