Equity Can't Waitby Wendy Gladney on 05/14/19
American Women for International Understanding, an organization whose mission is to help improve the lives of women and girls across the globe, recently decided to attend a book reading and conversation with Melinda Gates and John Legend. The conversation was both enriching and uplifting. The event was centered around Melinda Gates new book, “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.” She shared that when you lift women, you lift all of humanity. Her sentiments resonate strongly with me because that is the very essence of what we do through our organization Forgiving For Living, Inc. For most of my life, it has been my goal to uplift women and girls to make sure they believe in themselves and know that the world is their oyster.
Before attending this discussion, I knew who Melinda Gates was and the work she and her husband Bill do through their Foundation, but now I feel a connection. They believe every life has equal value and they’re committed to helping all people lead healthy and productive lives. Once I listened to the dialogue between Melinda and John it became clear that she is sold out to this work and will do all she can to improve equity in the world. She served a call to action for those present to make sure we provide opportunities to women and people of color. What really resonated with me was when she stressed how we must go beyond just being a mentor and become a sponsor. We change from being a mentor into a sponsor when we are willing to put something on the line to help a person out. There are many qualified individuals who just need a little support. A sponsor is in a position to offer that support.
When it comes to women’s rights there have been improvements, but in the grand scheme of things and when we look at the global sphere, we still have a long way to go. Women still make less than men doing the same jobs and, in most cases, women of color make even less than their female white counterparts. Melinda gave the example how blind auditions helped orchestras eliminate gender biases where those auditioning (men and women) were behind a curtain when auditioning. This helped the selection committee bring an unbiased approach. Even in this scenario however, when men heard the footsteps of women behind the curtain, they were biased in their selection.
I do believe there are specific roles for which men and women were specifically created, but when it comes to the service (jobs) we provide, everyone should be treated equally. During the discussion between John Legend and Melinda Gates, another thing they shared was the importance of not emphasizing that certain tasks are gender specific such as taking out the trash or washing dishes. We should stop putting boys and girls, men and women in certain boxes. If we want our children to act or believe a certain way, they have to see it modeled. Remember: people respond more to what they see than what they hear.
Equity can’t wait. The time is now. If we are going to move forward, we must first forgive the things of the past and progress with compassion. Those that are in positions of leadership or influence must make their voices heard, go beyond mentorship and step up to the responsibility of sponsorship to help those coming behind and alongside us. It starts with each of us to lift girls, women and people of color. Thank you, Melinda and John for reminding us that it is up to each of us to do our part and lift as we climb.
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