March 8 was International Women’s Day. I am embarrassed to say I found this out through social media on March 8 itself, having had my head in the sand in the previous weeks. I was honored to be included in a few lists of women doing interesting things in the world, but by far most delighted by our own Lauren Reid’s blog post about the founding women in the Code for America family. How had it escaped me that in CfA’s brief history, we have so many amazing female founders in our network?
Alicia Rouault, Alex Pandel, Michelle Lee and Serena Wales all came to CfA as fellows (the word sounds so strange in a gender context) in January 2011, the second year of the program and the year when 46 percent of the cohort was female (I’m sorry to say the ratio is a little lower this year, but it’s still a diverse group). I’m pretty sure none of them thought they were coming here to start companies; they each spoke eloquently and passionately about wanting to make a difference, about making our government and our society work again. Like Caitria O’Neill, who was swept into helping communities recover from natural disasters by a hurricane in her home town, and who joined us for the first ever CfA Accelerator last year, each of these women became founders because they each found they were doing something useful, something that made a difference, and they realized that people were counting on them, and that more wanted to be able to count on them. Starting a business wasn’t the plan they’d begun with, but it was the way that made sense for them to keep making a difference in the world, and I’m so glad they’ve each made that choice. I’m also glad they do it as part of our family, working out of the CfA office, creating an environment where I love to work.
I hope that we don’t have another International Women’s Day clouded by a media-manufactured battle between Sheryl Sandberg (my official stance: strongly in favor) and Anne-Marie Slaughter (my official stance: very pro). I don’t think we need to choose between a “lean in” camp and a camp that urges some caution; let’s keep the level of dialogue about this high but leave the finger pointing behind. And let’s remember what women in some areas of the world face. I recently had the privilege of moderating a panel with Sheryl WuDunn, author of Half the Sky. Read about the 60-107 million “missing women” and you’ll be reminded why occasions like these are needed, to raise issues about women from the personal to the political. WuDunn speaks for so many women whose voices we never hear.
On a happier note, the view from where I sit, a view of engaged, thoughtful, passionate women and men working together across organizational, geographical, cultural, and technological boundaries to change the world, is pretty lovely. Happy International Women’s Day, indeed. A bit late.
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