Celebrate, Then Keep on Working
The greatest thing about my job at Lifetime Networks is that for a living, I get to talk to, celebrate, listen to, and think about women. And the more I think about women, the more I become convinced we’re not just living in A Woman’s Nation, we’re living in a woman’s time. In fact, there has never been a better time to be a woman.
The saying goes: You can’t be what you can’t see. But today, we see unlimited possibility. We see a woman as speaker of the House and women running for the White House. We see women running some of the biggest corporations and millions and millions of small businesses. We see women not only continuing to make the overwhelming majority of consumer decisions, but for the first time, we are about to see women comprise over half of the entire workforce in the United States. More and more women—by choice or default—are now the primary breadwinners for their families, making equal pay for women an issue that men have much to gain from, too. As President Obama said when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law, “Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue—it's a family issue.”
All of this means women are not only more valuable than ever, but more valued, too. What this doesn’t mean, however, is that women can assume this power will automatically translate into our potential. It doesn’t mean that everyone will recognize and reward us with promotions, or that issues critical to the success of women and our nation, such as adequate health care and balancing family and work, will somehow magically right themselves. Gloria Steinem likes to say the truth will set you free; but first, it will piss you off. The truth is that for as far as we’ve come, we still have a ways to go. And if we’re to reach the potential we see on the horizon, if this woman’s time is to be as defining as it can be, then women must support other women.
Recently, I read how just weeks after surgery to treat her cancer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got out of bed and summoned the strength to attend President Obama’s first speech before the Congress. She wanted others to know that there is a woman on the Supreme Court. Or consider Lilly Ledbetter, who could have easily given up the idea of equal pay for equal work. Instead, she knew some battles are worth fighting all the way to the Supreme Court and then successfully in the halls of Congress after a 5-to-4 ruling against her righteous stand. These are the kind of fights that will make such a difference to our daughters, nieces, and granddaughters. Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of The Paley Center for Media, and one of my predecessors at Lifetime, Carole Black, didn’t have to help me when I got this job. But they understand an inspiring truth: When one woman thrives, we all have a better chance of succeeding.
It is important to recognize and reflect on the many remarkable women that touch our lives, inspiring us to be better people. Some are famous and their contributions well documented. Many others are known just in their communities or to their families and friends. Famous or not, there is a common thread—each took a risk to fight for and support other women. Now, in our own way, newsworthy or barely noticed, each of us must do the same. If we do, the best time to be a woman will be better still.