“Today, the women’s movement must be America’s movement, the changes you seek are changes needed by us all.”
Our Quote of the Week celebrates the landmark appointments of women to leadership roles in the incoming Biden administration. While we are thrilled to see the progress that a much more inclusive and diverse group of leaders will bring, we are also aware the “movement” towards equality is just that -- an action that requires consistent energy and commitment.
During the early days of the 1976 Presidential campaign, Sargent Shriver addressed the Women’s Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, California. He lists a set of “women’s issues” he would focus on as President, including lack of equal representation in the workforce, lack of pay equity, gender discrimination, rape legislation, maternity leave, child care, and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (which, to this day, has still not been ratified in 13 states).
Throughout the speech, Sargent Shriver challenges a status quo that favors men, but that at the same time limits all of us as human beings. It’s notable that in the speech, Sargent Shriver says:
“There really is no such thing as a ‘women’s issue’ that isn’t also a ‘men’s issue.’ [...] Real equality would be as liberating for men as for women -- and don’t I know that. Men are imprisoned by the very stereotypes that oppress women. The economic rat race and the macho model are the other side of the male dominance coin. What’s involved in this struggle is no less than the most profound of all questions -- what does it mean to be a human being?”
With a change in administration in January, the US enters a new chapter. As we look ahead, we are heartened by the intentional effort to place qualified women in positions of leadership. From the first woman Vice President, Treasury Secretary, and Director of National Intelligence -- Kamala Harris, Janet Yellen, and Avril Haines -- to the all-female senior communications team -- Kate Bedingfield (White House Communications Director), Pili Tobar (Deputy White House Communications Director), Jen Psaki (White House Press Secretary), Karine Jean-Pierre (Principal Deputy Press Secretary), Symone Sanders (Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for the Vice President), Ashley Etienne (Communications Director for the Vice President), and Elizabeth Alexander (Communications Director for the First Lady) -- the importance of these appointments cannot be underestimated.
While we celebrate the progress and possibilities that a more inclusive and diverse group of leaders will bring, we must keep in mind that Inequality continues to exist in our workplaces and in our communities. Women are more likely to be poor than men, and in extreme circumstances, such as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, women are more likely to suffer from the adverse financial and social impacts from economic downturns than men. Women are also much more likely to be the victims of violence than men, a reality that the UN has labeled “the shadow pandemic”. To combat these stark disparities and injustices, it is vital that we support the growth and advancement of women at all levels of our society.
Let us all commit to the movement towards women’s equality, secure in the knowledge that its achievement will liberate all of us.
Like this quote? Read the speech and visit our website to browse through all of Sargent Shriver’s speeches. And please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay connected with us throughout the week!