March is the month that our country has committed to celebrating and honoring women’s history. As a new month begins, I’m reflecting on the barriers and obstacles women face every single day, the sheer resilience and grit we muster to battle through them, and the that women comprise the greatest percentage of leaders at all levels working to create more equitable systems that result in better lives for children and families through the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network.
The hundreds of women engaged in this movement inspire me every single day. The work we do is never easy and yet these brilliant women do it while balancing so many demands, during a period in which it’s never been harder to be a woman, a mother or a leader.
March has been an especially trying month for me as a woman, a leader and a working mother. As a member of the “sandwich generation,” I’ve been able to catch some of the highlights from the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson while trying to keep up with my work, caring for my 79-year-old father who is recuperating from surgery and shuttling my three kids to their various spring sports and activities.
Judge Jackson is on the precipice of shattering a glass ceiling. As a woman, I find myself cautiously optimistic whenever these situations arise. I’m cheering her on from my very core, but I know systems aren’t designed for women – especially women of color – to step into positions of power.
As I watch this exceptionally qualified woman stand so close to the bench, I am hopeful. I am hopeful for women across the country and what will be possible in the next generation. I believe many of us – especially mothers – were struck by the sheer and simple admiration shown on Leila Jackson’s teenage face as she watched her mother interview for one of the most important jobs in the United States. Our children are watching and our purpose matters.
It brought me to tears when Judge Jackson addressed her two daughters and apologized for feeling that she didn’t always get the balance right when juggling her career and motherhood. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling that hits particularly close to home as I try to balance caring for aging parents and my own children, all the while leading an organization and movement that aspires to put 14 million children on a path to economic mobility. The demands and the pressure are real and at times they feel insurmountable. But we persist and overcome. I believe we do because there’s a certain sisterhood that crosses generations and acknowledges that because we’re still fighting for power and equality, we’re in it together. It is our duty to fight for those most impacted by inequitable systems. It fuels us and it will fuel the generations who follow.
A friend of Judge Jackson’s said of Jackson’s leadership that “no matter how high she would climb, she always threw ladders down to the rest of us.” As women working to change the world and ensure that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance has every opportunity to thrive and reach their potential, we must persist in our work to transform systems so that they produce more equitable outcomes. This includes dismantling the oppressive systems that were not designed to support women, especially women of color. Confirming the first Black woman to the United States Supreme Court is a good first start when it comes to shifting power in our institutions and we have a long, long way to go. So stay in the fight ladies. I’m with you, climbing behind you and throwing down ladders along the way.