Recently, America celebrated the anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. It is important to remember that the adoption of this amendment did not happen spontaneously, or in a vacuum, but was the result of the bravery of women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many other suffragists who chose to embark on the unquestionably long journey to gain the right to vote.
As Citrin Cooperman prepared for our 5th Annual Women at the Wheel — New Jersey event, we considered the inspirational stories of our past honorees, along with the remarkable women who planned to share their stories at our event on Oct. 4, and we are reminded of the “originals” — the women who believed in the fundamental truth of their premises and ideals, and whose actions changed our world forever.
What drove the women of our past is not some magic formula, or an ability granted to a select order of individuals, but a forged certitude that kindled their courage and persistence. So how can you “bottle” that belief, and inspire other women to be the champions of their ideals, in order to improve our world?
A bestselling book called “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and one of the world’s top 25 most influential management thinkers, talks about what it’s like to make a profound difference, and what commonality there is among those who are catalysts of meaningful change. The wisdom of this book is that it gives the reader a feeling of hopefulness — a belief that we can, if we truly want to, see the world differently, and that all of us have the potential to be the agents of change.
Grant shares several powerful ideas, based on studies that span multiple industries, and teaches us that choosing to dissent, to challenge outdated ideas and to reject conformity, can literally improve our world. Without giving away the book, the lessons to be learned are; managing your fear, nurturing originality in others, and being an active participant in building a culture that embraces dissent, are akin to being able to “bottle” those beliefs that inspire sweeping change.
The scores of women originals who impacted our world all had different stories — they lived in different times, were from various socio-economic backgrounds, had different families and support systems, etc. — but they also had some things in common, namely, authenticity. Undoubtedly they also had courage, doggedness, and the like, but that came in different degrees and for different reasons. Not all of them were visionaries, with a formed end goal — some simply arrived at an opportunity that enabled them to act. It was their authenticity, and doing what they did because it was who they are, that makes them originals. They did not care about, or perhaps even consider, whether there is enough room for them and their ideas. They did not limit themselves because of societal norms and enforced gender inequality, they simply acted within their truth.
Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, who emphasized the importance of the individual psyche, said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” When our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values, but do not conform to what we have been told we should be and how things ought to be, is where the extraordinary takes shape. It is the place from which change proliferates.
Believing in this premise, sharing it within our various social and professional communities, and teaching future generations to adopt this way of thinking, enriches the world for everyone. These are the reasons why we should continue to share the stories of the originals – the women who shaped our world. It is also the reason why we endeavor to draw attention to this authenticity within these women’s stories – to plant the message, “If she can do this, so can I.”