Why 2015 Will Be the Year of the Powerhouse Woman

By Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, CEO & Executive Director, 40 Percent and Rising

In 2014, issues affecting the lives of working women were a hot topic everywhere. Equal pay, "leaning in," the rise of the primary breadwinner woman, and the resurgence of the word feminist in the national lexicon were all the subject of impassioned public debate.

But what will 2015 bring when it comes to issues impacting our success at work, at home and in the world?

My bet is that 2015 is going to be a year when we see powerhouse women rise, not just to add to the dialogue, but to take action and effect change on issues that matter to women everywhere. Here's why.

Prediction #1: Powerhouse women will dominate the start of the 2016 Election cycle.

As we begin the run-up to the next presidential election, it seems a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will run again, and more than likely that she will be the democratic nominee. However, a grassroots movement calling on Elizabeth Warren to run is also gaining steam, meaning that we could have two viable powerhouse women competing for the democratic nomination for the first time in history.

What will this mean for the country? For one, powerhouse female voices will be leading the way on the national political stage. And while that will unquestionably contribute to a growing conversation about women's issues, it may also have an interesting side effect, in the form of outright pushes by Republicans to pass legislation benefitting women as a means of competing for votes.

Any way you cut it, however, the start of the next election season is going to be historic thanks to powerhouse women running for office.

Prediction #2: Powerhouse primary breadwinner women will lead the push for equal pay.

As more women become primary earners for our families, equal pay becomes more critical to our economy, our tax base, our education system and our ability to compete on a global scale. The Paycheck Fairness Act has been shot down four times in the Senate so far, but that landscape must necessarily shift as powerhouse primary breadwinner women rise in prominence. Equal pay is fundamentally a non-partisan issue -- it matters not what party you belong to when you're trying to support a family, but making 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Primary breadwinner powerhouse women know that passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would be a tremendous act in support of American families as earning dynamics change.

Prediction #3: Powerhouse women will continue to create healthier, more profitable workplaces by advocating for more effective balance across the corporate world.

Powerhouse women, and especially those who are mothers, understand that the current conditions of overwork that dominate corporate culture must shift if we are to remain competitive.

In the past year, Arianna Huffington's Third Metric movement has had a tremendous impact on issues surrounding the quality of work and life for women everywhere. Brigid Schulte, a Washington Post reporter, made headlines with a book called Overwhelmed: Love, Work and Play When No One Has the Time, that caused debates at think tanks and watercoolers everywhere about whether corporate America could continue on its current pace. And Representative Rosa DeLauro co-sponsored The Schedules That Work Act, which pushed to allow hourly workers more control over their schedules.

Combine these efforts with recent studies showing that productivity increases as we work less, and you can expect more attention to be paid in 2015 to the benefits to the corporate bottom line of healthier, more balanced workplace policies. Powerhouse big-name working mothers will be leading the charge toward public and private policy shifts here that benefit all.

Prediction #4: Powerhouse women and their allies will champion efforts to combat unconscious bias in the workplace.

Google made headlines in 2014 for instituting corporate programming to combat unconscious bias. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, became a mascot for the issue following comments to the effect that rather than asking for a raise, women executives should leave equal pay up to "karma," leading to a new diversity push at Microsoft. Public discourse on unconscious bias in pay and promotion continues to rise as a result.

Expect to see more efforts in 2015 to combat unconscious bias, led by powerhouse female CEOs and their allies. When we combat unconscious bias, everyone benefits, because we stop losing out on women who may be the best talent for the job.

Prediction #5: Powerhouse women will wield growing influence on an international scale.

Women like Christine Lagarde, Angela Merkel, Janet Yellen, and Samantha Power continue to grow in influence on the international stage. In 2015, we'll continue to see a rise in the number of women leading nations, creating policy and drawing attention to women's issues everywhere, as powerhouse women claim leadership roles worldwide.

In short, 2015 is shaping up to be a year where more than ever before, women and women's issues dominate the national and international stage. How our public conversation on gender, success and women's leadership develops over the next twelve months will be fascinating to watch.

Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin is a former Wall Street lawyer, an Executive and Leadership Coach, and the CEO & Executive Director of 40 Percent and Rising, an organization by and for primary breadwinner women worldwide. To learn more about Elizabeth, check out www.emclaughlin.com and www.40percentandrising.com, or follow her on Twitter.