I am fortunate to have been raised by a strong independent woman and had the opportunity to grow up alongside 3 other strong independent women (and If you don’t believe us, just ask our husbands). I get to connect and collaborate with amazing women in my workspace and have had the opportunity to launch some great initiatives in Richmond with women to create projects like Ready To Work: Girl Ambassador Program with Girls for A Change, Unreasonable Labs RVA, CostartersRVA, VCU Pre Accelerator, RVAMakerfest, Artisan Pickles, and #RVAVdayLOVE. When thinking about what one single woman I wanted to give a huge shout out today, I paused. My hesitation was obviously not because of a lack of connections to great women, but it was a deeper thought around the idea of showcasing and celebrating women and wondering what are the next steps.
What is the impact of putting one woman on a pedestal for the day when we can be creating calls to action to our fellow brothers and sisters? A good friend and founder of Girls for A Change, Angela Patton, recently told me that she purposefully doesn’t smile on her business card photo because she is serious about her work and doing work to bring up black girls and other girls of color is incredibly hard work. This sat with me in a deep way because I know Angela and we smile all of the time when we are together, but I also know her work and I know her truth. I also know that there are many people who don’t know this work or understand the work and may never understand why she wouldn’t smile.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to smile and be celebrated and celebrate all of the great women around me, but we need more. Depending on the type of work you do, it is still nonstop hustle as a white woman and nearly impossible as a woman of color. There are still hundreds of conversations where we walk out of the room and we know we are not understood. There are still thousands of rooms that we are not invited into and we have to hustle to be there to have a seat at the table. Women are under resourced, we have our ideas taken, we are misunderstood, we receive less pay and we oftentimes become competitive because we have to learn how to fight to survive when our default nature is to bring everyone together. Fighting to survive is not the way to create change. It is not about women overthrowing men to create the new future— that is simply history repeating itself. Change comes when we are all sitting at the table together and that is why today, I want to highlight Paulo Gregory Harris's work because he uses his privilege as a man to tell this story and realize that female leadership is what can bring everyone together. When I heard him speak about this for the first time, I was sitting in a room full of 500 people at the Kauffman Eship Summit and it brought me to tears. It brought me to tears because it was the first time I actually heard a man truly understand this work and offer a solution. Fortunately, the Kauffman Foundation recorded the story of Paulo’s work and I can share it with you.
Today, I have a very simple ask for International Women’s Day:
For men: listen to Paulo’s story, share it, and tell your story of how you are embracing and supporting women by sitting at their table, funding them, and inviting them into their network.
For women: listen to Paulo’s story, share it, and tell your story of the brave men that are embracing and supporting you by sitting at your table, funding you, and inviting you into their network.