Stand Up for a Change

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Imagine yourself in a group discussion about a controversial issue. Have you had the self-confidence to take a stand when your opinion was solicited? It’s reasonable to hesitate when you know that people in your particular social group see the world differently. For instance, it can be risky to be candid if your boss has strong beliefs about how things should be done. And it can be delicate to express strong opinions at a Thanksgiving dinner when people have opposing political views. In many cases, the more dominating personalities can take control of the conversation. And an executive has the power to stop a conversation he or she doesn’t want to have before it really gets rolling.

In today’s world, women are standing up, confronting top decision-makers when they don’t agree with a policy or initiative and doing so with increasing sophistication. Women want to have a voice when it comes to the debates that will shape the future. The days of women focusing their conversations on china, fashion trends, diapers, and home decor are behind us. Nancy Pelosi leads a majority in Congress. 107 women of the 127 women now serving in Congress were elected in 2018 and they represent diverse opinions about the state of the country and world. Women are speaking up about issues like the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace across sector, industry, and field and legal and policy changes have resulted.

Even in British Royalty, the younger generation is expressing opinions about social issues such as sexual harassment and how to address them. American actress Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, spoke about women’s rights, referencing the current #MeToo and #Time’s Up movements shining “a light on women feeling empowered and people supporting them.” The Duchess is a public figure and having an opinion is risky as exemplified by the chastising tone found in this comment by the more conservative British press:

…Meghan must learn fast that she’s a very minor cog in an ancient royal machine that has survived so long by saying nothing and doing its duty to its loyal subjects.

Saying nothing indeed! You and I aren’t royalty but we do play many roles in life and it’s often tempting to hold back to keep the peace rather than expressing our deeply held beliefs, values, and opinions. Take a moment and consider: What are the issues you care about? Does your list include improving access to mental health services, preventing sexual harassment, or ensuring there are no health care cutbacks in Medicaid? There are years-old issues that need to be kept in the public eye, like reproductive choice, the ERA, and pay equity. In addition, there are overarching issues that require advocacy by women and men to include climate change, funding public education, stricter gun laws, and the country’s transportation infrastructure. Do you have strong opinions about any of these issues? Do people who know you realize your position on these issues?

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