A Plea to All Business Owners, CEOs, and Leaders

I should start off by saying I don’t consider myself a feminist. No one who knows me would either. But I am a woman. And as we all should by now, I believe desperately in equality regardless of sex, race, or any other attribute that seems to be a sticking point for the ignorant.

Throughout my career, I have watched men excel for reasons of achievement, and I have seen men excel because they were the only man in the office. I interned at an ad agency in Evansville, Indiana in the mid 90’s. Not THAT long ago, but I remember all the men sat in the offices while all the women sat in the interior cubes (keep in mind, this was before the open office concept that most of us have embraced as of late). Coming from New York, I was perplexed by it. If women are literally doing the same jobs that men do, how could this be? Was it somehow ridiculous to believe that I too should have an office if everyone else at my level has one? No. I should have the same perks as my peers. After that internship, I came back to NYU and immediately joined the Advertising Women of New York (AWNY) Organization mainly because I felt I had to do something.

Fast forward 25 years and at times I feel as though I am right back in Indiana. The recent news about Citi admitting they pay women 29% less than men has relit the fire under me. It’s not just about marching and protesting, it’s companies being held accountable that result in corrective measures for the future. As someone with only minimal insights into the situation, I’m choosing to reserve judgement about how Michael Corbat could have allowed Citi to be run like this for as long as it apparently has. As a business owner, equality is imperative – but why is that a challenge for some companies? Maybe that NY college girl that interned in Indiana years ago was scarred by the “fish out of water” experience, but the fact remains there must be accountability for the lack of equality. And that starts at the top. We can teach girls to be strong, independent, and stand up for themselves (honestly all the things that my father taught me), but at the end of the day it’s in the hands of the leaders to force change. Don’t hire her simply because she’s a woman. That’s insulting to women and men alike. Hire her because she kicks ass at her job. Pay her what she is worth because she puts in the hours and because she has the experience. WE have to make it right.

As a new member of the Executive Class of the She Runs It organization, I plan on being vocal about equality as well as the other industry topics that truly matter. If it doesn’t start with leadership, then it will never trickle down, but we can all make a difference by insisting on what’s right. Enough is enough, it’s time to do something about it.

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