Today, Women’s Equality Day, is a time to reflect on all we have accomplished towards a more equal world, and also how far we still have to go.
Here are some quotes I selected from my interviews with notable figures for insight, inspiration and encouragement.
“It’s about equality, but it’s not just about equality. And the reason it’s necessary to have more voices is because that strengthens the debate and it strengthens the decisions. It isn’t that women coming in are better than men; they’re different from men. And I always say the beauty is in the mix. To have diversity of opinion in the debate strengthens the outcome and you get a better result.” —Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader, First Female Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
“It’s not just rhetoric, it is a fact that if you change a girl’s life you affect her vision of herself and her immediate world and the world that she will have an impact on.” —Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul, Philanthropist, Founder of Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls
“Women are not sufficiently part of the decision-making fabric of this country—whether in Congress, state governments, corporate boardrooms, or corner suites, there are not enough women’s voices being heard. I believe if we are going to grow our economy and really create a competitive environment against other nations, we need women as part of that effort. Until women are able to achieve their potential, America will not achieve hers.” — Kirsten Gillibrand New York State Senator, founder of Off the Sidelines
“There’s been a lot written about what the world would be like with more women leaders. My view is that if all the players play, that creates more competition, and more records get broken. I just think we would perform better as a society. Plus, I want to live in a more equal world.” —Sheryl Sandberg Facebook COO, Author, Founder Lean In
“I have found that since I’ve begun to support gender equality— since I’ve tried to do it at home, as well as in my professional work—my life is much better. My relationship with my family, with my children, with my parents, with my friends, with my colleagues, is so much richer. So the argument that I make consistently to men is that gender equality is not a zero-sum game—it is a win-win. And, in fact, gender equality is the only way you’re going to be able to have the kinds of relationships you say you want to have, so it’s in our interest to support it.” —Michael Kimmel, author, founder of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities
“No matter how liberated we are as individual women and how much work we’ve put into convincing ourselves of our inherent equality with men, we still don’t even believe it ourselves. And how could we? It’s embedded in every part of our culture. There’s religion; there’s art, the greatest authors, the greatest playwrights; there’s the hero’s journey. Every single mythology and area of human expertise is still, either consciously or unconsciously, pervaded by the idea that it is beautiful for a man to exert his ego, his will, and his leadership, and it is beautiful and charming for a woman to defer, to support, to nurture, and not to push her way and her will. —Elizabeth Lesser, author, co-founder Omega Institute
“I think we’ve got so many complex issues that cannot be resolved by looking at them from one perspective. And ultimately, allowing more women in will help make better decisions if, in fact, those women are powerful and in tune with and connected with other women’s voices, and perhaps voices of people who have been left out of the conversation, including people of color.” —Anita Hill, Attorney, Author, Academic
I think that if we don’t have gender diversity at the top of American politics and in corporate boards, then we’re just going to get weaker decisions, and I think that’s what we’ve been stuck with. And so I think that the great strength that women bring when they move into senior levels of politics is not that they’re more nurturing, caring, maternal figures, but that they will bring a certain level of different perspective, a different way of thinking, and that is just really valuable for all of us. This is not something that is going to benefit the women of America; it’s something that’s going to benefit all of America. — Nicholas Kristof, journalist, author, and Pulitzer Prize winner
“I found that when I was coming up through the political ranks, it wasn’t enough to be the only woman, or sometimes the only minority, in the room; I wanted to make sure that I was not the last. So while I sat at the table, I often told my colleagues, “Look, if there’s no room at the table, we’ll just bring in folding chairs. We’ll make space for women.” The attitude is that we’ve got to start making space for each other. If we don’t, we will never see ourselves as making real progress. ” — Donna Brazile, political commentator, former chair DNC
“It’s really important for girls to be reminded that the sky is the limit, and anything they want to do is possible.” —Amy Poehler, Actress, Writer, founder Smart Girls
Marianne Schnall is the founder of What Will It Take Movements, a media, collaboration, learning, and social engagement platform that inspires, connects, educates and engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action. She is also a widely-published journalist whose writings and interviews have appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, CNN.com, Forbes, the Women’s Media Center and The Huffington Post. She is the co-founder and executive director of the women’s website and non-profit organization Feminist.com, as well as the co-founder of the environmental site EcoMall.com. She is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice and What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership, and Power. You can visit her website at www.marianneschnall.com.