Women Redefining the World:
The One Billion Challenge to Patriarchy
Recently a dude wrote to Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas to express his outrage about a woman-only screening of Wonder Woman. My first inclination was to roll my eyes and dismiss him as yet another thin-skinned ignoramus. But he threw in a challenge that stuck with me.
“Name something invented by a woman!”
Sure, I could mention Katherine Blodget and her patent on glare-free glass. Or Madame CJ Walker who invented a cure for scalp ailments and became the first self-made female millionaire in the United States. Or Stephanie Kwolek the chemist who made Kevlar, which protects our military. And one more, Hedy Lamarr who co-invented a wireless communication system to fight the Nazis.
In my huffy state, I was prepared to Google my way into an avalanche of retorts to Mr. Can’t Handle Being Irrelevant to Women Even For One Night. But his blunt accusations against women’s intrinsic value and our contributions made me think about this from a broader perspective.
The patriarchy has led capitalism around by the nose, insisting that women aren’t as capable as men and therefore shouldn’t have to be paid the same rate, shouldn’t expect paid maternity leave, and can expect to be vastly underrepresented in leadership across government and corporate sectors. And those are just the non-violent issues.
But here’s where the past goes from aggravating to a future that looks interesting…
One billion women are expected to enter the workforce by 2022. A billion. That doesn’t include all of us already rockin’ it in our jobs and the many women starting and growing businesses who generate $1.6 trillion in revenue. (Bringing home a crap ton of bacon!)
This incredible influx of women has the potential to change capitalism, the patriarchy, and the way the world treats women. Here’s why: “In the developing work, a working woman reinvests 90% of her earnings back into her family and immediate community, while men spend only 30% to 40% of his earnings.” Empowering more women economically will play a major role in alleviating poverty and lead to innovations that improve the lives of women and children because women are more likely when in power to focus on issues that directly affect women and their families.
In 2015, McKinsey’s study Why Diversity Matters reported that companies with greater gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform companies that were not as diverse. More women = greater competitive advantage. Add in one billion women, their investment in their communities, even moderate alleviation of poverty, and innovations that support women and the patriarchy is in trouble.
Companies and governments that don’t prioritize the inclusion of women at greater numbers run the risk of falling behind the ones that not only talk about it, but make it a reality. But the people in charge have some waking up to do and as Marganett Moore-Roberts, Yahoo’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion succinctly put it, “Until we see the value women bring, you’re not going to realize the true value of diversity.” Amen.
In the meantime, I’ve got a ticket to Wonder Woman, popcorn, and a dogged determination to see a smarter, kinder and more inclusive world.