Local News

Assessing National Women’s History Month: Is ‘know your value’ or ‘expect to win’ realistic for everyone?

By Liz Dimarco Weinmann

Throughout March, organizations around the world celebrated International Women’s Day and, in the U.S., National Women’s History Month. Experts from the arts, politics, business, science, medicine, and social justice, weighed in. Most offered optimistic ideas regarding challenges women deal with every day. Others brandished banalities like “know your value,” “expect to win,” and “you are a badass.” 

#Embrace equity — the official hashtag of International Women’s Day — is far more meaningful. Or perhaps something like “good enough” or “better late than never” for women who are doing their best. 

To that point, following are some of the most pressing issues that emerged over the past month, and hopeful examples of real women driving progress, especially in Vermont. As more Boomers retire, Gen-X and Millennials will be the ones leading the charge toward increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. This Boomer, for one, hopes to continue learning from them.

Economic recovery

Economic recovery for many women remains difficult in the aftermath of Covid. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, women faced steeper job losses than men during the pandemic, and their financial recovery has been slower. Swift shutdowns in Vermont (and nearby states) impacted women-dominant industries, like hospitality and retail, the most.

The reasons women are not returning to work include childcare responsibilities; fear for health in high-contact jobs; retirement or changing careers, and dual-income households. The Census report suggests, “Employers should consider this disparity and local conditions while developing strategies to assist women who want to return to work and encourage those not in the labor force to rejoin.” 

Sexism and ageism

Persistent sexism, combined with ageism, affects women far more than men, but many women are no longer tolerating it. A few examples: 

More than two-dozen states now ban or partially limit access to abortion, and women are mobilizing protests and boycotting businesses that advocate those bans. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s claim that Silicon Valley Bank collapsed because its managers were too distracted by “woke culture and DEI” should be alarming to all, coming from a likely candidate for president. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin and financial guru Suze Orman, among other experts, publicly denounced DeSantis’s claim.

When former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley announced her run for president, CNN co-anchor Don Lemon declared she is “past her prime.” (Haley is 51; Lemon is 57.) CNN pulled Lemon off the air for a few days, to attend “training;” as ratings continue plummeting, a major shakeup is underway. Meanwhile, Haley is referencing Lemon’s slur on the campaign trail, and even Michele Yeoh, the 60-year-old winner of the Best Actress Oscar for Everything Everywhere All At Once, alluded to it in her acceptance speech, advising, “Never let anyone tell you you’re past your prime.”

To be clear, while Haley and Yeoh have substantive credentials (politics or movie preferences aside), other glamorous celebrities on the world stage sounded trite, as they spouted commands like “know your value.” Savvy women are well aware these celebrities earn millions and have entourages bigger than most women’s extended families. Their “advocacy” platforms are meticulously executed, by agents, business managers, publicists and legions of others. 

In contrast, three bestselling books — “Why We Can’t Sleep, Overwhelmed,” and “Good Enough,” plus thousands of mom-blogs, depict more realistic situations and offer sensible advice.

Local leaders

Stories of real women persevering abound right here in Vermont, especially in the Killington-Rutland area.  These are women who are devising solutions to issues that affect real people, regardless of age, gender or sexual expression. Over the past few years, Vermont media outlets, including this one, have increased their coverage of these women. They include: 

Lifelong Rutland resident Sen. Cheryl Mazzariello Hooker, now a Rutland City alderman, who advocates for affordable housing. 

NewStory Center’s Avaloy Lanning helps survivors of domestic abuse. 

Strategic change consultant Joan Gamble tirelessly raises funds for the local chapter of entertainer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides Rutland-area children with a free high-quality book each month.  

Rutland’s Dr. Marie Pavini inspires awe around the world. Her brilliant ingenuity led to her patented Exersides™ Refraint™ system that help bedridden patients stay safe while retaining some mobility.

 And, this month, 67-year-old Jan Reynolds, the Stowe adventurer, writer, and photographer, was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Then there are the gifted schoolteachers, such as Abby Brodowski, who teaches English at Rutland High and matches students with local businesses. 

Likewise, the seemingly boundless generosity of Christy Coloutti, principal of Northwest Primary School, to her students, transcends her official duties and responsibilities. 

Another teacher many Rutlanders cherish is Sister Shirley Davis. The Catholic nun’s career has spanned more than 50 years, beginning as a math and religion teacher at Christ the King School, followed by more than three decades at Mount St. Joseph Academy, and later as principal. She retired only a few years ago, in her 80s. 

Gen-Xers and Millennials alike are more than energized about pushing past the sexism and ageism, to “embrace equity” and foster diversity, equity and inclusion in all their endeavors. If they take advantage of all the resources available to help professionals in every field learn how to become better leaders, at any age, then they’ll succeed. 

Lastly, there are good reasons why aphorisms like “better late than never” and “good enough” still resonate. They don’t diminish, they don’t scold, and best of all, they don’t require an entourage.  

Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions: lizdimarcoweinmann.com.

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