March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating these 31 days by honoring the trailblazers who came before us. There’s a quote by Susan B. Anthony I’ve always loved:
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
In truth, I don’t love riding a bicycle. My crisis communications mind thinks of everything that could go wrong and can’t handle the freedom that comes with it, but don’t you love the visual that Susan B. Anthony paints? It’s hard to believe there was a time when seeing a woman ride a bicycle was shocking behavior. Just over 100 years ago, suffragette Alice Hawkins was unable to vote and took her frustrations out on the road in her campaign for women’s rights.
The shocking history
Here’s something even more shocking. The Tulsa Hotel, which I see every day when I look out my office window, didn’t allow women to enter certain floors in the 80s. It was big news when they were even allowed inside the building in the 70s! When I heard this just a few weeks ago from a prominent, female Tulsa leader, my jaw dropped. Just a few months prior, my all-woman team had taken photos there, blissfully ignorant that we would have been banned just a few decades ago.
And yet, when one of my clients becomes the first CEO of her organization, someone immediately posts a comment that says “why is this news?” And yet when I fill out a questionnaire for a new civic organization I’m involved in, and they ask if I play golf, I have to check “no” and wonder “what conversations am I missing out on because I don’t play golf?” And yet while today’s Tulsa Club allows women on any floor, I have to wonder what other rooms I’m still not allowed in because I’m a woman.
Why we honor women’s history month
These are not thoughts that cross my mind every day. In fact, maybe they propel me to ride a little hard on this metaphorical road of business ownership. Maybe this is why I feel the constant need to do it all – be it all. To be a boss who has the vision to lead and empower her team while keeping in mind the mental health and fulfillment of each person. To be a community leader who leaves this city better than she found it for the next generation. To be a mom who works to give her kids every opportunity to reach their own goals.
I feel this overwhelming responsibility to turn the dial even an inch closer to gender equality. To celebrate as Susan B. Anthony did when I see my fellow woman “riding by on a wheel.” Yes. When I see the incredible work our team does and the innovation of our collective minds, I feel the wheels of my bicycle turning. When I walk to into the lobby of the historic Philcade Building and turn the key to my office, I can feel the “freedom and self-reliance” Susan B. Anthony spoke of. And I think a big part of it is because I’m not going at it alone. Just like those suffragettes a century ago, we know that there is power in numbers in the workplace. Women are achieving greatness all around us, and Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate it.