Moves Magazine held its first Power Women Forum at The Rooftop at the Red Door Spa on 5th Avenue. For our inaugural Power Forum, we invited some of our past-celebrated Moves Power Women to host an open panel discussion with students from the top five local universities to discuss social, political, and personal issues in regards to gender equality and effective steps we can take to improve it. The Forum was hosted by the Ashley Judd, cover of our 2015 spring issue, and moderated by the Carol Costello, anchor of CNN’s “Newsroom”.
The panel consisted of Brigadier General Donna Martin, of the United States Army Recruiting Command; Tonia O’Connor, President of Content Distribution and Corporate Business for Univision; Caryl Stern, President & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF; and Kat Burki, Founder of Kat Burki Skin Care.
At the Forum, we framed the discussion around questions of women’s involvement in executive positions and apparent resistance to it, longer established employees having outdated views of gender equality in the workplace, concern over feminism’s uphill battle and if effective steps are currently being made, and the negative connotation to the word ‘feminist’, in general. The audience was from varied age groups and affiliations—students, who’s concerns were mainly aimed toward the future, women from the local NOW chapter who brought vigor and a sense of urgency to equality, as well as friends and guests of the magazine that crossed several generations, backgrounds, and brought different experiences into the discussion.
Shortly after the Power Forum, we had the chance to catch up with the panelists individually to get a more direct sense of their thoughts toward the night’s conversations, and here is what they said:
1. we (women) have a different perspective, and for that reason I think that we deliver different types of results, and to the extent that we had—if there were more opportunities for women to serve as CEO’s or to run companies, I think that you would see more of a blend of what we have to offer in the marketplace or the workplace. It’s not for me to say what’s better, but I think having that diversity in the C suite is super important,
2. our role as a parent, a lot of times, is highlighted or discussed side by side with our role as an executive or as a politician. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing, at all. I’m very proud of being a mom, and I’m very proud of the people on my team that are both mothers and fathers and have parenting and work. I think that an executive that has both a personal life and professional life, I think makes for a more dynamic executive, so I very much like having our role as mothers, as fathers, as parents, as children (for those of us who have older parents)
it doesn’t mean that we’ve succeeded yet in terms of getting to an acceptable number, but it certainly is a priority in the marketplace. And then secondly, as we have made even just some small improvement in terms of women serving on the boards and in the C suite. I do think that women that have made it there, I think their making it a priority to make sure they’re reaching down and bringing women up, and sponsoring women… I think people with an outdated point of view, I don’t think they’re going to survive in this marketplace.
4. I think it’s one of the primary things that holds women back, that they have an obligation to their families first and foremost, and because of that it prevents them from taking on bigger jobs with greater responsibilities and more hours, as a result. You just don’t see an equal number of men and women in leadership positions. So I think we need to evolve there.
5. I think we need to stop applying the word to just women, and I would say I’m raising my daughter and my 2 sons to be feminist, because to me feminism really means throwing out the rules, or accepting a way in which any one individual is ‘suppose’ to behave or be like, and taking ownership of your own path and doing… leading and lving a life and a journey that is personal, and really allows for you to be your own personal best. I’ve never though as feminism as being man-hating, it’s really just about taking ownership of my own journey…. and I want my sons to embrace and support that not only for their sister and their mother but for their future wives and daughers, as well.
it’s one of the most fundamental inequalities that exists in all of socieites. It’s not a US problem, or a developing country problem, it just seems to be gender inequality everywhere (starting gender equality education at an early age). And there’s evidence that tells us that gender is among the strongest determinants of desparities in child [wellbeing and rights overall -9.26] and a girl has a less chance of success in life than a boy right from the start. And not only in terms of what we think of in the United States—pay or occupation—but just general health, access, and survival
. I always describe education as the best tool in our arsenal to disrupt the cycle of poverty
girls that stay in school out of adolescence are much less likely to be subjected to force sex—they’re not going to be preyed upon. Again, partially because of the self-esteem piece, there’s a piece of knowing what their options are, of knowing that they have rights.
Absolutely, it is about empowering girls. And part of empowerment is understanding that you have equity, that you have worth and value. And you have a right to education.
And then clearly, if youc an read and write your empowerment grows because once you can read and write, and while you’re at school you’re taught to critically think, to analyze facts, you know longer accept what someone tells you is truth if it doesn’t make sense to you. You have the opportunity to research it and check it out, and so it becomes the best way for us to protect children from being duped into soldiering and into prostitution. It also protects them from being subjected or recruited into hate-mongering groups. Because they understand there are alternatives, and they understand what those alternatives are.
A third part of what UNICEF looks at is gender equity, and ending child marriage. Again, statiscally girls that go to school tend to get married four years later, and have 2.2 children less. Early marriage, not only [pacifies] a girl getting stuck in a horrific relationship, but statistically girls who marry early end up having far more children, which is not only economically a crisis but it becomes physically a crisis for the child, also. They tend to live shorter lives, have many more health problems, forced into marriage to men often much older than them. This is not a loving relationship, this is a contract.
it’s about teaching the girls about their body, about their life, about that she doesn’t have to abide to what’s being asked of her.
