This last Covid year has been bad for just about everyone, but it’s been particularly dreadful for women. We lost more jobs, shouldered a bigger part of the child care burden, and saw the prospects for equal pay recede even further into the future. What is the solution to these now-all-too-clear issues holding women back?
Sorry, Sheryl Sandberg, responds investing legend-turned-entrepreneur Sallie Krawcheck in a recent Fortune opinion piece, the answer isn’t more individual effort or clever workarounds for the obstacles we face. Instead, it’s to face reality that women’s problem’s are systemic and we need to fight together to change them.
Throw out those self-help books
Krawcheck isn’t the first powerful woman to make this observation. Michelle Obama famously declared, “That s**t doesn’t work all the time,” about Sandberg’s advice to “lean in.” She is also backed up by research that found that well-intentioned go-get-’em-girl advice actually nudges us to view every failure, even those caused by bias or terrible public policy, to be the fault of individual women.
But while Krawcheck’s observations might not be wholly original, they are forcefully made. “We need to cut through some of the internalized beliefs that have helped our society gaslight women,” she writes. “The first one to go: the rock-solid belief that women can sidestep… systemic issues… with some grit, some pluck, some good cheer, and the right career self-help book.”
Instead, she argues, they need to counter the old boys club with a girls club of their own. We need to work together to “demand better social safety nets. We need a mandated, paid parental leave; affordable childcare; paid sick and care leave; and–to help women claw back some of what was lost in this crisis–direct payments to parents, like the Marshall Plan for Moms,” she writes.
Men have been playing the game of business like a team sport all along, she writes. Women should do the same by buying from women-owned businesses, amplifying each others’ voices, and “promoting each other, recommending each other, investing in each other’s businesses, talking each other up.”