March is Women's History Month: an annual celebration of women's many contributions to events in history and contemporary society. This year's theme, "Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” seeks to pay tribute to the invaluable efforts of caregivers and frontline workers during the ongoing pandemic. It also aims to recognize the myriad ways that women, spanning all cultures and backgrounds, have provided healing and hope throughout history.
With that in mind, we asked some of our Ethic team members to spotlight a woman whom they believe has delivered healing and hope. Here’s what they had to say:
Emma Smith, Communications
Eleanor Roosevelt, invited by Frank Sinatra in 1960 to share just one poignant word with viewers of his television special, proferred "hope", describing it as "the most neglected word in our language." And hope was something that the former First Lady offered countless people around the world—hope for a more peaceful, prosperous future in which everyone enjoyed access to fundamental freedoms.
Eleanor was an indefatigable champion for human rights, often taking up the cause of those that wielded significantly less power and influence—including immigrants, communities of color, and women. She did so even when it might have proved politically inconvenient or fraught with danger; her work on civil rights in particular earned her devotees and death threats.
Further, as a world ravaged by war and suffering sought to recover and heal, Eleanor played an instrumental role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a landmark document that defined and codified the fundamental dignities to which all individuals should be entitled. Eleanor helped to redefine not just the role of the First Lady but the role of women in society.
Corinne Merriman, Relationship Management
Put 'woman' and 'hope' in the same sentence, and my mind immediately goes to Jane Goodall. Best known as an ethologist, Jane Goodall has carved out a life of purpose as a lifelong environmentalist, policy advocate, and human rights activist. She focuses on the positive impacts that individuals and communities can have, and through her nonprofit organization the Jane Goodall Institute, has devoted the latter half of her career to inspiring hope through action and conservation.
That said, Goodall’s messaging can feel as though it bears a stark contrast to another woman who, despite being in the more nascent phase of her career, also inspires me greatly. That’s environmental activist Greta Thunberg. She is well known for wanting to eradicate the word ‘hope’ from the climate activist conversation, as made clear during her 2019 speech at Davos: “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic[...] I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
When it comes to social justice and environmental movements, I believe it is important for messages to come in all forms so as to reach as wide an audience as possible. With that in mind, these two women, embracing two completely separate approaches, both inspire me to continue to be a messenger for the values most important to me. I lean on their divergent tones in messaging on different days, but during Women’s History Month especially, I like to look back on all Jane Goodall has accomplished and meditate on her words: “We still have a long way to go. But we are moving in the right direction. If only we can overcome cruelty, to human and animal, with love and compassion we shall stand at the threshold of a new era […] and realize, at last, our most unique quality: humanity.”
Alex Acosta, Compliance
Few things have inspired more hope in me than the thought of a young, female litigator named Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“RBG”) taking on the Supreme Court in the 1970s. She did this as the co-founder and general counsel of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”).
In a slew of cases decided during that decade, RBG promoted the novel idea that our government should direct its law and policy to the function to be performed rather than the sex of the performer. At that time, what are now widely considered outdated notions of gender roles were the norm, and the Supreme Court had historically accepted the idea that classifications based on sex were acceptable.
RBG, ever the pragmatist, won some of her most pivotal cases by arguing before an all-male Supreme Court that men could be as much the victims of gender discrimination and stereotyping as their female counterparts. The strategic way in which she chose and argued her cases, building upon each one, allowed her to implement numerous legal protections against gender discrimination. And she accomplished all of this before she assumed in 1993 what was arguably her most important role: the U.S. Supreme Court’s second-ever female justice, a position in which she spent 27 years fighting tirelessly for equal rights.
As one of RBG’s ACLU colleagues, Kathleen Peratis, reflected in recent years, RBG’s relentless determination for equal rights during the 1970s “set the stage, set the tone, [and] set the expectation…[which] engendered all kinds of hope, all kinds of conviction that this was all going to happen. We just had to keep pressing, and we had to keep demanding, and we had to keep the flame lit.”
Kelly Mahoney, Growth
Even when you’re at the top of your game, it’s okay to say you’re not okay.
In 2021, tennis star Naomi Osaka entered the French Open as the #2 seed in the world. Not long after, she withdrew from the competition, citing mental health concerns. Osaka, who has spoken publicly about her battles with depression and anxiety, chose to extend this hiatus by skipping the Wimbledon tournament in favor of “personal time with friends and family.”
A few weeks later, having qualified for every single women’s gymnastic medal event at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles entered the women’s all-around competition in the #1 spot. Shortly thereafter, she decided to remove herself from the team final, noting she was “not in the right headspace.”
Simone and Naomi, both among the best in the world in their respective sports, used their platforms to show others that it’s okay to put yourself first. Through their acts, these two elite athletes helped to destigmatize mental health issues in professional sports and beyond. Both sent a powerful message that no one is immune to stress and pressure, and sometimes taking the time to prioritize one’s own wellbeing is the best and bravest course of action.
Isabelle Raphael, Creative
Through dedication and grassroots activism, politician and activist Stacey Abrams has worked to help more Americans engage with the democratic process.
After serving for 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia. She earned more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history but ultimately lost to Brian Kemp in 2018. In the wake of that election, which surfaced allegations that Kemp’s campaign had knowingly engaged in acts of widespread voter suppression, Abrams decided to take positive action. She launched the advocacy nonprofit Fair Fight to protect voter rights and ensure that every American has the opportunity to be heard in our election system.
Hand in hand with other grassroots organizations, Abrams’ campaigning inspired more than 800,000 new voters—particularly those that have historically been underrepresented in the democratic process—to register ahead of the 2020 presidential election. She focuses on the broken system and works relentlessly to see that democracy functions for everyone.