We’re Loud & We’re Proud

Celebrating women’s empowerment, and voicing protest – the growing power of video messaging

When women get together in many countries around the world, they sing songs of praise and protest. Indeed, song has bound together movements for generations – so why not the women’s movement? We made note of that a few years back, in one of our most popular and forwarded blogposts, “Womenabling Music: uniting cultures and empowering women through song,” and we have also shared historical videos of importance and interest to women’s economic empowerment advocates (such as those highlighted in our 1st quarter e-newsletter from 2011).

This year during Women’s History Month, we again turn our focus on song. First off, we wanted to make sure you get a chance to tap your toes to One Woman, which comes to us from  UN Women; proceeds from song downloads will go to their good cause.

Secondly, there was a recent flashmob social media campaign to mark V Day – celebrated primarily as Valentine’s Day, but more recently used to call attention to the appalling fact that one out of three women (fully one billion women) will be the victims of violence during their lifetime. Under the One Billion Rising moniker (I love their tagline: 1 billion women violated is an atrocity; 1 billion women dancing is a revolution), thousands of local groups got together to perform – flashmob style in some cases – to the song “Break the Chain,” written to highlight the issue. Here’s one flashmob example of the performance of the song, from India:

And here’s the video that’s garnered the highest number of views on YouTube (over 172,000), from San Francisco:

Check out others at onebillionrising.org/livestream. And learn more about the song and the choreography HERE. These are just a few examples of the growing power of social media to deploy aural advocacy. Sing out, sisters!

The UK’s Power Women

The Womenabler has long been a fan of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – we download and listen to many a show on our long womenabling flights around the globe. Last year, Woman’s Hour followed the trials and tribulations of three women entrepreneurs, pairing them up with mentors and discussing their entrepreneurial growth pains at regular intervals during the year. It was fascinating, illuminating and – we would guess – very inspirational for listeners thinking of starting and growing their own businesses.

womenshourlistpicThis year, they’ve set a new high bar – announcing a Power List of the 100 most powerful women in the UK. The build-up to the announcement was interesting to listen to, as they highlighted the advancement – or lack thereof – of women in business, politics, education, science and sport. It was a thoughtful, open process and the list is an interesting mix of the elite and the street-smart. Of course, #1 on the list is Queen Elizabeth, and many of the others in the ranked top-twenty lists are Dames and Right Honorables (position defines clout, in the UK and elsewhere). However, the list also includes such built-it-not-born-into-it women as singer Adele, noted architect Zaha Hadid, author JK Rowling, and a variety of women in sport, business, politics and civil society.

It’s a wonderful mix of women from a variety of walks of life, and generations, but some have commented that it’s not a very ethnically diverse list and that there were political and face-saving motivations for embarking upon this quest. But then, the halls of power are still relatively homogenous. By our eye, this women’s power list is much more diverse on so many levels than a gender-blind power list would be. And, whatever the motivations may have been, it’s a wonderful window on the world of women’s influence in the United Kingdom, a good conversation-starter about who may be missing from the list, and a feather in the cap of a fine radio program that, in our view, deserves more than a moment in the spotlight.

Check out the Woman’s Hour Power List, the stories behind how the list was chosen, and some of the commentary following the announcement of the list – including the chagrin of some that the Duchess of Cambridge was not included in the list.

Well done, Woman’s Hour!

Lean In Sparks Push Back

Leaning in: It began, perhaps, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s December 2010 TEDWomen talk on why there are so few women leaders (which has now garnered 2.1 million views on TED.com and YouTube). Her ideas were further refined in her May 2011 commencement speech at Barnard College, and have now been expanded and formalized into a new book, Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which is – in true social media fashion – feeding into the launch of a web-based community, leanin.org.
leanin

All of these missives revolve around Sandberg’s view that too many women shy away from stepping up to the plate at the workplace, muffling their own ambitions and thereby short-changing their careers. On the face of it, not too controversial, but my, oh my what a firestorm of responses her views have sparked! Womenable pointed to the juxtaposition of the TEDWomen talk and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s counterpoint piece in the July/August 2012 issue of the Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All, as one of the top womenabling news and events of 2012.

The well-orchestrated March 11th publication of Sandberg’s book has been met with a firestorm of commentary, however, not all of it positive. Here’s just a selection of related op-eds and direct commentary and coverage:

What is our view on all of this? Well, we have a few thoughts and reactions to this recent firestorm:

  1. This is a very western, industrialized economy conversation. In nearly 3/4 of countries around the world (specifically 141 economies investigated by the World Bank in their Women, Business and the Law report), women are at a legal disadvantage compared to men in one or more areas – so no matter how hard they lean in, they may not achieve equality of opportunity;
  2. The “lean in” exhortation ignores the double standard to which many women in the workplace are held. Frequently, exhibiting ambition and leaning in are met with resistance, undercutting, and being labeled a “rhymes with witch;” and
  3. This discussion is very much taking place in a corporate environment. In particular, it ignores the fact that many women (perhaps after leaning in to no avail) are taking their futures in their own hands, and are starting their own businesses. (Of course, in our entrepreneurial world, there is a similar conversation about why more women business owners are not scaling the heights of entrepreneurial success.)

All that said, of course, what may be the most important point is that, by circling our feminist wagons and shooting down a message and point of view from an important and visible woman business leader, we may damage our collective cause. After all, as pointedly observed by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

So here’s what we say: all views are welcome, and many strategies are needed. We not only need to lean in, we need to push back, raise voices, change laws and change minds to advance the cause of equality of opportunity for all.