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Then and Now: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Posted on April 12, 2017
Mike Pence and Freedom Caucus
Not a single woman was pictured in a roomful of lawmakers discussing health care reform, including possible changes to women’s health services. We have seen this many times before.

When Vice President Pence tweeted a photo of a recent White House meeting, I flashed back to a photo I took in 1987. I had been appointed by the Mayor of Philadelphia to the advisory committee for We the People 200, the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution. A focal point of the celebration was a large gathering on Independence Mall with a stage in front of Independence Hall that held a large crowd of dignitaries, including President Reagan.

From my seat in the audience, it struck me that there was not a single woman on that stage. I took a photo of the stage, blew it up, framed it, and hung it on my office wall. I captioned it: "What's wrong with this picture?"

That was 30 years ago, and the photo Pence tweeted has me asking the same question today. It shows a roomful of lawmakers discussing health care reform, including possible changes to women’s health services such as maternity care and preventive screenings. There is not a single woman in the picture. 

While we certainly have made progress on shared leadership in the 97 years since women earned the right to vote, there is a long way to go.

Women account for more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, yet we make up less than 6 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies. We hold fewer than 20 percent of board seats at those companies. We also hold fewer than 20 percent of the seats in Congress. In the current U.S. Cabinet, women hold 15 percent of the seats, compared to 30 percent in President Barack Obama’s first term and 19 percent in President George W. Bush’s first term. None of these figures across business and government is close to 50 percent.

The unfinished business of women’s equality and 50-50 shared leadership deserves our attention and action. That is why Vision 2020 is excited to participate in something new this year.

Let It Ripple, one of our National Allies, has created 50/50 Day – a global conversation about gender equality and women in leadership taking place on Wednesday, May 10. The concept is simple: using film, educate people on women’s leadership roles in history and where we are today, then hold a discussion about how we can move forward to achieve shared leadership.

Participation in 50/50 Day is open to anyone and can take several forms. You might attend a large event with featured speakers, host a small group of friends in your home, or simply watch the documentary on your own computer and join the conversation online.

In Philadelphia, Vision 2020 is hosting a 50/50 Day screening and panel discussion with leaders from business and government. We invite our delegates, allies and partners in the area to attend, and we encourage all of you around the country to coordinate your own Vision 2020 50/50 Day gatherings; if you are interested, contact us to get our toolkit.

It is clear where women want to go. Working together is the way to get there.