In recognition of today, dear daughter, this letter is to the young leader you are and to the beautiful person who will, in turn, one day write a letter all her own. This year, on a day to celebrate the rights of women around the world, jarring examples ranging from phrases used by the U.S. head of state, to policies promoted by Polish EU parliamentarians, to the culture permeating an iconic industry-shaper offer glimpses of the status of gender parity. I have no platitudes to make today feel like a triumph.
I do have deep respect for the value of your journey to authentic leadership. If current events make it seem like the fertile soil of social progress has blown away, leaving the roots of injustice jutting out – sure to trip all but the most careful hiker – what is a young leader to do? Hack out each and every one to clear the path?
Let’s consider their nature. Simple roots, often of a single idea, give rise to a complex trunk of constrained access and opportunity. They are simple ideas, like success is a rule-based formula, influence is a zero-sum game and pushing down makes you rise. But let’s also consider pruning our own branches which sprout from engrained fragments of I can’t, they’re sexist and women don’t.
Fighting gender inequality will forever feel like a game of whack-a-mole, with abhorrent phrases or shocking policies popping up where we thought the field had been leveled until we address the why of set ideas on both sides. People who are further along the path owe it to you, Selene, to help you ask ever better questions – of others and of yourself. You owe it to those that have made the progress you benefit from to run to the pain points and ask “why does it hurt?” and “how can I help?”. To paraphrase a man familiar with the problem, the arc of gender equality is long, but through you it bends toward justice. Keep on bending, girl.