Looking for Lift: Why National Women’s Equality Day Matters

If you follow any of our channels you’ll have probably noticed a lot of activity surrounding National Women’s Equality Day, a day which commemorates the historic moment in the United States when women were given the right to vote. This day marks when we better lived up to the American ideal––allowing more people to live free, happy lives. As momentous as this historic moment was, properly commemorating the day prompts us beyond being mindful of how far we have come as a country but also how far we still need to go. Of course empowering women and working towards greater gender equality is not just an “American thing”––nor is it strictly Western––but rather ought to be a global effort. It is exactly this goal that Melinda Gates writes about in her book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

While The Moment of Lift is less than three hundred pages, it is a tough book to characterize. It is equal parts memoir and social commentary, an issue-driven book and yet personal, honest, and intimate—sharing with the reader not only the life of the author but women’s stories from around the world. It is a worthy read,  but if I had to summarize the main takeaway from the book, it is this: empowering women makes everybody better off. Below are three points, I believe, are especially salient to this truth.

Lifting Each Other Up

In TMoL, Melinda shares a story about how women in a small village in India became energized and inspired to work at making everyone’s lives better. After being empowered by farming advice and financial support, these women lead the charge in lobbying their local government for better roads and clean drinking water. As Gates says, “[e]mpowerment never confines itself to categories” and therefore can make all of us off. 

From the Inside

It takes community members engaging with and being critical of social norms––actions that are commonly accepted and rarely talked about––to effect change. Conversations and the accompanying questions are critical in helping others understand the injustices faced by the marginalized, which can garner support and help change something long considered a fact of life. One need not study history for long to find examples of this (e.g. the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights Movements), where successful efforts were brought to bear on behalf of “outsiders” by so-called insiders who benefitted from the status quo but chose to reject it.

Empathy. Listening. Understanding.

Empathy allows for listening which leads to understanding. Or is it listening leads to understanding and, subsequently, empathy? Either way, order is not so much important as the grouping of these activities, let’s call them the empath’s trifecta, is a recipe for drawing people closer to one another. As we encounter others and listen to their stories, it becomes increasingly unlikely that we’ll turn a deaf ear to their plight. The incredible thing about this, and this is something that we at WIRD firmly believe, is that learning allows for the possibility of greater empathy for others and can lead to their empowerment. This is something our trivia game, Undiscovered Story, is predicated on.

Reading TMoL can give you a real sense of how much further humankind has to go before we reach gender equality. It contains heartbreaking stories that show there’s still so much to be done to empower women, and yet as you read along it shows that everyone can work towards making their corner of the planet more equal and fair, that the net benefits of lifting up others is that we all, at the end of the day, live in a better place as a result of these efforts.