In 1920, Suffragettes helped women get the right to vote in the U.S.
As I reflect on the CREW Network Foundation Push for Progress campaign and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, I think about some of the women who have inspired me. As a young girl, I thought Nadia Comaneci was inspiring. An Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, she inspired me to try my hand at the balance beam and uneven bars in gym class. I thought being a detective would be cool if I could be like Kate Jackson in Charlie’s Angels. I always thought, “she’s the smart one.” And my true idol was Barbara Walters, who broke barriers for women in journalism.
But the women who really impacted me were characters from the books I read. I locked myself in my bedroom, reading far into the morning hours about strong, independent women. They were fearless. They had the courage of their convictions. I wanted to be them. I wanted to experience great adventure, to cut my path forward in life based on my smarts, my hard work, my effort. These women inspired me and gave me confidence.
Growing up in an isolated, rural town as a lower middle-class kid, books took me places I thought I would never go. The women in the stories gave me the idea that I could make my way into the bigger world and create amazing life experiences. I believed that nothing could hold me back.
I believe that was the same thought that the Suffragettes had when they began their journey. The challenges seemed insurmountable, but they were determined. Mainstream society was against them. Even Eleanor Roosevelt laughed about the March 1913 parade in Washington, D.C. that became the stake in the ground for the movement across the United States.
Author Bridget Quinn’s recent article in Fortune, based on her new book, She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next, reminds us of the rich history of women pushing for progress. “The parade was a shot across the bow. American women were coming for what was theirs.”
What is CREW Network’s shot across the bow? With the release of our 2020 benchmark study, you will see our shot: There has been no progress for women in commercial real estate since our last study in 2015. And now, we are pushing for what is rightfully ours: equality, parity and opportunity.
Quinn’s article introduces the leading figures of the parade that cold day in 1913. Alice Paul was a Quaker—considered a reformer raised with the idea of gender equality. She felt that America was “organized society from which women are excluded.” We recognize through our research that many women are still excluded—in the boardroom, in the C-suite and at the big deal tables.
Ida Wells, according to Quinn, was “arguably the most fearless woman” at the March 1913 parade. She was basically disinvited to march as a Black woman. She refused to be pushed back to the end of the march. “I’ll march with my state or not at all,” she said. And march she did, next to her white sisters from Illinois. Yep, fearless.
Ida Wells (1893) was disinvited to march as a Black woman in the 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade.
At CREW Network, we work together to lift every woman to opportunities and parity. Everyone is included.
Walking boldly through Washington, D.C., the parade banner demanded the right to vote. They would not be deterred. The parade path was fraught with men pushing, shoving and spitting at the women. The calvary forcibly cleared a path so thousands of determined women could proceed.
Who will clear a path for us? Executive leaders: will you be the ones to clear a path forward for all women in commercial real estate? Will you stand up for women and make way for us in your executive suite? In your boardrooms?
The famous quote from Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragette movement in the United Kingdom, rings true today for women in commercial real estate: “Deeds not words.” Companies and leaders need to act. We need deeds, not more words. It will be action that makes change.
While there will be no parade for women in commercial real estate, I invoke you—women, male allies, anyone who will listen: have the courage and commitment to make change. We cannot go another five years without progress for women. After all, it's 2020.
To help us push for progress, contribute to our Push for Progress campaign that celebrates women who have inspired each of us to advocate for those who coming up behind us in the commercial real estate industry.
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.