During a recent podcast interview, I was asked a very important question: How can we get more women into leadership roles?
My answer: We need to do a better job of elevating the voices of those women who are already in leadership roles—we need to show others (especially young girls) what is possible.
Toward that goal, every month I am going to share some notable (and even not so notable) moments in the history of women and leadership. It is my hope that by sharing these stories—by elevating the voices of these women—we will all be inspired to continue to climb our ladders, shatter our glass ceilings and become the change we want to see in this world.
While March is the official month for celebrating women’s history, July is actually a month where, historically, women have made great strides towards equality:
First Women’s Rights Convention—July 19-20 (1848)
Over 300 women and men joined leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in Seneca Falls, New York to protest the mistreatment of women in social, economic, political, and religious life. This was the first public meeting calling for women’s right to vote. It wouldn’t be until 1919 that Congress would pass (and not until 1920 would it be ratified) the 19th amendment that guaranteed all American women the right to vote.
First Class of Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps Begins (1942)
On July 20, 1942, the first class of Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) began at Fort Des Moines, IA. A year later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation which changed the name of the Corps to the Women’s Army Corps and made it part of the Army of the United States—giving women all of the rank, privileges, and benefits of their male counterparts. Since 2016, women now have the right to choose any military occupational speciality, including ground combat units.
Althea Gibson Wins at Wimbledon (1957)
Althea Gibson made history as the first African American woman player to win a Wimbledon title in women’s tennis singles. Just last month, tennis great Serena Williams became the first-ever athlete to make Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. “Althea Gibson paved the way for all women of color in sport,” said Serena.
Sandra Day O’Connor Nominated to Supreme Court (1981)
On July 7, 1981, President Regan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman Supreme Court Justice. Today, there are three women sitting on the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. In addition, about 33 percent of state and federal court judges in the U.S. are women which is slightly higher than the global average of 27 percent.
Geraldine Ferraro Chosen as VP Candidate (1984)
When Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate she became the first female to run for Vice President of the United States on the Democratic Party ticket. Nowhere more than politics have we witnessed women stepping into more leadership positions. In 2019, 127 women serve in the U.S. Congress, 27 percent of statewide elective executive offices are held by women, and almost 30% of state legislatures are women.
It’s still the first week of this new month—what will you do this month to elevate the voices of women in your company, your community, or even in your family? Would love to hear about your accomplishments.