Who’s the New Face for Women’s Rights?

The woman who helped define the women’s movement recently paid a visit to our great city as a guest-lecturer of the Raise Your Voice series at Western Michigan University. As Gloria Steinem spoke before a packed house at Miller Auditorium, the energy was high with girlfriends and sisters, along with mothers and daughters – all celebrating Girl Power.

A self-described feminist and activist, Steinem has been the voice for generations of women and the face of women’s liberation. But ask your average 20-something who Gloria Steinem is, and you’re apt to be met with a guess that she’s one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta or somewhere. Not only does Gloria Steinem not represent the voice of most young woman today, she’s being trampled on by the next generation of Kardashians.

In 1970, a woman was not allowed to keep her job if she was pregnant, couldn’t report cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, or even apply for a credit card. While great strides have been made in the last 40+ years in the quest for equality for women in the workplace and in life, why does it seem like we’ve stalled? Or are we just not looking in the right places?

Following are just a few rays of hope that indicate that the quest for equality might not be dead after all. Maybe the power of one strong voice is simply shifting into the voice of many.

Patricia Arquette – As she took the stage at the Academy Awards to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress, Arquette gave a passionate acceptance speech that reminded all of us that women have a long way to go – even in Hollywood. “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said in her speech. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Other Hollywood women leading the charge include Reece Witherspoon whose film company pushes for female-driven material, and Jennifer Lawrence, who fights for equal pay alongside her male counterparts. And the credits go on…

Sheryl Sandberg – Many people credit this powerful business woman as being the driving force behind the continued success of Facebook. When she’s not tackling the massive job that comes along with being COO at the world’s largest social networking site, Sandberg is busy sharing her wisdom as a business and motivational speaker in the promotion of her book, Lean In. This New York Times Best Seller provides practical advice to help women achieve their goals – and to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what we can do

While we may never have that one woman who can pick up the torch from Gloria Steinem, I’d like to think that we have grown in power, requiring many more faces to carry the message. And as we go further into the year and elect our next President of the United States, that president could very well be a woman.

How ‘bout them apples, Gloria?

Heidi McCrary / Writer & Advertising Goddess