It’s the beginning of a new decade and the advent of a critical presidential election. In the spirit of starting the year with positive energy and agency, The Riveter asked eleven powerhouse women about their priorities for 2020. Read on to see what Charlotte Clymer, Latham Thomas, Liz Plank and other women leaders had to say on the subject. Here’s to a safe, equitable and inspiring new decade.
What are three things you’d like to see accomplished in 2020 that would make the most impact for women?
Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for Rapid Response at the Human Rights Campaign: I want more women elected, I want more people of color elected, I want more queer people elected. White men account for a third of the country’s population, but they are two-thirds of Congress. So the representation is completely lopsided and we need more women, particularly black women who had been the foundation of the Democratic party’s voting base, and we need more queer people, especially more trans folks. In 2019 22 trans people have been killed, 20 of them were black women. The more representation we have in elected office and the more champions of equality we have in office, the more that problem is going to be addressed. The ongoing violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and particularly trans people will be addressed.
Cindy Robbins, former president and chief people officer at Salesforce: We talk about all these numbers and statistics and what we would love to see is 50% in terms of diversity and women in seat-level positions. I think there’s a lot more we have to strive for, I think you have to see it not only in the leadership teams and management teams at the seat level, but also within boards. I know a lot of women that would like to sit on boards, and they want to know that they have a seat at the table, because if true diversity and equality is important to a company, that has to trickle down.
Ashley C. Ford, writer and podcaster: I think three priorities I would like to see in 2020 that would make the most impact on women would be paid family leave, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and we’ve got to do something about incarceration — women are being incarcerated at higher and higher rates, especially women of color. And what that’s doing to communities that are most in need is ridiculous, terrible and needs to stop immediately, so let’s do that.
Danita Johnson, president and COO of the LA Sparks: We talk a lot about equity and equality — equality more than equity — but I think there has to be space for equity. And when I say that, it’s about having actual access to the same kind of money, whether it’s through funding opportunities or through media access.
Emma Mcilroy, CEO of Wildfang: In 2020, I’d like to see us go back to the Paris Agreement, because I think climate change is a feminist issue. I would like to see protection for trans women. They are dying at an alarmingly high rate and I would like to see us at least elect women.
Hitha Palepu, founder of Hitha On The Go: Pay equity and equality across the board, across every industry, and around the world, because we view it as a very American problem — it isn’t, it’s happening everywhere. More women in office. The more of us we have at the actual table as well as having a diverse group of women at the table, the better we all will be. I’m going to go political here, but black women have been saving us forever and it’s about damn time they had a seat at the table and got to actually drive and let us follow, because they will not steer us wrong. Bring more men into the conversation: I’ve been hearing this, “Well, how do I be a good male mentor?” It’s pretty easy — don’t be creepy, and champion women for the promotions, for projects, for work, the way you champion a man. It’s not rocket science and we need more of you to start doing it.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL: 2020 should be the year where we fully embrace the idea that our issues should be central to the conversation, the business conversation, the cultural conversation and definitely the political conversation. I think that we’ve been told for a really long time that we should stand down until we get other things fixed, when the reality is when we stand up, we fix things.
Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow: My main area is women’s health. I’d like to see a real discussion with all the political candidates around what maternal health looks like, putting that at the top of the feminist agenda, not pretending like it’s siloed or we should be quiet about it. We know that black women are four to five times more likely than white women to die during childbirth or due to childbirth-related causes in this country, and as a result, we don’t have a healthy dialogue around what that looks like and what we need to do — right now. We need to be having a dialogue about birth and what happens after birth and how to make everybody safe — all women — and if we start to make it safe for black women and brown women, then it’s going to be safe for all women, right? I want to see candidates really come up with action plans that are addressing that.
I want to see people not just pay lip service to the fact that they want to support women, but really put dollars and have people in leadership create coalitions and task forces that really look at and study the policy gaps that we have, as well as the informational gaps, educational gaps and issues that we have around access and equity along the birth continuity.
Liz Plank, journalist and author: I can only speak for myself and as a white woman who is educated, able-bodied, and queer, but I present as straight. What I need in the world is very different from what other women might need in the world. And I think that’s important when we set our priorities that it’d be a bunch of women who come in and are able to speak and set those priorities. We need to live in a world where we are free of violence, we need to live in a world where we are safe and we need to live in a world where we can decide how many children we have and when, because if you don’t have bodily autonomy, if you don’t have safety and if you’re not free from violence, it doesn’t matter if you have a seat at the table. We need to start unfortunately with the basics and a lot of women in this country do not have the basics.
Marty McDonald, founder of Boss Women Media: I want to see women dominating the table, not just one race — I want to see all women sitting at the table because there is a movement happening, but the women’s movement that’s currently happening is a white woman’s movement, and in order for change to happen, white women have to start being comfortable bringing all women to the table.
Tiffany Dufu, founder of The Cru: I think that the most important thing we need to be focused on in 2020 is getting new leadership at the highest levels in this country. We really need to move forward with public policies around affordable childcare, and I certainly believe that women’s reproductive rights have got to be attained and have got to be maintained and protected in order for women to be able to live lives that they’re passionate about.