Five months ago, I started brainstorming ideas for a package on Columbia’s hidden movers and shakers. I even penned a working title for it: “Hidden Power Brokers.” I searched far and wide for people outside the public eye who held influence and importance in our city. Much of my research led me to real estate developers, business executives and medical practitioners — most of whom were white men.
After weeks of work, I had somehow ended up with a group composed of people who weren’t hidden at all. Back to the drawing board. This time, I focused specifically on finding women, the 49 percent of our society that for generations has been held back from achieving the kind of influence and privilege white men yield.
As young men we’re bombarded with refrains like, “it’s a man world.” Or “man up.” Whether overtly or subconsciously, we’re instructed from our earliest moments that aggression, power and dominance are inherently male values, and we’re often told to be wary of women who seek the same things. Our forceful and violent behaviors are excused as “boys being boys” or lessons that will “toughen us up.” A girl who displays the same behavior is chastised for not being “ladylike” or deferential. Women who challenge the status quo or dare aspire to the kind of power men have exerted for eons are labeled as bitchy or rude. Even in instances when we don’t intend it, our society tells women they shouldn’t — or can’t — be equal to their male peers. And to be completely frank, that’s bullshit. I’ve worked alongside dozens of women. I was raised by an incredible one and was lucky enough to have two sisters who have helped guide my personal growth more than anyone I know. Each of them do things on a daily basis that break the stereotypes of what we’ve clumsily come to expect of them.
In our April issue, you’ll find a quintet of women who have stomped on the barriers society has put in front of them. The five we featured are by no means a complete representation of the women changing our city — more so a microcosm of them. But whether it be in the boardroom, the home room or the courtroom, these women show us exactly what they — and our world — can accomplish when women are empowered to take the opportunities and equality they rightfully deserve.