By: Cynthia Tjoflat
We still have work to do. There aren’t enough women in business. So, for those of us here, the mere act of success is a woman’s cause. Whether or not the project or endeavor directly speaks to “Women’s Issues” is separate, but let’s be honest: “Stake your claim, sisters” is a marketable sentiment. Life coaches make a career out of speeches, conventions, and retreats teaching us to nurture the power within. Publishing houses and movie studios mawkishly remind us that, despite self-doubt and societal setbacks, we had the strength the entire time. These opportunistic appeals to our need for appreciation and understanding hit home not just because we’re women, but because we’re people. People need to feel valued. People need to feel heard, to be given a fair chance to shine.
And hell, this is America. Flaws and all, capitalism has gotten us this far, so I’m not against anyone making some money while addressing the needs and challenges that are particular to women. Clever, determined people are constantly coming up with great ideas and art that provide for them financially while also uplifting women’s place in the world.
What we need to keep in mind, however, is that female success stories usually have something in common: they feel authentic and real because women are involved in the process. Sometimes that means women simply have a seat at the table. Other times it means they own the seat, or the table, or the idea being discussed.
In 1964, it wasn’t just the empowering lyrics of John Madara and David White’s “You Don’t Own Me” that hit millions of people square in the gut; it was also Leslie Gore’s passionate, resolute delivery. Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, but only after Dr. Grace Murray Hopper invented software.
Humanity still needs faster planes and safer roads. We still need scrupulous copy editing and breathable fabrics, delicious desserts and reliable phone chargers. Men—and, thanks to years of courage, sacrifice, and social discussion, women—make these things happen daily. And although women can’t make the world more female-friendly all by themselves, neither can men. Plurality in the workplace and creative process makes good business sense because we need one another to do our best work. To see angles we may have otherwise missed. To anticipate the reactions, and needs, of people who aren’t just like us. Women’s issues are human issues, which is why some state governments offer tax incentives for working with female- or minority-owned companies.
My company takes on many projects. Lots are fun or challenging, but socially insignificant. Occasionally, however, I get the opportunity to work with men and women on something bigger—or even better than bigger, greater. Kesha’s stage elements for the 2018 GRAMMY Awards was one of those projects. Brian Stonestreet spearheaded the production design, the men and women of Concord Creative executed the fabrication and supervised the installation, a dedicated team of stagehands and installers secured everything in place, and Kesha made the world listen with her show-stopping performance.
Not all of us can wow an audience of millions with poetry and performance. In fact, you probably don’t want to hear me sing. But we can all take action. Sometimes that means building something, and other times it means speaking truth. Sometimes it just means continuing to do good work. Even when it isn’t lucrative, it often pays in other dividends, and makes me feel a little bit better about the world my daughters are beginning to shape.
We’re better together. We need each other.
So do. And act. And above all, listen. These are all victories.