The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States could just be the best thing that has happened to professional women in a long time.
Now stay with me for a second. Here’s why I think this could be the case:
We’re awake now. That’s because it’s all out in the open: the Billy Bush conversation, the recent New York Times OpEd on “bro talk on Wall Street,” even the light sentence for Brock Turner. And while as a mother and an aunt, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it that we haven’t made more progress for younger women, this does represent an odd form of forward motion: We can’t really deal with an issue until we fully understand the issue.
This is some proof that we can’t rely on others to fight this battle for us, and so we must redouble our efforts. It’s hard to fight a battle that is not yours with the same energy as you would your own. This despite all of the research on how the advancement of feminism is good for businesses, the economy and society. The intellectual argument has not won the day.
I’m hearing from more and more women that we must “put on our big girl pants” and do this ourselves. The key to this is that we women have tremendous resources: We control $5 trillion of investable assets, we direct 80 percent of consumer spending, we’re more than half of the workforce. We’ve got a lot of power.
So it’s becoming clear that, if we care about this, we have to do something different – and more – tomorrow than we did yesterday.
What does using our power look like? It can be a range of things, some big, some small ... but incremental to what we are doing today. We can:
Mentor other women
Sponsor other women
Talk up other women at work
Amplify what other women say in meetings
Point out to others when they interrupt other women or ignore other women in meetings
Point out when the words they use to compliment men (“aggressive” or “go-getter”) are used to put down women
Don’t work at the company that doesn’t “get it” on making the work environment one in which you can be successful (Yes, I went there)
Think hard about not joining or quitting a company that has no successful senior females running P&Ls … if they don’t “get it” by now, honestly, when are they going to get it?
Invest our money in the markets, to give ourselves the opportunity to earn a higher return and close our personal “gender investing gap,” which has historically cost us ... big time
Buy from companies that promote women (check out BuyUp Index to help)
Invest our money in companies that promote women (check out the Pax Ellevate Global Index Fund – full disclosure: I’m a partial owner – or the She Index)
Donate to a female candidate whose views line up with yours in the next election
If you’re able to, fund another woman’s business, through one of the crowdfunding sites that are springing up
Encourage other women to run for office
Run for office
Start your own business, perhaps a business with a strong mission
Agitate for mandated parental leave. Maybe it won’t happen at the national level (leaving us as the only developed country in the world without one); but let’s also fight at the company level (where only some 21 percent of companies have one despite the fact that these leaves pay for themselves pretty quickly)
Talk to your children about these issues, honestly and openly. Let them know why this is important and why the fight isn’t over
One thought I keep coming back to: In a capitalist society, money is power. As noted, women have a lot of money. But we don’t (yet) have as much as the guys do and we won’t be fully equal with men until we are financially equal with men. We won’t have all the degrees of freedom – to live the lives we want, to have the funds to leave a bad relationship or a bad job and start that dream business – until we are financially equal with men.
So doing all that we can to be in financial control feels more important today than it did two weeks ago. It’s important that we break the old gender norms of “the man manages the money; I manage the household.” That leaves us retiring with two-thirds the money of men but living 5+ years longer than they do. You don’t have to invest with Ellevest, but please get yourself a financial plan and invest.
Final thought, and it’s an important one: This isn’t about excluding the men. It’s about including women. If women earn more, it grows the economy. If women invest more, it unleashes capital to grow businesses. It’s a net win for all of us.
What did I miss? What else can we be doing? What else will get us there?
Sallie Krawcheck is the CEO of Ellevest, an online investment platform for women, and chair of Ellevate Network, a global professional women’s network. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar. Long considered one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, she was CFO at Citigroup and led Bank of America’s global wealth and investment management until a restructuring. Her book, “Own It: The Power of Women at Work,” will be published on Jan. 17.
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