A year ago on Sunday, women raised their voices in a collective roar that is still reverberating across the United States and the world. At the Women’s March in New York City, I stood alongside colleagues, friends, neighbors, and allies of all backgrounds to challenge the status quo and call for women’s equality in all areas of our lives.
From the moment I stepped outside and saw the first pink hat of the day, I knew we were making history. The mood was joyous and electrifying—everyone exhilarated to be joining together in a communal assertion of power and principles. From the subway ride there, to the march itself, to the long walk home, I was surrounded by women and men who are committed to telling their stories, listening to others, and acting to make positive change.
Little did we know how the thunderous impact of that day—the solidarity we felt, saw, and heard—would become a clarion call for the entire year. But as we’ve seen, from our workplaces to Hollywood to our governments, women are demanding to be heard and seen. Finally, it seems, society is truly willing to start paying attention to women and our stories.
The brave women who spoke up about Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates of women’s pent-up pain and anguish from sexual harassment in the workplace. The #MeToo movement proves that many employers can’t even guarantee that women employees won’t have to deal with lewd comments, unwanted touching, or pressure for sex—not to mention covert forms of sexism like stereotypes and unconscious biases. #MeToo is important not because women never shared their stories before—they did!—but because in the past only victims seemed to suffer with unmeasurable consequences, while harassers were excused, forgiven, and often promoted. That’s why it is so satisfying to see Anita Hill—a woman who dared to share stories about her encounters with a powerful man during a time when it was both politically and societally unacceptable—leading the new Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace formed by top entertainment executives.
On Our Screens
Women’s stories have dominated our screens this year too. For the first time since 1958, the three most popular movies of the year had strong female leads: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman. On TV, the critics acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, and Insecure for depicting stories for, about, and by women—and inclusive of all women despite age, race, or ethnicity. And the realities of working motherhood in all its mess and devotion were shown on Black-ish and The Mindy Project, two comedies with flawed, funny, and loving women of color at their center. To cap this year of accomplishments, history-maker Ava DuVernay is the first woman of color to make a $100 million movie by directing the film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time. Women in Hollywood are speaking up offscreen too—they’ve been leaders of the #MeToo movement, and they’ve taken action at the recent Golden Globes and by starting Time’s Up, which is a unified call for change from women in entertainment to women everywhere.
Women in Office
Throughout the United States, women from across the political spectrum are forging new paths for themselves and their communities by running for political office. The Center for American Women and Politics reports that there are many more potential women candidates for 2018 elections for the US Senate and House, as well as for state governors, than at this point four years ago. And organizations devoted to training and supporting women candidates at all levels, such as Ready to Run, Emerge America, Emily’s List, and Ignite have reported marked increases in interest from women. When women are part of the conversation as candidates or office holders, the experiences they bring to drive legislation and policy will add depth to our decisions.
At Catalyst, we’ve been inspired by the conversations that were unleashed at the Women’s March. It’s not easy to have them—many are anchored by sad, infuriating, and frustrating stories that prove just how far we still have to go before we reach full equity. But now there are more people in the conversation and more people who are motivated to take action because of what they’re hearing.
There’s more energy, and we’re reflecting it in our own efforts. At its heart, our work has always been about the unique individuals—YOU!—who we engage and support to accomplish our goals. Each one of you has story that should be heard and shared. And because our stories and our voices are more powerful together, we encourage you to join us in the fight—sharing your stories and giving your perspective along the way—as we continue to focus the global discourse on building workplaces that work for women. In the meantime, please feel free to share your stories in the comments section below, or send an email to AskDeborah@catalyst.org.