On March 11th, as a part of International Women’s Day, United Way of King County, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center and YP Impact hosted a virtual speaker series called “Womxn Breaking Barriers.” The diverse panelists consisted of Blessing Omakwu (Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of The She Tank), Leslie Feinzaig (Female Founders Alliance CEO and Founder), Tracy Rector (Managing Director of Storytelling at Nia Tero Foundation), and was moderated by Mika Yamamoto (Executive Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at F5). With so much excitement over hearing from influential women who choose to challenge gender bias, stereotypes, and discrimination in our community every day, we had over 1,000 registrants for the event!
The event kicked off with an inspiring poem by young poet Mari J from Powerful Voices and then moved to the panel discussion which addressed issues women have been facing, but which have become more pronounced in today’s day and age with facing a new reality due to COVID-19. For the first time in a long time, we are facing reality and seeing language that causes us to reflect. People are starting to consciously understand how unequal the world is for many different groups, including women of color.
Blessing brought up an interesting topic that I would have never thought about myself, a microaggression of sorts, which is the bias of emojis. There are no emojis that show a man holding a baby, which reflects a predetermined notion that women are the sole caregivers of children. There is also no emoji of a black woman with an afro which I found to be shocking, to say the least.
Some of the most appalling revelations brought up during the panel were that 100% of jobs that were lost in December during COVID were by women, approximately 140,000, and often, in uncertain economic times, women are the first to be let go. Or the fact that 88% of the film industry is comprised of white men and has only increased from the previous year which was at 85%.
So now that we know all this, what is the next step? How do we come together and disband these statistics so that women and BIPOC can have a seat at the table?
Well…we need to collaborate and build our own table by asking for what we deserve. Typically, drastic change happens when we all uplift and support each other. This means showing up in our power, being confident, and continuing to defy gender roles. Many times, power is equated to white men and we need to redefine that by being generous, humble, and our most authentic selves. We can also learn by listening to the younger generation because they can only build upon what we have left behind.
Through the eyes of Leslie Feinzaig, “There’s room for all of us. What can we do? Pull up another seat. Bring another woman. Lift as you rise… Refer women. Invest in women. Support each other.”
Learn more about the speakers and the upcoming events offered by the partnering organizations: United Way Emerging Leaders 365 and Change Makers, YP Impact, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center.