This International Women’s Day, We #ChooseToChallenge 

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This International Women’s Day, We #ChooseToChallenge 

Happy International Women’s Day! International Women’s Day (IWD), March 8, celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s IWD campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge. As the IWD website states, “We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. 

For IWD, we asked The Humphreys Group team how they will help forge a gender equal world. We also asked who inspires them in their personal and professional life. Here are their answers: 

Diane Bourdo, CFP®, President

1. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. How will you choose to challenge gender inequality and gender bias in 2021? 

I recently read a thought-provoking book, Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser, founder of The Omega Institute. The subtitle of the book is “When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes.” Lesser revisits stories that have shaped our cultural narratives for hundreds of thousands of years – Eve in the Garden of Evil, Pandora (of the Box), and Cassandra, among others. In taking a closer look, she addresses in a straightforward and unapologetic way how white cis men have controlled the telling of history — and how it affects us all. Women bear the brunt of these misogynistic narratives of course, but Lesser makes the point that we all suffer  people of all genders — from not hearing from a broader range of voices and experiences.

This book struck me in its clarity and power, and my goal is to champion these ideas as much as I can in 2021. Challenging an entrenched system is tough, but I look forward to doing more of it this year and to try some of the many ways Lesser suggests we flip the narrative in her book’s “toolbox.”

2. Who inspires you and why (such as family members, women leaders in financial services industry and other industries, celebrities, and/or fictional heroes like Wonder Woman)?

As a girl I was a tomboy and, no surprise, my first heroines were female sports figures. My earliest inspiration was Donna de Varona who was an Olympic swimmer at age 13 and lived in exotic (for a Wisconsin girl) Santa Clara where they unbelievably swam outside all year long. Before reading her biography, I hadn’t heard about strong female athletes and I was struck by her discipline and devotion. 

A similar figure and my second heroine was Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who excelled in every sport she tried. She too was an Olympian and won two gold medals in track and field. Both women inspired me back then and opened my eyes to what women were capable of on a physical level.

Fast forward a few decades and I’ve been most inspired by women from all walks of life who question the status quo, who follow their own path, and who break new ground given the time in which they live. The list includes writers such as Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison, political figures such as Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Elizabeth Warren, and cultural icons such as Michelle Obama. Each of these women are strong, smart leaders who are willing to lead in their own way, advocate for the voices of other women, and help reshape our idea of the role and power of women in our society today.

Lexi Olian, CFP®, Director of Financial Planning

1. How will you choose to challenge gender inequality and gender bias in 2021? 

My parents wanted the best for me, and they told me that even though I was a girl, I could be anything I want to be. So, I spent most of my childhood trying to overcome what I thought was an unfortunate condition. I wore only pants, I climbed trees, and I refused to play with dolls. I skipped over the books with girls on the covers and I completely missed out on Nancy Drew and Little Women. Years later, maybe it was the first time I joined a circle of women, or maybe it was the opportunity to bear a child, I finally began to comprehend and celebrate what a powerful experience it is to be a woman. So now, in 2021, I am very alert for the words, “even though,” whether spoken or implied — and when I can, I will correct and replace those words with “because.”   

 2. Who inspires you and why?

Early 2017, I was feeling defeated so I decided to start a list of heroes. My first entry was Sally Yates, when she refused to argue the merits of the Muslim ban. I watched Emma Gonzalez “call BS” on congressional apathy after the Parkland shooting and added her to the list. When Rachel Maddow cried over the children in cages, she made the list. I added Christine Blasey Ford when she faced the Senate and courageously told a story of sexual violence that millions of women share. One day, Monica Lewinsky posted a joke on Twitter that showed up on my Twitter feed. She made the list. She is a survivor. There are many on my list, and there will be many more, but the most recently added is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I greatly admire her strength and intelligence, but I didn’t think to add her to the list until after she recounted her experience on January 6. Despite being the target of a mob, and being absolutely terrified, she still had the courage to go live on Instagram to tell her story. 

