Last year might have been the best year for women in a long time. As a wife, mother and daughter, I applauded Barbie, Beyoncé and Taylor for showing us how awesome women are when they have the spotlight. But as a woman, and especially as a mother, I know we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality with men. If I were a fairy godmother, these are the  three wishes I’d grant to all women.

The Gift of Self Confidence

Taking a leap of faith is one of the most difficult challenges in life. Women are willing to do it for personal reasons, such as when we marry or have a child. But we’re less willing to take that leap in our professional lives. 

The US Census Bureau says there are 334,914,895 people in the US as of July 2023 and 50.4% of them are female. The US Small Business Administration says there are 12,001,410 small businesses owned by women as of March 2023. And small businesses account for more than 6 in 10 firms in the US. When you count small and large firms together, women own about 22%, men own 63% and the rest are jointly owned.

Starting a business takes a leap of faith. While women started nearly half of the new small businesses in 2021, they faced significant funding challenges. Women receive less when they apply for loans, and less than 3% of venture capital funding. But women-founded firms create more jobs and outperform firms founded by men. My wish is more women take that leap with confidence in their ability to be successful.  

The Gift of Leadership

Last year, for the first time, women broke the glass ceiling by representing more than 10% of the CEOS of Fortune 500 companies. That was seen as a significant achievement in the list’s 68 years of tallying leaders by helping to normalize the view of women as CEOs. But leadership is not simply a title with the coveted “Chief” in it. It means possessing a unique set of skills.

Female leaders are perceived as being more capable because of their soft skills (empathy, nurturing, persuasiveness and resilience). They’re more likely to promote a spirit of cooperation and community. These abilities are one reason women leaders are seen as better communicators and more capable of reaching solutions and compromises. Given all that, it’s still shocking how few female political leaders we have in the US. Since 1789:

  • Of the 49 vice presidents in the US, only 1 has been a woman
  • Of the 121 Supreme Court Justices, only 6 have been female
  • Of the 13,576 people elected to Congress, only 486 have been women and only 1 has served as leader of the House of Representatives

My wish is for more men and women to see the value in female leadership, beyond the financial value women bring to the company.  

The Gift of Adaptation 

We all want the world to be a better place. But most of us feel powerless to bring about change. Sometimes it’s a matter of economics, sometimes striving for perfection stymies us.

Nearly 2 million women left the workforce (and their careers) during the pandemic. Why? They typically earned less than their spouse and nearly always needed to assume caregiving roles. Aside from the gender bias in business, there continues to be a gender pay gap. Today, women earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn. 

Studies tell us that girls’ self-confidence takes a nosedive between the ages of 8 and 14. A study by Kay, Shipman and Reily found tween girls were facing increased social pressure at a time when their confidence levels dropped by 30 percent. Their ability to strategize, see the big picture and assess risk-reward combine to decrease their willingness to try and fail. 

A 1959 musical featured a number called I Enjoy Being a Girl. Representative of its time, the advantages of being female are reduced to being pretty, curvy and admired by men. Sixty-five years later, Time magazine recognized the power of a single woman to change the world by naming Taylor Swift as the 2023 Person of the Year. In her, they acknowledged her power to bring together young and old to not only listen to her unique voice but to find their own. This honor casts aside the superficiality of being pretty by recognizing the honesty and authenticity of Swift’s journey. My third wish is for women to honor their singular voice by embracing the ability to change, evolve and adapt as they age.

Three New Realities

While fairy godmothers might now exist, my three wishes are very real. But  we don’t have to rely on a fairy tale to make them come true. We can all take steps to achieve them if we just commit to change. Because baby steps eventually can become a marathon. Won’t you join me?