Do you believe that gender equality in the workplace is possible? How about in the home or in politics? We’ve moved forward in so many ways over the years, yet at the same time we’ve also taken huge steps backwards.
Just last week, another executive order was signed to allow U.S. employers to limit access to contraception; the House passed a healthcare bill that puts women victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and postpartum depression at risk for denied coverage and higher premiums; and the sexual harassment reports at Fox News just keeping piling up. And how about that gender wage gap?
According to the World Economic Forum, economic gender equality will not be achieved for another 170 years.
But with all of this depressing news, I believe there is reason to still have hope.
Last fall, I attended a local TEDxWomen event in Los Angeles. Being that it’s Los Angeles, I walked in a few minutes late, and missed the introduction of the short film that was being shown before the speakers took the stage. I quickly found my seat and within moments was immersed in it.
As I settled into my seat, I heard the female narrator of the film talk about one of the first great women leaders in ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut; Boudica, the woman warrior who led the British in a revolt against the Romans; Wu Zietan, the first and only female ruler of China; and lastly, Margaret the First of Denmark, who united all of the Scandinavian nations. She spoke about women being healers, shamans, religious leaders, warriors and lawmakers.
“I had never seen all of these women linked together,” she said. Neither had I!
She continued by saying that we need to look as far back as the Neolithic age―10,000 years ago, when written laws show that women and men had equal social status ― in order to understand where we are now in the historical arc of women and power.
Who was this filmmaker? I wondered. I was in awe of how she was bringing forward the history of women pre-patriarchal religion and culture and tying this history into an understanding of how we can move forward toward gender equality in our modern culture – not just in politics and the boardroom, but across all sectors of society.
We so rarely see analysis about our road to gender equality through the lens of pre-patriarchal history and the larger historical timeline of women and power. I was jazzed up!
As I sat in that auditorium and watched that 20-minute film, I was filled with gratitude toward the women who came before me, gratitude toward this filmmaker, and huge inspiration about the conversation it was opening up.
Shortly after the film, I learned that the director and narrator was Tiffany Shlain, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards. And the name of the film, which I had missed in my late arrival? 50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present and Future of Women and Power. We were witnessing the premiere of the film along with 275 other TEDx events around the world.
Now it all made sense! I had to know more about this woman.
In the film, Tiffany speaks about how studies show that gender balance in all sectors of society – business, politics, culture and the home– make it better for everyone. Not just women, but for everyone.
I already knew this from my advocacy work in gender equality, but I wasn’t sure how many other women knew about this. And how about how many men?
Here was Tiffany putting this vital information on full display for a larger audience and in such a compelling format.
She takes us back in time when women were rightful owners of authority, and men were not the assumed leaders. This was a time when leadership and power were viewed and exercised differently than today’s hierarchical model of power.
And with this look at history, Tiffany asks this pointed question:
How are we supposed to know where we are in the arc of this history if we don’t have this full context?
She further suggests that maybe we’ve told the story of scarcity for so long when it comes to women and power, that it’s time we told a new story.
I couldn’t agree more.
That’s why as a Leadership Ambassador with Take The Lead, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating gender parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025, I am excited that we are partnering with Tiffany Shlain for the first-ever 50/50 Day, happening tomorrow, May 10th.
This is a global day where thousands of organizations, companies, schools, museums, libraries and homes are participating in a global conversation about what it will take to get to gender equality.
Take The Lead has organized screenings coast-to-coast for 50/50 day, joining the already confirmed 10,000 events in over 60 countries and nearly all 50 states. In addition, Take The Lead co-founder and president, Gloria Feldt, will take part in the 24-hour global LiveCast Q&A hosted by filmmaker Tiffany Shlain and other luminaries from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment and more.
“We’re at such a critical moment in the history of gender equality, and now’s the time we need to step it up even more,” says Tiffany.
Tiffany emphasizes that this conversation is just as relevant for men as it is for women. “50/50 isn’t just about women getting more power, it’s about everyone getting more power,” she says. “It’s about opening up the whole idea of what power is – moving beyond the binaries of men and women.”
The end of the film brought me to tears. I’ll let you see that for yourself.
Join us for 50/50 day on May 10th. A global day of thousands of film screenings, discussions and action around one theme: gender equality. Everything is free, thanks to generous grants and donations. Details here.
Tabby Biddle is a women’s leadership coach, bestselling author and Leadership Ambassador with Take The Lead, a non-profit organization committed to preparing, developing, inspiring and propelling women to take their fair and equal share of leadership across all sectors by 2025. Learn more at tabbybiddle.com.