Hallie Kraus, CFP®, CRPC®, Financial Planner

1. How will you choose to challenge gender inequality and gender bias in 2021?

After witnessing how the pandemic has disproportionately devastated women’s mental, emotional, and financial stability, I plan to hold my elected officials accountable and demand they enact policies to better support women going forward. Economists say that the wage gap has widened by five percentage points (from 81 cents for every dollar a man makes, to 76 cents), and they project it will take more than 10 years for the gender wage gap to close to what it was before the pandemic. Our government needs to prioritize policies that incentivize companies to close the wage gap and pay essential workers what they’re worth. I’m at the age where lots of my friends are starting their own families, and I don’t want to see them neglected, so I also plan to advocate for access to affordable childcare and family leave.  

 2. Who inspires you and why?

When I was in the eighth grade, I did a history project on Jane Goodall, and her passion and empathetic leadership quickly made her one of my heroes. But later on I realized that she also inspired me because she proves that you don’t have to be loud in order to be bold. Women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Christine Blasey Ford have also demonstrated this same quiet power, and I will always be in awe of it. I’m also inspired by the pure grit and determination of women like Stacey Abrams, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the grace and authenticity of Michelle Obama. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Beyoncé  not just because I love her music (and I do), but because of her unapologetic ambition, her ability to inspire self-confidence in others, and how she very intentionally uses her power as a positive force for change. 

Liz Paxton, Director of Operations

How will you choose to challenge gender inequality and gender bias in 2021? Who inspires you and why?

I was raised by a strong, competent woman with a successful professional career. In addition, I attended allgirls schools through high school. That combination imprinted on me the belief that women could do whatever they wanted. Looking back, it is obvious that this was not the reality of the world in the 1960s and 1970s, but that didn’t alter my thinking that women could do or be whatever they wanted. 

Fast forward several decades and we are still bumping up against those barriers, although progress has been made. I am inspired by the many women who have gone before me and widened the path for those that followed. I am especially moved by women who followed a path that not only was traditionally male, but also served a greater good. Virginia Hall transformed herself from a Baltimore socialite into a spy in WWII. Her story is movingly told in the book A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell. She operated behind enemy lines in France and is credited with being a linchpin for the French Resistance. Thanks to her skill and courage, she led successful guerrilla campaigns and liberated large areas of France from the Nazis after D-Day. 

Sadly, she returned to America after the war to be met with the bureaucratic disregard for professional women that was emblematic of the era. I find the dedication and commitment she showed for her work, in the face of constant danger and professional dismissal, to be inspiring. The recent announcement that two female generals will be recommended for promotion to elite four-star commands is heartening and may indicate that were Virginia Hall alive today, her career trajectory might have had a happier ending.

Katie Kneuker, Operations Associate

1. How will you choose to challenge gender inequality and gender bias in 2021? 

This year I choose to speak up. As a young woman, I can think of instances in the past where I stayed silent and chose not to speak up. Perhaps it was fear of ruffling feathers or a lack of confidence about my opinions, but this year I choose to put those fears aside. I will push myself in 2021 to have challenging conversations with my friends, family members, and my community about gender equality and gender bias. As an example, I can think back to a conversation with my brother about gender equality in sports and gender-neutral sports in the Olympics. Ultimately, I left that conversation feeling frustrated and unheard. This year, I will take more ownership of those types of conversations and work on how I deliver my opinion effectively and productively. 

 2. Who inspires you and why?

First and foremost I am inspired by the United States womens national soccer team (USWNT). I grew up watching these strong women play the best soccer in the world on an international stage. As a young girl, being able to see their hard work and determination pay off was inspiring. Fast forward to 2021, the USWNT is still the best team in the world and they are using their voices to fight for equal pay. Their message gives the younger generation and my generation hope for true equality in sports. Serena and Venus Williams are incredibly inspiring female athletes and they have always been a duo that I love to watch. Their rise to the top of the tennis world was an amazing example of how to push through doubters and achieve your dreams.  

We are also so lucky to have inspiring political leaders like Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams paving the way for more women in politics. They have impacted how women and particularly how young women view themselves in society. For the first time, a woman and furthermore a woman of color has a seat at the front of the Senate Chamber. We can only guess how many young girls see that example and have set their eyes on a similar path. All of these women challenge norms to push forward, achieve their goals, and inspire a world of women around them. 

#ChooseToChallenge with The Humphreys Group

As the International Women’s Day website says, a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge. 

How will you help forge a gender equal world? Let’s celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.