Yesterday was International Women's Day, which got me thinking about how far we've come and how far we have yet to go. It also reminded me of the shocking keynote graduation speech heard by the women at Barnard College last spring. Maybe I'm thinking about Barnard because those elite college women are in the news recently. They are the targets of an ugly online onslaught of insults from other Ivy League women who are apparently fuming that President Obama just announced his decision to give his coveted commencement speech at Barnard, not Columbia. So now the sniping has begun and everyone is atwitter that women can be so brutal to each other.
Ivy Women Get Schooled
Rather than focus on the juicy mean girl angle, I'd like to redirect our attention back to May when the 600 super-smart young women at Barnard got the cold, hard truth from the super-smart Facebook Chief Operating Officer (Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg's Second in Command) Sheryl Sandberg. The title of the Huffington Post article about the speech summarizes nicely the take-away message from her keynote address: ‘Men Rule the World. The Women of My Generation Blew it, So Equality Is Up To You, Graduates."
One of the most powerful and successful women in the country, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, told the women of Barnard College's class of 2011 that you and I - the women of our generation - have failed them. If they want equality, they have to fight for it themselves, she said.
A Call to Arms: Are we still talking about this??
I offer this sobering speech as a different kind of inspiration and a call to arms. It seems stunning to me that as the women of the Barnard Class of 2011 graduated we were talking about Maria Shriver's man problems and that one of America's most powerful female success stories, Sheryl Sandberg, says we have failed the next generation of women. We have failed our daughters and granddaughters, nieces and students. This is her perspective, from the vantage point of wealth, power, access and success.
I hope this speech starts a new conversation about where we go from here, about what success and equality mean and look like, about what our options truly are and what choices within choices so many of us make, and about what to tell this new generation of women who don't seem convinced of our failure.