Letter from the Editor, Dec 2018

By Maya Frai, Managing Editor

2018 is coined the “Year of the Woman.” The last time we said this was 26 years ago, in 1992, when a surge of women candidates ran for office and won. Similar to this year, 1992 was a year of high-profile sexual misconduct cases, one infamous case involving Clarence Thomas confirmed to the Supreme Court even after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment. 26 years ago, women were the ones who decided how they reacted to acts of injustice and maltreatment. It was no different in 2018, where we saw incredible groups of women and individuals speak up, take initiative, and empower one another to avoid ignorance and further change.

In the NYTimes “Year in Pictures,” we saw how much this held true in the selected pictures that depict single moments in history where many different women represented resilience and courage.

Selected photos from NYTimes “Year in Pictures.”

This year, we must applaud the many women who took chances to individually and collaboratively empower one another to make change. Although 2018 was marked by many challenges women had to face, we saw many wins for the global community.

For one, women dominated the 2019 grammy nominations in the four biggest categories — record of the year, song of the year, album of the year, and best new artist. This was a major win for female artists given the oppositional backlash in the 2018 Grammy Awards where women were seen on the sidelines.

In academia, 21 of the 32 Rhodes Scholarship recipients are women, the most ever in an American Rhodes class.

Additionally, slowly but surely, the gender gap in tech is shrinking. As reported in a 2018 Hacker Rank study, when looking at the specialty of degrees, young women today are 33% more likely to study computer science compared with women born before 1983.

In terms of negotiation, women fought hard this year for equal pay. We saw NFL cheerleaders ask for more including their right to freedom of expression on social media. In Lean In’s 2018 Women in the Workplace study, women are reported to be asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rates as men. And contrary to conventional wisdom, they are staying in the workforce at the same rate as men.

Women also became more outwardly confident in challenging the status quo. We saw South Korean women rejoice in the campaign “Escape the Corset” to break against society’s beauty standards. We also saw Parisian women protest against public urinals that implied women had fewer rights in public spaces than men.

As stated in November’s Letter from the Editor, women have approached setbacks and challenges with newly regained power and purpose. They have taken charge in diverse domains to showcase strength. Evidently, we saw this in the Forbes 2018 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women featuring Priscilla Chan, Shonda Rhimes, Serena Williams, Angela Merkel, and many more as well as the 2018 Midas List featuring the All Raise team including Jess Lee, Aileen Lee, Kirsten Green, and Ann Miura-Ko.

On the other side, with the #MeToo movement creating widespread change this year, we saw an unfortunate side effect of the movement in the way men viewed their daily interactions and conversations with women. A Bloomberg story was released describing the #MeToo backlash on Wall Street. The article stated that men of Wall Street are “adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.” To prevent any women from thinking men are inflicting any wrongdoing, men are completely isolating themselves from their female colleagues.

A 2018 Lean In survey found that male managers are now 3x as likely to say that they are uncomfortable mentoring women and twice as uncomfortable working alone with a woman compared to the pre-#MeToo era. Although this is disheartening to see, it serves as another wake-up call for women to empower not only their female counterparts, but also their male allies to speak up and confront those men who are taking the opposite direction in understanding what the #MeToo movement achieved this year and continues to strive to do.

In 2019, we will see more and more women rise up, but I suspect more men will try to isolate themselves from women even more. As a result, women should continue to raise their voices and deliver the message of a new movement for change, while instilling that women aren’t pitting themselves against men, they’re simply waiting for men to catch up with them. If they can’t understand the message, they’ll find themselves falling behind.

Although we could say that 2018 was another “Year of the Woman,” in Karine Jean-Pierre’s words, it’s more fitting to say 2018 was a “Year of Accountability.” Although we saw higher percentages of women getting elected, getting promotions, negotiating, or receiving better healthcare, women are still at a disadvantage. Pierre argues, “In 2018, another Year of the Woman won’t be enough. It isn’t enough to elect women — though we urgently should do that. And it isn’t enough to believe women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford if you still choose to confirm her alleged attacker to the Supreme Court.”

In 2018, women demanded accountability through more diversity representation, consequences regarding sexual misconduct and harassment, and equal opportunity and advancement. Accountability means that women are taking action to change the current landscape by being well aware of the disadvantages targeted towards the female gender. By being aware of these challenges first and foremost, women can demand their fair share of opportunities, representation, and inclusion. Accountability is also incredibly important in not only ensuring that women are held up to the same standards as men, but to be able to set their own standards when discrepancies arise.

In a recent interview featuring Cheryl Yeoh, we talked about her campaign #MovingForward, which aspires to hold venture capital firms accountable for their actions in preventing sexual harassment.

Half a year after that, I wanted to keep the momentum going in terms of accountability and see whether or not venture capital firms were actually doing anything about this issue. We were really trying to hold these VCs accountable, but instead of naming and shaming them, we wanted to shed light on what positive actions they were doing. When we launched on International Women’s Day on March 8, we had 20 VCs that we started with and by virtue of peer pressure, a ton of other VCs wanted to get on board. — Cheryl Yeoh
View the full interview here.

Cheryl serves as an example of the importance of accountability and how her actions resonated with many women who took initiative in 2018. If we hold people more accountable to their actions and promises, in 2019, we’ll see more regained trust in the system to change the climate for women.

With that, here’s to accountability and change. If 2018 is the year of accountability, 2019 is sure to follow as a year of progress. We’ve got more work to be done, but we’re certainly heading in the right direction. Happy New Year 🎉

Letter From The Editor is published monthly synthesizing the current events shaping the community of women, the recent additions to the LHI platform, as well as interviews and contributory pieces featured on the publication.