Let's face it, changing how half the world's population are viewed and treated is no easy feat. It can be easy to get demoralized and feel like change will not come in our lifetimes so why expend the effort. Well, despite all the depressing statistics, including the recent soul-destroying forecast from the World Economic Forum that it will take another 170 years until we achieve economic gender equality, there is hope.
As someone who reads a lot on the subject of gender equality I know just how difficult it can be to keep your focus, momentum and enthusiasm. However, I also know the incredible power of the small win and I'm a very strong believer in amplifying impact thorough the ripple effect.
As Nelson Mandela said, "Everything seems impossible until it's done." So, propelled by the very obvious reality that being a woman makes it impossible for me to accept anything less than equality, I've embarked on a journey of discovery to find the low hanging fruit in the fight for gender equality. In essence, what are the easiest things we can do that will, cumulatively, produce the most rewarding and impactful results.
Here are 3 of my Top Tips for Supporting Gender Equality:
1. Political Equality - Make Some NOISE!!
You're already browsing, scrolling and e-mailing so how about we direct just a little bit of that activity towards a really big win for women. Here our focus is just on the US because we have a major constitutional issue here, the issue that we're not actually in the Constitution. However there is an Equal Rights Amendment which could sort that out and that, my fellow US ladies, would be the biggest win for gender equality in the US since our grandmothers fought and won the right to vote in 1919. Note also that they fought for it.
First of all this is what the Equal Rights Amendment says:-
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Sounds pretty darned reasonable to me. The original piece of legislation was passed by Congress on March 22 1977 and had to be ratified by 38 of the 50 states by a deadline which was ultimately extended to June 30th 1982. It fell 3 states short however.
There was a lot of push back at the time, much due to the activism of a conservative woman by the name of Phyllis Schlafly. She was worried that all this equality stuff might destroy the dignity and security of the traditional homemaker in American society and lead to all manner of evils like...hmm..homosexual marriage, women in combat, tax-payer funded abortions, unisex bathroom.... You get the picture. I got some news for your Phyllis lol!
Now there is a two pronged approach to complete the ratification process and, finally, put women in the Constitution. That way our rights will no longer be at the whim of judicial interpretation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment which was only ever intended to deal with race.
Firstly, extending the deadline past 1982:-
In Washington legislation has been introduced in both houses to approve an extension of the deadline from 1982. This would in effect mean that the ERA would be automatically ratified (subject to a 2 year delay, but don't worry about that) upon ratification at the state level by another 2 states. This legislation was introduced in January and is sponsored in the House by Rep. Jackie Spier (D-CA) and in the Senate by Senator Benjamin Cardin. I'm a legal geek so here's Senator Cardin presenting the matter in the Senate.
Secondly, securing ratification in two more states (this is where you come in):-
Nevada was the last state to ratify the ERA and did so on the anniversary of the Congressional ratification, on March 22 2017. The focus is now on securing two more states' ratification. Despite a big push in Virginia in the last weeks they refused to hear the ERA at all, excusing this decision on the basis of the 1982 deadline and some nonsense opinion of an archivist who clearly thought he was Congress and was the ultimate voice on the matter - sigh!
The end result was the same however and Virginia shut the door on equality in a shameful and condescending fashion. You can watch the video of some of the goings on below where a wonderful and articulate lady steps up to fight for the ERA
If you're a registered voter in Virginia I would urge you to take note of all those in the Chamber who opposed women's equality, contact them to tell them you support the ERA and vote them out as necessary at the earliest opportunity.
The Equal Rights Amendment is on the docket in Missouri at the time of writing - 20 February - (SCR 41) in the State Senate. It got put on unexpectedly and the suspicion is that they hope to kill the ERA quietly while no-one is watching coming back off the 3 day weekend.
Despite much pressure and many ERA supporters in the chamber waiting to be heard on the issue, the ERA was, shamefully, refused a hearing. You can still get involved however. This week you can contact the relevant representatives and put pressure on them to give the ERA the hearing it deserves, a vote and passage.
By the way you don't have to be in, or from, a state where the ERA is being considered to get involved and vocal. It is a matter of national importance affecting every single woman in the country and no state legislature can hold our equality hostage and not expect to hear from us. So jump in!
Here is a Nice List, complete with mug shots, of the people to contact in Missouri to apply pressure on them to give the ERA a hearing.
Nervous about calling? Well, it gets easier the more you call but if you still prefer to just write, no problem! Here's the text of the e-mails I used most recently when contacting the representatives in Missouri.
Feel free to use this or an edited version if it speaks to you:
Dear [Senator's Name]
I am writing to urge you to support [ SCR 41], the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution [which is on your docket for Tuesday 20 February]
I have an interest in the passage of [SCR 41] the Equal Rights Amendment in your state as it affects every single woman in America. We are entitled to the Constitutional recognition of our equality to men and the inherent protection thereby guaranteed. I can see no reason why anyone should oppose this amendment, unless of course they are sexists and believe that women are less than men.
It is long past time for this measure to be passed and so I urge you to do the right thing [on Tuesday] and support the ERA. History will judge you on your actions, and voters will also most definitely do so. Women are done waiting for what is our birth right as American citizens and it is time to rectify this matter and to breathe true meaning into gender equality by putting women in the Constitution.
You can find out which of the outstanding unratified 14 states have current activity where your support in e-mailing, calling or, if possible, physically showing up would help to make an impact. Check out the list at Ratify ERA .
Another easy thing you can do right now is to sign and share on social media channels the MoveOn.org petition supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. Super easy and it raises the issue in the public consciousness which is so important.
