I’m proposing a female secession.

No not really (at least at this time). But I am using this Women’s Equality Day as my free pass to rant.

It’s almost midnight, 100 years to the day since the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution — giving white women the right to vote, with race-based discriminatory voting practices not ending for another 5+ decades after that — and the question keeping me up right now is:

In a country built by white men for white men, who also gave themselves quite a head start, can gender equality ever be achieved?

I came into 2020 with high hopes — I kept thinking, finally. It’s the centennial celebration of our vote, and a woman will be elected to lead this country, maybe even with another female at her side as a running mate. The fact that we have, yet again, two old white men on our presidential ballot isn’t the only thing that’s got me ready to secede to build our matriarchy.

Rather, it’s the continued theme of celebrating small wins for women, even when the slow rate of progress is unjustifiable. It’s the “But things are so much better than they were!” mentality of acceptance, even when stats about women in the U.S. suggest the patriarchy should be past smashed.

U.S. women vote, work, and are educated at higher rates than men.

  • Women comprise 53% of voters in U.S. elections.
  • Women make up just over 50% of the workforce.
  • Women earn more degrees than men with female graduates in 2017 earning 57.3% of bachelor's, 59.4% of master’s, and 53.3% of doctorate degrees.

But the results continue to favor men.

  • Yet women fill only 23% of the seats in the U.S. Congress and have never led our country in the role of President or Vice President.
  • Yet only 7.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs, with only 3 of the 500 CEOs being women of color.
  • Yet white women earn 80 cents on the male dollar, and BIPOC women earn far, far less.

In other words, women are showing up more than men in a man’s world, yet the patriarchy powers on.

So what’s the problem?

Men and systems of oppression, of course. But one under-discussed factor might be the “But we’re making progress!” mindset of many of us women*.

*Women are not responsible for or able to solve sexism. The root of and key to resolving oppression resides with the oppressor.

Women seem to have accepted that we’re trapped in a game made by and for men and are just focusing on getting better at playing.

I’ve started noticing a theme in a lot of my professional developments and leadership webinars: They are led by women who have made it [in man’s world] and are put on for women trying to make it [in a man’s world].

Topics discussed often include — even if not explicitly titled so— how to:

  • manage at-home responsibilities and work
  • ask for a raise if you don’t think you’re being paid equitably
  • find a male sponsor
  • be heard on an all-male team
  • navigate bro culture, mansplaining, etc.

We’re essentially teaching each other ‘How to make it in a man’s world’. And quite frankly, the stats say we shouldn’t have to.

Let’s stop trying to win at a game that’s been rigged with bias written into the rules. It’s time we built our own game.

So how do we build our matriarchy, right here, right now?

We’re here in numbers and prepared to lead, but we need to switch the lessons to ‘How to build a woman’s world’. Let’s teach each other how to:

  • start your own business (and build a team of mostly women)
  • identify and leave a patriarchal company
  • sponsor other women
  • invest in and scale women-run and serving organizations
  • teach HERstory to your kids (and yourself)

And let’s tirelessly invest in getting women running for and into elected positions. Because, if we aren’t seceding, we do need the policies to work for us as we lead, which means we need women to create them.

So in this country, built by white men for white men, can gender equality ever be achieved?

Yes. But only once we start acting like we’ve made it to the matriarchal portion of our country’s history.

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