This past week I had the opportunity to spend time with just over 100 women leaders who were part of BET’s Leading Women Defined. These leaders are changing the perceptions about the potential of women to preside over companies, households and break barriers. Part of the experience was being in the room while Robin Roberts interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama. Robin Roberts, one of the first women sportscasters on ESPN, is herself the epitome of strength that is so often seen in women. She broke barriers in sportscasting that ultimately opened doors for other women who are now commonly fixtures in sports reporting. But, more recently, her fight against breast cancer led people to see the true warrior that she was as she exposed her fight to the world.
It’s that story of strength that is interwoven anytime you hear about women who are at the helm of a corporation, household, church, or plainly, at the top of their game. As Beyonce said, women are able to bear the children then write a check for millions. We are leaning in, working, mothering, serving and often doing it at the same time. It would be easy to think that women, as strong as we are have reached the pinnacle of our success. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to do. Simply put, this is a man’s world and to this day, women are blocked from achieving true equality with their male counterparts.
March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of women who have paved the way or made the world better for us all. Yet, as we celebrate women, we must recognize that there is still too much work to do. Women, both domestically and internationally, are still not given equal treatment even in some of the most developed nations. Here in the US, women are still paid less than men, save less than men but live longer; women are a majority of the electorate, but hold far fewer elected positions than men; more women are graduating from college than men, but we make up a small percentage of CEOs; and while some women are becoming heads of households, there are legislators who would like them not to be able to make decisions about their bodies as they regulate women’s healthcare and reproductive rights. These are all challenges that women still have to address, even as we honor the women before us who have given us more power over our own lives.
In the days of our mothers and grandmothers, women pushed their own agenda. They earned the right to own land, to vote, to be in the military and to have full careers. But as with other struggles, those rights must be maintained and new rights must be gained. We can’t allow men to set our agenda, we must demand the things that we know we deserve. By tapping into our power, we can begin to frame the conversation, continue to achieve change and transform the future for our daughters.
Janaye Ingram is the National Executive Director of the National Action Network.