International Women’s Day (IWD), first observed in New York City in 1909, has evolved into a major event to raise awareness of the social, economic and political struggles of women worldwide. This year’s theme #MakeItHappen is a global call to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere, to empower them, and focus greater attention on equal rights.
From the elimination of poverty in the developing world and stopping sexual violence to increasing political representation of women and closing the gender gap in corporate leadership – International Women’s Day is an occasion worth marking. However, a midst the massive advocacy campaigns, the intense media attention, and the clarion calls of globally recognized leaders – it can sometimes feel beyond our power to change. With so many important people working hard to resolve these problems, how would you or I even begin to make a difference?
I have been very fortunate in my life, and have never been explicitly conscious of any barriers. That said, the older I get, the more I realize that yes, I have encountered them and yes, the world does suffer as a result of gender inequality. It has taken me too long to truly embrace my feminism, but since becoming I mother, I feel fiercely attuned to the challenges that will face my 12 year old daughter.
So, it is through her eyes that I make my most important choices. I know she will learn more from what I do than what I say, and I do very my best to act accordingly. She inspires me to stand up, speak my mind, and to lead.
My actions combine over time. As do yours. Collectively, our everyday decisions add up, influence those around us, and have a meaningful impact. Here are three things you can do to #MakeItHappen and lead change.
1. Focus on Leading vs. Achieving
Stop equating achievement with leadership. Yes, closing the leadership gap for women will require many women to super-achieve, but for every one who successfully reaches the C-Suite, there are countless more who can still contribute meaningfully. By tackling problems in their community, speaking out on issues that matter, and by setting a positive example, women everywhere can effectively lead.
- Here’s how to “Develop Leadership Outside of Work”, according to me.
- Follow Tara Sophia Mohr’s 10 Rules for Brilliant Women to “Play Big.”
2. Make Your Own Time
As women, we’re constantly encouraged to ‘take time nurture ourselves’, and I agree. But self care is just a start when it comes to mastering time. Instead, consider unconventional ways to use it strategically. Work remotely, negotiate 4 workdays instead of 5, or choose to freelance independently. But here is the key…dedicate the flexible time to something important instead of your laundry!
- CEO Jody Greenstone Miller’s challenge to “Rethink Time”.
- The Harvard Business Review on how to get your passion project started without quitting your day job.
3. Put Your Values Into Action
Cliche maybe, but the best way to put your values into action is to “be the change you want to see” – and by this I mean more than giving generously or purchasing responsibly. Living in alignment with your values means putting your money where your mouth is, speaking up, and rolling up your sleeves. Challenge yes, but also opportunity. Pick a cause or problem dear to your heart and work to solve it by any means necessary. This everyday leadership is the kind people around you actually see, and inevitably, they too will be inspired to lead.
- ambiSHEous – A new entrepreneurship program for girls I’m totally excited to launch.
- Former candidate Catherine Fortin LeFaivre tells it like it is: Show Her the Money!”
Question: What are the small ways you lead change?