So You Went to the Women’s March… Now What?

5 Practical Ways You Can Support Women’s Voices

(Amanda Voisard / The Washington Post)

I make a part of my living managing creative people. Ideas people, people with skill, people with very good intentions. Being a creative person myself, I love them dearly and resonate with them deeply. But as an artistic director and project manager, it can be a strenuous and frustrating experience trying to get them to push their thoughts and ideas into the world of reality.

With all the discussion and publicity swirling around this past weekend, I’ve finally figured out that this exact conundrum I find in creative people is the one niggling misgiving I’ve had about the Women’s March. It’s a lot of empowered-feeling people coming together to tell everyone what great ideas and good intentions they have. But very few of these ideas come readily paired with the concrete action steps necessary to bring them into the world of reality, the place where they are actually needed.

So, if you would allow me to do the exact same thing I do with my creatives, I have listed a few practical things you can do to bring female empowerment to life now that this year’s Women’s March has concluded:

  1. Vote. This is the point that was hammered home the most during the Women’s March. If you want your political system to reflect the ideals you care about, do your research and be informed about who advocates what, both in big politics and small politics. Then when voting day happens, dedicate the one hour it takes to head to the voting booth to give them physical evidence of your political support.
  2. Personally validate women’s good ideas. A lack of validation is a huge deterrent for many women trying to use their voices, both in good situations (like bringing up a point in a business meeting) and in bad situations (like getting a creepy feeling from a guy at a bar). The act of either a male or a female simply saying out loud and in person “That is a good thought,” or “Yes, you are right” can make a world of difference in giving women the confidence that they will be heard.
  3. Keep your friend’s voices accountable. Some of the most powerful discussions I’ve had with my female friends were them calling me out on speaking wrongly to friends, family, or acquaintances. Shying away from caring, rightful critique of your friend using her voice wrongly does the opposite of building up women’s voices; it enables her to misuse the platform women have been working to build in a negative way. Just as critique makes design better, caring critique from friend to friend can also make women’s voices better.
  4. Teach young women how to use their voices well. I would not feel nearly as comfortable expressing my opinions had my mother and father not taught me how to communicate clearly, succinctly, and fully. You don’t have to be a parent to teach girls how to speak to be heard; all you need to do is talk with them so you can listen to them. That way you can give them the free and open space necessary to practice confidently speaking their thoughts into existence.
  5. Don’t just fight. Fight with purpose. When “Fighting for Women’s Voices,” it can be easy to accidentally focus on the “Fighting” part of that statement. But we are not seeking to fight for the sake of fighting. We are seeking to create a culture where “Women’s Voices” are given the weight and respect they deserve. In order to do that, we shouldn’t waste our time being battle-hungry against general oppression. We should instead stay ready and vigilant for the actual moments when women’s voices are ignored and not heard, so that we can focus our efforts where they are needed the most.

A manager’s job is to break down a vision into separate, attainable tasks with clear goals in mind. And if these tasks do not sound particularly grandiose to you, you would be right. Change is not based on big people making big changes. It’s not even based on normal people making significant changes. It is based on small people making even smaller changes day in and day out to affect the lives of the one or two people closest to them. And it is through these tiny, deliberate changes that we will see women’s voices collectively amplified beyond what any of us could have ever dreamed of.