What the women's movement now needs most is...you

There are too many of us who are cheering from the bleachers but are not out in the world helping to make a palpable difference, says Ogilvy USA's chief talent officer.

I was lucky enough to score a highly coveted man pass last week to attend the ever-inspiring 2018 Makers conference in Los Angeles.

Anyone who attended must have been in awe at the impressive lineup of speakers, panelists and attendees. By design or not, the event was a roller coaster of emotions as we were confronted with the facts, trends, wins, losses and stories surrounding women in the world and the workplace.

It was thrilling to watch speakers from every industry share triumphant stories of women achieving in the workplace—Sheryl Sandberg, Gloria Steinem, Ava DuVernay and the Time’s Up panel to name a few. We heard about ceilings and barriers being broken in politics, entertainment, third-world countries, sports and many more. I was also impressed by the conversations surrounding black women and their challenges in the workplace, their successes despite the insurmountable obstacles and their contributions that have been all too often overlooked or overshadowed.

It was disheartening to see data presented that confirms that many of our success measures are not improving or are losing steam. Too many women are still living in poverty. Women still make 20 percent less money than men. There are fewer female CEOs this year than last year. Sixty percent of women have been sexually assaulted. Women only hold 20 percent of the seats in congress. And all of these statistics are far worse for women in minority communities.

And it was maddening to hear about the lack of engagement and action by so many. This movement is powerful. But its army of soldiers is not growing fast enough to fight these battles and win the war.

If you are a human who believes in equality for all, the movement needs you. There are too many of us who are cheering from the bleachers but are not out in the world helping to make a palpable difference. If you have a Diversity & Inclusion leader in your company, ask what you can do and be accountable. If you employ women, ensure they are paid equally and given what they need to be successful. If you witness something unjust in your work environment, speak up and demand change.

Yes, your voices and support matter. But what we need more to fuel meaningful and sustainable change is action—from us and from everyone. It is only through active participation that we will reach our goals of an equitable, fair and just workplace.  As a senior executive, if I’m unable to influence these topics with meaningful actions, then I shouldn’t be in my role. 

As Ogilvy USA’s chief talent officer, I’m making three commitments today: 1) to speak up when I see or hear someone marginalize women, 2) to ensure that as many people hear the messages delivered at the Makers Conference and 3) to actively participate in meeting our aggressive organizational goals of diversifying our talent mix.

What do you commit to? 

JR Zetrenne is Chief Talent Officer at Ogilvy USA.

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