the History & Future of Women Changing the World

Our big picture history mural is delivering insights for the future as we begin to identify transformational patterns.  For example, changes in women's status often followed periods of dedicated conversations among women.  Some of these cultural trends are depicted in the graphic above:  The quilting bees of the Agricultural Age were practical gatherings to create warm bed-covers but also served as a gathering place for women to support one another in their hard life as farmers. In the early 1900's, "women's clubs" emerged ostensibly as a way to socialize, but became places where social change began as women tackled community issues including poverty, child labor, and challenges of sudden urbanization of the family. In the 1960's, women emerged from the challenges of the domestic 1950's by gathering to talk about their feelings, aspirations, creativity, politics and commitment to have impact in a world at a time when most institutions were led by men. As women became integrated into the mainstream of work at the close of the 20th century, many systemic drivers of the gender-gap still persisted but there was a taboo against talking about the differences men and women.  In the 2000's, new discussions began about gender differences in values, approaches, personal interactions, goals and needs.  The "Lean In" movement launched by Sheryl Sandberg provided a way for women to dedicate themselves anew to the conversations necessary to make change.  Now we are looking at the next phase.

We have heard a number of promising ideas and practices, including new forums where men and women speak openly to one another about gender-related issues at work, speaking up about previously taboo topics, exploring sources unconscious bias. Now that we have some insight into the new edges of change, we are conducting surveys--both in history and in the present.  The history surveys involve mining the stories of significant women inventors and innovators to learn more about how they thrived amid the constraints of their time. The current surveys are designed to elicit, in detail, how new cultural structures are being developed to close the gender gap. We believe these new structures will involve conversation spaces where women support one another, men support one another, and women and men work together on social transformation toward a balanced society.

As part of our commitment, we are listing various organizations and what they are doing to help solve the problem — through networking, research, education or other avenues. We are not endorsing these organizations but listing them as a starting point to help people who may be looking for certain types of support, information, or education about gender issues.

To solve the urgent and complex problem of women’s empowerment, we need to work together.