We were sitting at the dinner table reviewing High Renaissance Art flash cards. It was actually an enlightening conversation as my son explained each work of art, its unique style and value. I think it was when he got to the portrait of Simonetta Vespucci by Botticelli when he pointed out that, due to the fact that women were considered someone’s property, they were always painted looking sideways.
He then went on to educate me with the specifics of The Cumaean Sibyl by Michelangelo. He said, “You see mom, the women’s bodies are very muscular, as they did not use any female models, only males.” It was then when my other son chimed in about Shakespeare and his use of only male actors, even for the female roles. “You see Mom, this thing about women not being equal has been around for a long time.” I am so proud that we could have this discussion and that our sons have gained insights into the gender equity conversations of today, more than five-hundred years later.
For me, it was on the sports fields where I learned that the playing field was not level. I just wanted to compete and to earn the just rewards that come to young athletes when they excel – whether it be scholarships, some excited water cooler chatter or a mention alongside the boys’ lacrosse team standings in the local paper. We live our lives within the expected categories in which we are classified. As my grandmother said to me, “Girls just don’t play those games, my Donna.”
Yet here we are in 2015, and no lesser a successful man than Warren Buffet has been vocal about fielding winning teams. His happen to be in the boardrooms across the world, and he says, “For most of our history, women – whatever their abilities – have been relegated to the sidelines. Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.” Even more telling: “resistance among the powerful is natural when change clashes withtheir self-interest.”
So here we are in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2015. We are a city poised for success, flush with talent, with new dreamers, opportunists and business builders arriving every day. Where they will take us, we do not yet know; but what we do know, is that in this city, we have a wealth of capable, experienced and brilliant women who have the ability to look the artist in the eye, to make Shakespeare sing and to fortify Warren Buffet’s businesses both in the boardroom and on his leadership teams.
The data is rich, deep and convincing.
Here are some facts:
– Companies with even one female director outperform those with none. There is as much as double digit ROI on bottom lines of companies that have women in leadership positions versus those that don’t.
– Diverse leadership teams work better because they have an inherently broader range of skills.
– Women are strongly linked to positive developments in education, infrastructure and health standards at the local level (National Democratic Institute).
A recent UN report says that without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved. For if women do not participate fully in decisions that shape their lives, communities and countries are not capitalizing on the full potential of one half of their societies.
Come on Jacksonville! We are not a fifty percent city, we are a one-hundred percent city. We absolutely have what is required to elevate the quality of life that is at the core of a strong community. To achieve, to reach, to thrive we start with the existence of a critical mass of both women and men who are committed to this goal. We work to understand and then to act by mobilizing energy and resources that take into account the power of realizing gender equity. We embrace the best in each other and we work to be the best city: the one with all the bridges, the one with the spans that connect neighborhoods and in their beautiful colors and expanses suggest the big arcs of ideas and possibilities that we can achieve together.
This is what GENERATION W is about. GENERATION WOW, WORKS and WE. It is about the magic of people coming together, and especially women, who for too long have been relegated to the sidelines. It is in our collective best interest to link arms with the full appreciation that we have an engine for greatness right amongst us: it is the full recognition of the value of women and girls and the great contributions they offer toward creating a world-class community.
Article written by Donna Orender
Founder GENERATION W & Chief Executive Officer Orender Unlimited