2. I do think that women as they age, there’s that old myth that goes around that you become invisible and don’t know what you’re doing anymore and blah blah blah. And that’s all it is, is blah blah blah. So sadly, you know, once you supposedly lose your looks and your sexuality, you’re an absolute zero. So I think when people call older women who are involved in anything important, a grandmother, or old, or tired, “you look tired,” or some crap like that. It’s just the most insulting thing you can say to a woman, and I think that’s sad because we should celebrate our wisdom as we age, and not so much of our looks anymore because frankly, we’ve earned it.
3. Oh, no. I might be saying that because I’m an older woman who’s been in my career for a long time haha, but no I just think that’s silly. I think that no matter how old or young you are, if you’re qualified for the job, you’re gonna get it. but at least from my personal experience, I can’t site one incident where an older person was in a job that I wanted and prevented me from taking it. I had a lot of older people helping me, men and women. But again, I’m answering this question from the perspective of a 53 year old woman.
4. I used to downplay my femininity and dress powerful like a man, and I find myself still doing that, frankly. I used to talk a certain way—tougher. I always felt I had to be better, and I still feel that way. I think today that, and this is a good thing, that younger women are more willing than ever to show their feminine side. They don’t find anything unique in looking feminine. And I think that in my generation, career women kind of felt that way. Like we couldn’t show our femininity because that would make us somehow weaker.
5. I just don’t think feminists are man-haters. And I know that some women think that of other women, as well. Like maybe more conservative women think that of liberal women, right?—they’re ‘manhaters,’ and ‘lesbians,’ and have hair under their arms—but that’s so old fashioned. To me that’s so old fashioned. I don’t really see that anymore. So, I think you have to include men, maybe. Maybe the answer is that if you include men more in the fight for equality, and respect their opinions and listen to them, right? Because I think sometimes we don’t listen to men, and we blow off their concern and it makes them feel unimportant, and that doesn’t help us at all, it just doesn’t.
BG DONNA MARTIN:
1. I would tell you from my perspective, as a senior leader in the army, I believe that women are value added. And I don’t believe that in the military there is a resistance to women being involved in any major decisions at all. I think we are an invited teammate, and I think that our perspectives are not only encouraged, but enjoyed in a partnership with our male counterparts.
2. And I would tell you that women who serve in the military are defined by their characteristic of being a mother, although I will tell you it’s not a derogatory status to have for us. And I think that being a mother in the military, being a wife in the military, has a certain status for us as a matter of fact, because I believe that our male counterparts understand how difficult having that dual status is.
3. In terms of progression, I don’t think that females are being held back at all. What is concerning for us, and we’d love to see more females seize the army opportunities and leadership opportunities and educational opportunities. What we find is we look at those numbers, and why females don’t join and it’s more about there’s a perception of quality of life, there’s a perception of not being able to complete basic training. All of those things we’re trying to combat and show them that’s absolutely you can do it.
4. I think you see more women in many more high-powered positions than we ever did. I mean, if this was insanity, then we would’ve never gained the right to vote, so are we making progress? Absolutely. Do we continue to make progess? Absolutly. But I think it is a responsibility of women who have made it, so to speak, or who are serving in positions of seniority, to reach down and really pull other females up and to support them, and to encourage them. And that’s a very strong responsibility that I feel, and I’m sure a lot of women who are in positions of seniority feel, and I think it’s a responsibility we have
•Yes, I think there’s resistence. I think it’s—have I experienced it? I’m sure, many times. I think it’s just the same as a lot of resistances that a lot of people receive anyway, but I think it’s a kind of… there’s some old viewpoints of “women can’t lead” or they can’t work well together, or they can’t be in control, or they don’t want them to be in control. So yeah, I think that’s underlying a lot of situations
•I think it’s actually not a bad thing, and has to be embraced that that can exist at the same time as being able to be in business and do other things. I think that role is so important to so many people, so I think it’s not a bad thing . It just has to be viewed in a way that that doesn’t conflict with their ability to do other things. It acutally makes them better to do other things.
•Our society is based on youth and there’s other societies that, as you age you get wiser and you have more respect, and we just aren’t there and it’s kind of sad, actually. They lose respect, they lose their dignity, and I think that’s not really the case
•I think it’s an ongoing battle, and I think there’s pockets that are more resistant than other pockets. I think it’s definitely a linear movement. Nothing, not even a corporate business starting off the ground—it feels like you’re pedaling and you’re not going anywhere, but you’re slowly going somewhere, it just takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of education
From the above, and from the Forum itself if you had the pleasure of being there, there seem to be a few means of achieving equality that women agree on, such as: how educating yourself on the topics of feminism is immensely important in order to make a change; that bringing other females up through mentoring, or seeking a mentor if you’re staring out, is important for maintaining and building female success in the workplace; and that males should be involved in the feminist conversation, not gone against or ignored, to achieve complete female equality.
What do you think?