Since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of quotes for a quick hit of inspiration. When I worked in advertising in the late 90s, one of my favorite campaigns was Apple’s Think Different series, where they quoted legends like the Dalai Lama and Einstein. A good decade later, it hit me that, of the 20 campaign posters released, only five were women. It had seemed completely acceptable at the time; I mean, who isn’t inspired by the Dalai Lama or Mahatma Gandhi? I’ve collected quotes for over ten years to use in email marketing, signage, or just to lift myself up and find new ideas.
And can you believe it? My own collection is 75% male quotes. Because quotes and ideas from women are harder to come across in any media!
The more I thought about this disparity in gender (and people of color and LGBTQ) representation, the more proof showed up in other areas of my life, from conferences I attended that were dominated by caucasian men, to organizations that I admired cozying up to the male expert opinion across various outlets, to men dominating the Academy Awards. I remember watching a fairly recent panel about inclusivity in technology and the only woman was the moderator. I’ve gotten a good laugh out of the absurdity of it all by frequenting the blog, Congratulations, You’re an All Male Panel, where professionals from across the globe report incidents of all male panels. It pokes fun at male bravado by offering a cheeky ’thumbs up’ stamp of approval from 1980’s David Hasselhoff.
I’m an optimist and despite increasing polarization in our world, and continued gaps in pay between genders, I have also been encouraged with the rise of the more inclusive millennial generation into leadership positions, women running for office, and women refusing to remain silent any longer with the #metoo movement. Yet in the past year, the share of women CEOs of Fortune 500s dropped 25% down to FIVE PERCENT, making this quest for parity of opportunity, voice and representation feel like a Sisyphean effort for change makers.
About ten years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a retreat convened by Naomi Wolf’s Woodhull Institute, called ‘Democracy 911,” which taught underrepresented leaders and activists to write a proper OpEd and get confident in their own opinions, ideas, and elevator pitches. After that, I could never read a newspaper Op Ed again without noticing that most were penned by men. A decade later, it’s still a bummer statistic – according to Foreign Press Interrupted, as of 2016, female bylines are about 15% of all bylines across top papers, NY Times, The Washington Post, Wall St Journal and LA Times.
So what can we do to address this alarming absence of female, people of color and LGBTQ quotes, media representation, speaking opportunities, and news sources? One simple way to make progress is for people who use their voices in big and small ways in their own businesses, social media, etc. to not just pay attention to the problem, but to be intentional about capturing and echoing the voices of those who aren’t at the table as often, and when in positions of power, invite them to the table. There are people in my life who have been doing this work for half a century, for example, my Auntie / second Mom figure, Dr Kateri Alexander, a woman who got me my first blank journal filled with inspiring quotes, literally wrote the book on how to capture one’s own life history, ‘Memoir: A Start Your Story Workbook.”
I asked my friends, colleagues and fellow GoodWork members for input on this meaty subject and here’s what they shared:
“It starts right here at GoodWork in the meeting rooms and our own business relationships, or whatever situation you are in. We have to first allow women to be heard before we can quote them more. Progress starts with listening, equity building goals, and the conversations that we have in business everyday.” Heather Stevens, Partner, Good Returns Group
“If half the population doesn’t hear their voices represented in the media, it’s highly likely that we will tune out and disengage. And, a disengaged population leads to all forms of wrong.” – Anne Less, Google
“I’m amazed at the accomplishments of extraordinary women throughout our society’s history, and even more amazed that there are so many of them whose work we do not know, or are just discovering through our on revelations. We have to continue to lift up the voices of not just those who society portrays as acceptable, but those whose difference make up the myriad of cultures this great country offers as a gift to the world. People like Amy King inspire and push me to challenge my own privilege and biases as we seek to lift up marginalized communities in industries (technology and venture capital) that will very much shape the future of tomorrow.” – Benjamin Vann, Founder, Impact House
“If the women of today don’t effectively utilize their voices, we insult the sacrifices made by preceding generations and preclude the empowerment of generations to come.” – Jessica Gauthier: Educator, Stylist & Beauty Care Designer
And I’m making a commitment to do something specific. I am going to create a landing page where people can submit quotes that have inspired them, for us to make it easier to find quotes with different perspectives and ideas. In the meantime, if you have quotes from your own collection, from yourself or others, that you would like to share, you can send them to me [email protected] and I’ll make an effort to disseminate them into our content. Repeating every great word that leaders who need to be heard are saying is vital to establishing new norms and shifting our language as a culture.
Here are Other Ways Women, Minorities and LGBTQ Can Help:
- Start your own collection of quotes.
- Join Help a Reporter Out and put yourself forward as an expert.
- Read up on the Op Ed Project’s reports and resources, then attend one of their workshops if you want to write more.
- Write Op Eds on your chosen passions and expertise and OWN IT.
- When you write an article, blog or OpEd, quote other women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.
How Men Can Help:
- Support and elevate ideas and perspectives from women leaders, men of color and LGBTQ voices, quote them in your media, invite them onto your conference panels.
- Remember that men’s voices are also valued, but it’s about finding parity in exposure and opportunity.
- Start your own collection of diverse quotes, so you have a library to pull from when you need them.