Despite an incredible, inspiring groundswell of activism all across the country, good days are rare right now. But last week, I took the main stage at the MAKERS Conference – a powerhouse gathering of women in tech, media, business, politics and more. I was there to premiere “A Long Five Years,” the National Partnership for Women & Families’ new ad on America’s paid leave crisis. In my talk following the screening, I urged the audience to take action on behalf of the more than 100 million working people in the United States who have no paid family leave. I asked the audience to demand bold action from lawmakers and from the companies they lead and patronize.
My talk was sandwiched – literally – between speakers discussing bold new actions companies are already taking. Sheryl Sandberg and Lori Goler preceded me to announce Facebook’s new family care policy, which adds six weeks of family care leave to its already generous paid parental leave plan. Trish Stroman from Boston Consulting Group followed me as part of the “Bold Initiatives” gender equality panel to share a report based on reviews of 250 company policies and interviews with 25 organizational leaders that shows paid family leave pays off.
Earlier in the day, back in Washington, D.C., a powerful group of more than 130 members of Congress signed their names as co-sponsors of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a comprehensive, affordable national paid family and medical leave proposal. They were heeding the call of a large, diverse coalition of advocates and business leaders who know that America can and must do better when it comes to paid leave.
Professionally, the day was a much-needed refuge from the onslaught of harm and fear that has defined 2017 thus far. Since January 20, people who believe in equality, fairness, inclusion and justice have been in the fight of our lives. President Trump has nominated the most-anti-woman cabinet in history and we’re being pummeled every day by threats to women’s health and rights, to immigrants and refugees, to our planet, and to the liberties we all cherish.
Indeed, at the very moment that MAKERS participants were meant to be celebrating women’s accomplishments in science, technology, arts and sports – and to be inspired by the incredible talent assembled – Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor for reading a letter by Coretta Scott King about the racist history of the country’s new attorney general.
Danger, it seems, is everywhere.
That’s why the conference was so special and so badly needed. It was a moment to re-center and re-fuel for the fights ahead. As someone who was blindsided by the election, demoralized by its implications for our future, and deflated by being forced to play defense 24/7, this MAKERS “moment” was a powerful, moving reminder of all that binds us – across experiences and accomplishments – across age, race, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and religion – across passions, talents and dreams.
MAKERS was about finding joy and meaning in the power of others, and applauding their excellence and impact. It provided a moment to appreciate women’s contributions to technology, music, corporate practices, sports, literature, policy and to our nation itself. And it was a powerful reminder of our mandate to protect our victories, to continue moving forward, and to keep going no matter the obstacles.
Experiences like the MAKERS Conference and the Women’s March remind us that we are all in this together and that we must keep challenging ourselves to build a collective force for resistance and change that is as vibrant as our communities and our country. We all have much to contribute and a responsibility to do so. And when we honor our diversity and lift each other up through one strong and united voice, we all do better.
In this new climate of division and intolerance, that’s what I try to remember every day. We must use the platforms we have – cultural, political, corporate and everything in between – to call out injustice, misogyny, racism and all the other horribles that threaten our work, our progress and our lives. We must never lose our focus on what’s good and right. And we must never, ever give up.
A sampling of support for a national paid leave policy is evident in the blogs and statements here.