With reports of whistle-blowers and circuslike congressional testimonies dominating today’s news, the September Democratic presidential debate seems like a distant memory.
Sure, we might remember that Julian Castro viciously attacked former Vice President Joe Biden and that Biden made a head-scratching reference to keeping the record player on at night for children, but can any of us honestly remember the context of those moments?
These tennis volley-like debates make for popcorn worthy infotainment, but in the end, what are we left with? I’ll tell you what sticks out to me.
While George Stephanopoulos and the other ABC reporters moderating the third debate asked the candidates about pressing issues such as health care, immigration, racism, and gun control, there was not a single question about abortion rights. Think about that.
After watching dozens of abortion clinics close around the country in 2019, George and company had the opportunity to bring this vital issue back into focus for the American people. Instead, they dropped it like it’s not. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., appeared to be the only candidate who brought attention to the omission, later tweeting that the debate “was three hours long and not one question about abortion or reproductive rights.” The essential discussion of women making crucial decisions about our own bodies has rebounded into the back seat, as if this was still the era of Bill Haley and drive-in movies.
If Brett Kavanaugh’s sham of a confirmation to the Supreme Court one year ago buried the #MeToo movement, relegating abortion rights as a secondary or tertiary issue feels like the shovel packing down the dirt.
When Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY., dropped out of the Democratic presidential race a couple of weeks ago, she could have faded into national obscurity and been remembered as little more than the woman who kept interjecting her viewpoints at the first two debates. She instead relaunched Off the Sidelines, the political action committee she founded eight years ago, which calls on and encourages every woman and girl to make their voice heard on the issues they care about.
I salute Senator Gillibrand for re-establishing her PAC because it is clearly going to be up to us women to clang on the medal and rattle the chains to keep the attention steadily focused on the issues that matter to us the most. Kirsten believes in what has been the corporate ideology for Women in the Boardroom since I founded the organization in 2002, which is that when more women have a seat at the decision-making table, it improves the lives for everyone.
But corporate America is slow to grab the baton. According to catalyst.org, women made up 46.9 percent, nearly half of the labor force in 2018, but only 40 percent, slightly over a third, held down any kind of managerial position. And of those female managers, Latinas made up 6.2 percent, black women 3.8 percent, and Asian women 2.4 percent. To say diversity and a true female presence are lacking, nationwide, at the executive level is like saying honesty and patriotism are lacking at our country’s presidential level.
Women bring a unique and fresh perspective, and enhance a company’s performance, while significantly increasing net margins. Females in top management roles experience what Joe Carella, assistant dean at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management calls "innovation intensity."
According to Mr. Carella, women produce more patents, by an average of twenty percent more than teams with male leaders. Imagine what the owner(s) of your company would think when presented with that kind of promise.
And so, I put the call out to you. If you are the CEO or COO of a company or corporation; if you are on the executive level of the firm that employs you; if you are in any position of power in your workplace, I urge you to adopt the mindset that a diverse group of women in the boardroom will help your company thrive and prosper.
Make the bold decision to stand up and help lead the way into the roaring twenties – for women, for men, for everyone who wants a healthier environment inside the four walls of our offices and out.
Sheila Ronning, founder and CEO of Women In The Boardroom – an organization founded with the goal of bridging the gender gap in the boardroom – is a recognized expert on boardroom diversity and leadership. Follow her on Twitter (Twitter @RonningSheila).
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