Friday, October 15, 2010

Ask What You Can Do

We heard a lot today about the research, the reasons behind, the power dynamics, and the realities of gender gaps in business, in politics, in wealth and across countries. I want to bring us back to Marie Wilson’s point: what are we going to do about it?

We have another day, to be sure. And tomorrow’s panels promise to reveal even more—we may not all aspire to political positions, know much about development, or even have control over financial decision making (although Davia Temin may have us thinking differently about how important this is) but we will all at one point or another, be a part of an organization and a team. Tomorrow’s panels and panelists speak directly to this aspect of our lives.

I want the conference to go on beyond tomorrow, though.

While speaking about this with Julia Dulan of Southern Company and Allison Muehlenbeck, a fellow MPP student, we decided to propose the following idea to the participants of this conference and to readers of this blog…

A pledge to take concrete, specific action within a specified time frame after the conference closes tomorrow. As the variety of panel themes shows, we come from many different industries, so this concrete action will likely take many different forms. However, we need to capitalize on the potential multiplier effect that comes with having an exceptional, smart, motivated group of people use the gendered data and stories discussed here today to turn friends into activists and associates into allies.

Maybe it’s hokey. But it’s one way to move beyond talk. And as someone who worked in the DC advocacy community prior to coming to graduate school, I know you can’t miss the opportunity to make the ask. If every single person in this room commits to take at least one concrete step that works to address one of the gender gaps we talked about today, we move the agenda forward.

I pledge, before October ends, to convene a similar group of young women, from across the graduate schools in the Boston area, to get together and discuss what action steps we will take on each of our own campuses. I see a need for more young(ish) women to take ownership of closing the global gender gap—and I see a lack of collaboration between sectors starting even at these early stages in our careers. I want to do something concrete about it.

In the spirit of John F. Kennedy and the school he inspired: what can you do?

Please feel free to share below!


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  2. This is the eternal question with events at the Kennedy School and other institutions of learning, and I think it's incredibly important. We've been talking a lot about how to motivate people to act in Marshall Ganz's Public Narrative class, and one thing that comes up time and time again is that collective action is often more motivating than individual action. Is there any way to make the actions collective? Maybe people can share their experiences online or commit in a public forum to take action and to report back.

  3. In your “Quotaahs in the U.S.” post, you facetiously note that Marie Wilson “just announced a radical idea: maybe we need to stop conferring at conferences and do more.” Yet, in your pledge to action, you’re proposed convening a similar conference in the near future. As someone who wasn’t fortunate enough to attend the conference this weekend, I have to think that the panelists and participants have discussed concrete ways to “do more,” that don’t involve conferencing. What are some of those ideas?