Hannah Grove joined WBC Advisory Council having recently retired from State Street (NYSE:STT) and after 22 years of a portfolio career including public and private company board service.
Each year during March we celebrate the achievements of women, or significant milestones and movements that have advanced women. While acknowledging these accomplishments are important, I fear that in looking back and embalming women’s achievements in the past tense we take our eyes off the acute urgency of what needs to change now, and in the future, to strengthen women’s equality and opportunities. As a former Chief Marketing Officer, I can’t help but think that we have a brand problem here. So, what if instead of Women’s History Month we celebrate Women’s Future Month?
We are at a critical point in 2021– yes, there has been progress in placing more women on boards, in leadership positions, and in the overall workplace, but we also have to be honest with ourselves that the forward march has been bordering on glacial. Even more disturbingly, the resulting representation is by no means as diverse as it should be in terms of Black, Hispanic, Asian women or LGBTQ+ representation. And, despite it being the 21st century, it seems as if a medieval manners manual is still in circulation in some parts, suggesting that women should be seen and not heard in meetings. Add to this the persistent pay gaps and the truly alarming predictions we are seeing about women leaving the workplace during and post-pandemic, or losing their jobs (again, disproportionately women of color), and we might well see history repeat itself in ways that we simply cannot afford or tolerate.
The solution in my view lies in concrete action, collaboration, commitment, metrics and accountability. I had the good fortune of a 22-year career at State Street (NYSE: STT) and benefited first-hand from the application of these solutions and the unwavering support from a series of enlightened and committed CEOs. I joined the Women’s Business Collaborative (WBC) because of its Nine Action Initiatives – each one aimed at tackling the systemic challenges and issues that hold women back with clear outcomes, including achieving gender parity in the C-Suite by 2030. Simply put, women won’t run more businesses unless they have the opportunity to actually do so. The WBC is also a true movement with both men and women uniting many of the organizations that are addressing these issues to accelerate the pace of change. I am also encouraged by the Biden Administration’s recently announced Gender Policy Council and the fact that it reports directly to the President. In the words of co-chair Jennifer Klein “it’s not just a council, it’s a plan to take a government-wide approach to gender equity.” This is exactly what we need now and for the future in both public and private sectors.
So, in celebration of Women’s Future Month, I will end on a high note, looking up at the skies. As I watched NASA achieve its extraordinary landing on Mars last month, I was equally spellbound by the number of women in the control room – all ages and ethnicities. The mission Perseverance is aptly named and serves as a reminder that anything is possible when you go bold, don’t give up, and focus squarely on the future. And, as the secret message embedded on the Mars Rover’s canopy says, let’s “Dare Mighty Things.”