2. Economic Equality - Choose Women!
Every time you spend your money you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Personally, when I look at the World Economic Forum's 170 year prediction until we have economic equality between the genders, I'm not prepared to wait that long. I'm pretty sure that we can do something about that if we applied a massive dose of gendered self-interest. Basically, support women-owned businesses, and there are a lot of them!
Looking for a place to get a great workout? Try Orangetheory, founded by Ellen Latham and one of the top 10 fastest growing woman-owned businesses in the country. Or how about Soulcycle, the New York City-based fitness company with studios in 9 U.S. states and counting. Founders are Elizabeth Cutler, Julie Rice, and Ruth Zukerman. Check out your local providers and see which are woman-owned.
How about the water bottle you bring along to your workout class? Swell was founded in 2006 by Sarah Kauss who is passionate about eliminating plastic bottle waste. Swell bottles not only look gorgeous but Sarah's company has numerous charitable collaborations relating to increasing global access to clean water supplies. Woman-owned and socially conscious, that's a win-win!
Maybe you're trying to ditch your soda addiction as Kara Goldin was back in 2004. She developed "Hint" a healthy alternative to the faux-health drinks that littered the marketplace when she was looking for a replacement for her Diet Coke habit. Totally sugar free water flavored with non-GMO plants and fruits. Healthy and woman-owned!
Maybe you want to think about which winery is producing the wine you buy? A quick google search and I found a listing of woman-owned wineries in Sonoma California. Here's the WOW List Link! And there's always the lovely Nasty Woman Wines from Oregon winery owner Meg Murray. I've just tried her Pinot Noir so far and I loved it!
Looking to invest your hard-earned cash? There's Ellevest, founded by Sallie Krawcheck, on a mission to close the gender investment gap. Sallie spoke at the recent Makers Conference on the alarming gender investment gap and what she and Ellevest are doing to address it. She's also launched a free series of educational video programs in collaboration with Makers to introduce more women to financial planning and investing. Watch her short introduction to the subject from the Makers Conference here
It really is not that hard to find, and choose, a product or service from a woman owned brand or business. From large national brands to small local businesses women are active in every economic arena and could use your support. I would of course be remiss if I did not mention PEBBLE + ROSE the brand I founded to be a part of this economic activism coupled with the added component of giving back to a woman-focused charity.
Women supporting women is a powerful weapon in the fight for gender equality. Economic parity will come a lot quicker when we take purposive action in the form of our buying choices now. It doesn't need to be a radical and immediate shift to 100% woman-owned to be effective. Just turning your mind towards woman-owned and adjusting some of your purchase decisions to women will have a ripple effect and make a significant impact.
Support Women at the Polls:-
Now, obviously I don't mean just any woman because, unfortunately we still have a number of women who are very good at supporting an old white man agenda. But, we do have so many great candidates coming forward who are fed up with the status quo and, let's face it, blatant sexism of some incumbents, that there is a great opportunity to significantly increase women's representation and further a pro-woman agenda.
So what are the easy wins here? Well, there are a number of organizations that are encouraging, promoting, funding, and training women to run for Congress. Since election day 2016 more than 30,000 women have signed up to run for office and 8,000 people have signed up to help them. Hurray!! Here are some of the organizations at the forefront of this movement:
EMILY's List is committed to getting Pro-Choice candidates elected and you can help them.
Maybe you want to run yourself? Don't say "No" to that too quickly. You have seen the caliber of politician in office at the moment right? The standard is not high and women have tended not to run because they, incorrectly, don't believe they're qualified. Legislatures are full of men who aren't fit or qualified for the office they hold and when women run...they tend to do well. We women like to see a woman on the ticket and I think we've seen about all the male incompetence and self-interest we can tolerate. So, don't say "No" too quickly if you really do harbor more than a passing interest. The time may very well be now.
That said there are plenty of ways to support women who do want to run for office and you can find out how on the EMILY's List website. You'll also get to see a list of the candidates and get better informed in this important election year.
She Should Run has set the goal of 250,000 women running for elected office by 2030. Not only is this, non-partisan, organization supporting women to run for office, it is also involved in preparing the next generation, from a very young age, to envision themselves as leaders. They partnered with Barbie, who produced President and Vice-President Barbie dolls, and produced a workbook for inspiring girls to see themselves as leaders. You can never start too early! Take a look at the workbook and maybe think about using it as a resource to mentor a young girl you know.
She Should Run also run an Incubator Parents Course
If you’re a parent or family member or mentor - and you want to help a young girl in your life see her own possibility and promise, this course, they say, is for you. It’s designed to give you tools and activities to talk to a girl in your life about the ways she can become a leader - and the obstacles she’ll probably face. Sounds great right? I haven't been through the materials myself yet and you'll need to register to get access to the course but apparently it's free and the link to register is here.
Ignite was founded in 2010 and today you'll find a chapter on just about every college campus in the country. Ignite is looking to engage young women to step up and declare their ambition to run for office.
Their college programs aim to address the barriers that impede political ambition. They offer young women a like minded and passionate community, instilling a sense of confidence in participants by building their leadership skills and deepening their expertise around policy issues. They also benefit from a powerful network of elected women who serve as role models and help participants access opportunities to exercise political leadership and prepare to run and lead.
Perhaps you're in college yourself or have a daughter, niece or friend who is. Why not let them know about Ignite and encourage them to attend one of the many Ignite events to explore a world of women in leadership.
Well then, I hope I've given you some ideas on how to move from overwhelm to impactful activism that doesn't require a lot of time or effort. There's a lot we can get done to support equality without even getting off the sofa and it's absolutely worth doing.
About the Author
Eimear Zone is an entrepreneur and co-founder of feminist brand and social enterprise, PEBBLE + ROSE. She writes on feminism, entrepreneurship, and mindset management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.