Moving in 2017: Women Leaders Power Up on Service, Activism, Change

Being able to organize and instigate change is on many women leaders' lists for 2017.

Being able to organize and instigate change is on many women leaders' lists for 2017.

January serves as a fresh reminder to women leaders of the urgency to get moving. And we are not talking about exercise.Wherever you fit on the political spectrum, opportunities to instigate change and make a difference in the world on big gender issues exist locally and nationally in a variety of ways.Next week’s national celebration honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a reminder of the urgency of service and activism for women leaders. Many workplaces, corporations, universities and organizations have programs in mind, while others salute MLK Day with a day of charitable works.Hundreds of thousands of women are expected to express their activism on gender social justice issues at the January 21 Women’s March on Washington, D.C., that will also see marches and demonstrations in Chicago, Santa Fe, Tucson, Boise, Park City, Utah and other cities. Take The Lead is an official partner of the Washington, D.C. march, that is a non-partisan expression of the urgent need to address gender parity and issues affecting all women.Globally, a rally is planned in London, according to Tracy McVeigh writing in The Guardian. “Tens of thousands of women (and men, who are also welcome to join it) have already pledged to take part and plans for a sister rally in London are gaining support from writers, musicians and politicians.”Actress and comedian Chelsea Handler is organizing a march in Utah. She tells Vogue: “If there’s anything I learned in the last year, it’s that we need to be louder and stronger than ever about what we believe in, so I joined some incredible women from around the country to bring our voices together in the streets of Park City. The Women’s March on Main will be an opportunity for the creative community and those in Utah to stand beside those in D.C.”While 2016 did not turn out to be the year that many women expected for women’s leadership in this country, a revival of groups pushing for women to run for office has emerged. Several grassroots organizations are evolving to facilitate more women entering politics.[bctt tweet=“After 2016, a revival of groups pushing for women to run for office has emerged #womenleaders” username=“takeleadwomen”]“She Should Run, a non-partisan non-profit that encourages more women to get into politics, has seen more than 5,100 women sign up for its incubator program since the election, according to Erin Loos Cutraro, the group’s chief executive and co-founder,” writes Courtney Subramanian in BBC News.Other groups include: “Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice, Democratic women for office, told the BBC it raised more than $500,000 since November,” Subramanian writes. “Ready to Run, a non-partisan training program for women considering elected office at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), has already registered nearly 100 women for its spring course.”The impetus is needed as Subramanian writes, “Research has shown that though women are just as likely to be elected as men, they often think they are not qualified to run for office and are less likely to be encouraged to do so. Among college students in a 2013 study, men were twice as likely as women to say they would be qualified for office later on.”Short of running for office or attending a demonstration, what does activism look like for women leaders in 2017?[bctt tweet=“What does activism look like for women leaders in 2017? #taketheleadwomen” username=“takeleadwomen”]For some, it can be as simple as organizing a group and writing letters.#Our100 is a list of 100 “civil-rights activists, academics, reproductive-rights experts, entertainment-industry insiders, and many more” including Marielena Hincapie of  the National Immigration Law Center; Marisa Franco Mijente of  #Not1More and Melissa Harris-Perry, journalist, broadcaster and academic leader. They penned an open letter to the United States affirming their commitment as women leaders to a just society, particularly for women of color, according to New York Magazine.“Today, we feel how far we are from the promise of a nation that ensures liberty and justice for all. But our work, built on the hopes of our grandmothers, mothers, sisters and daughters, is testament to the power of our shared belief in that promise. It is we who must build the path forward on our journey.”The letter continues, “Today, we recommit to take hold of that arc of history. As women, we stand united in our pledge to continue to take action to bring forward solutions. We know the politics of hate will not get us to the solutions we need. As women of color, as leaders, we will build and lead us on a path forward. We must work together to hold civic, administrative and corporate decision makers accountable.”To help us look to the future, we can look to the examples of women leaders who have been active as agents of change in several different sectors. Many in this New Year are celebrating women leaders who have been working for gender parity, equity and justice causes in 2016 and looking forward to work for gender parity far beyond into the future.Fierce for Black Women named 15 of the “fiercest sisters of 2016,” including actors, politicians. Entrepreneurs and activists such as “Ameena Matthews who has devoted her life to interrupting violence on Chicago’s streets, as well as teaching respect and responsibility to inner-city youth” as part of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention’s Ceasefire Program.”NPR recognized international women leaders taking stands and trailblazing with their activism.The list included, “Halima Aden, the beauty pageant contestant who wore a burkini. The 19-year-old Somali-American wanted to compete for Miss Minnesota USA and didn’t let the fact that she is a hijabi — a Muslim woman who wears hijab — stop her. In the swimsuit portion of the competition, she wore a burkini, a type of modest swimwear specially made for hijabis. She grabbed headlines for her confidence, from the States to Somalia. ‘Beauty isn’t one-size-fits-all,’ she says. ‘If I can find different ways to spread that message, I will.’“Saluting 21 women who made a difference historically from Amelia Bloomer to Mother Teresa, Viral Ally quotes journalist “Elizabeth Jane Cochran, who wrote under the pen name Nellie Bly. She was a brave American journalist known for her investigative and undercover reporting, including her 1887 expose on the treatment of asylum patients at Blackwell’s Island.” Bly said, “Energy rightly applied can accomplish anything.”Activism may take the shape of truth-telling or sharing real life stories, as it did for Janet Mock, writer, activist, advocate and author of Redefining Realness. Mock tells Fusion:[bctt tweet=“Activism may take the shape of truth-telling or sharing real life stories #equality” username=“takeleadwomen”]“How can I be most useful to my communities? The answers I have come up with as I process these times is to continue to tell the truth—no matter how harsh they may be—to create art and stories that offer us reflections of ourselves and a vision for better possible futures, and to invest myself and my resources in grassroots, for and by the people-led, organizations that explicitly center me and my communities. With this latest shift, we cannot risk being most exacting about who will be most impacted. We must bring the margins to center.”If you’re still wondering just what to do in 2017 to actively make a difference, author Rebecca Sive has a how-to handy guide for riled-up women leaders in Huffington Post.Show up, lead with your strength, network and recruit partners, she says.Sive writes: “Build a large and diverse network. And don’t get hung up because you might be starting small, i.e., locally. Go ahead and build that local network, recruiting diverse business decision makers who share your views. And, then see just how fast that local network can become big and important.”Lastly, Sive suggests women leaders ally themselves with male leaders. “Enough men want the same public policies women activists seek that it is worth recruiting them. No worries about asking them to join the campaigns you’ve organized. In fact, they will appreciate the invitation and be grateful for not having to do all the work.”