If you took all our conversations that happen in the office break room, in the school pickup line, and over wine with friends – I’m pretty sure women could rule the world. We already do in a lot of ways (shh… don’t tell the guys), but we’re all so busy balancing work and family, sometimes it’s hard to measure the snippets of brilliance we have every day.
This Friday there will be hundreds of “snippets of brilliance” taking place at the NC Women’s Summit – organized by Women AdvaNCe, the Women’s Center at NC State University, and the Southern Oral History Program at UNC-CH. The day will bring together powerful women from across the state who are having these brilliant conversations on issues like healthcare, education, and jobs.
Jocelyn Frye, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, is the keynote speaker. Her work focuses on the issues of work-family balance, pay equity, and women’s leadership.
Recently I had the chance to speak with Frye about her perspective on issues related to women, and what needs to change to keep our momentum moving forward.
“When I think about North Carolina, I think about the fact that the issues so many are confronting across the country, women in North Carolina are grappling with as well,” she said.
Frye says those issues include fair pay for women, and access to family leave and paid sick days.
“The statistics are well known: women are increasingly breadwinners in families. When they are economically insecure, it not only hurts them, it hurts the broader economy,” she added.
This analysis is not that of a sideline quarterback. Frye has lived policy-making in the real world. Prior to her work with the Center for American Progress, she served for four years as deputy assistant to President Obama and director of policy and special projects for the First Lady Michelle Obama. Frye’s responsibilities included spearheading the national effort to combat childhood obesity and supporting military families.
“One of the great privileges of working with this administration is I that I got to work with people who lived through these difficult experiences themselves. The First Lady spoke frequently about her life before politics, of just the day-to-day struggles of a working family.”
Women continue to struggle, when you examine the latest census data released this month. The gender wage gap is still there, despite our efforts to close it. Women earn 78% of what men earn and little progress has been made since 2006. When you look at the timing, the stagnation could have something to do with the Great Recession and our continued recovery from it, but that’s part of the problem, acknowledges Frye. Between fighting policy decisions that aren’t supportive of women and economic recovery, it’s easy to become a firefighter, losing the ability to build on what’s been done because you’re trying to save the house itself.
“People are putting out a lot of fires – and often doing fire drills around discrete issues and not looking at the big picture. That’s a way of keeping people in their individual silos and not working together in a collaborative way,” Frye said.
Erin Byrd, executive director of Blueprint North Carolina, will also be speaking at the Summit, with the hopes of inspiring women to take greater control of our destiny. “The focus will be on what things women have in common and learning to have more compassion for each other in areas where we’re different,” she shared with me.
Byrd’s talk is positioned towards the end of the Summit, in the hopes of inspiring people to use their passion to fuel action. “It is a lot easier to talk about it than it is to do something about it,” she said. “Ultimately, women have the numbers to do what we want if we work together.”
Other issues that will be taken up at the Summit include domestic violence, mental health, education, online activism, career advancement, and much more. There are still tickets available for only $12. If you can’t make it to the Talley Center at NC State in Raleigh, some of the sessions will be streamed online. Visit the Women AdvaNCe homepage on the day of the Summit for instructions.
Tell your friends, and tell them to get ready, because all of our “snippets” on Friday will add up to a ROAR and it just may be enough to shake things up in Raleigh.