A Lesson on Feminist Leadership

May 17, 2021 HERdacity Season 2 Episode 49
A Lesson on Feminist Leadership
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Feminist Management & Leadership

In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Cat Ashton about the value of feminism in the workplace. Four times more women than men dropped out of the labor force in 2020 due to COVID-19 challenges. Regardless of whether it’s because of pandemic-related causes or childcare duties, one thing is clear: the workplace is disproportionately unforgiving to women's experiences. As a feminist leader and entrepreneur, Cat teaches us that the gender inequities pervading the workplace today can only be challenged once we begin to understand and accommodate the candid lives of working women. From unlearning our own socialization to creating an empathetic culture, Cat helps us realize that underneath the job titles and day-to-day do’s, we are people first. So, let us go forth with a sense of confidence and unapologetically bring our authentic feminist selves into the workplace!

Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Catherine Ashton

Catherine Ashton (she/her) is on a mission to change the way nonprofits raise money. As the founder of Giant Squid Group LLC, Catherine works with nonprofits to land donors, win grants, and fund their works.  She is a sought-after coach, speaker, and strategist locally and nationally, and specializes in helping organizations marry best practices and mission-aligned innovation to drive systems-level change.  She is dedicated to promoting inclusivity and equity in the nonprofit sector, and has been a raging feminist from a young age. In her “outside of work” time she's volunteering with the Austin Diaper Bank,  or chasing her energetic daughter, Rosalind down the nearest hiking trail.

Things you will learn in this episode (chapter markers available):  

  • Feminism 1:28
  • When one domino falls, the others follow 8:00
  • Bring your lunch AND your feminism 12:34
  • Picture this: Your Authentic Self 16:49 
  • Changing the culture 18:46
  • Company-wide implementation 24:30
  • Femme fact: The Olympic Games 29:10

Resources mentioned in this episode:  

Episode sponsors:  

Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “I’m Not a ‘Mom Boss’ | HER Side” by Catherine Ashton

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Sponsor: Today's episode is brought to you by HERdacity. HERdacity is a non-profit inspiring confidence in women to achieve their professional goals. For resources, networking opportunities, and a strong community of women, visit herdacity.org to learn more.


Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. Welcome back to HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make career moves, and HERdacious is here to help you on that. My name is Lorelei, the happy host of the show, and today we're gonna be talking about feminist management and leadership. To assist me in this amazing conversation, I have non-profit growth coach and speaker, the founder and CEO of Giant Squid Group LLC, a social impact consulting agency. Ms. Catherine Ashton.


Cat: Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be here on HERdacious today.


Lorelei: I'm really excited to have you here today, 'cause this is going to be a wonderful feminist conversation.


Cat: We're digging back to our 20's roots, our college days, banging down the door door. No. We're a little more grown up than that, but I definitely am excited to talk feminism, I don't get to do it as often.


Lorelei: Yes, we don't get to do it enough. Feminist management and leadership. What is a feminist perspective, Cat? Just help us out with launching this conversation.


Cat: It's such a good question, Lorelei. And as I was thinking about it, I went, "Everyone knows what feminism is, right?"


Lorelei: Wrong.


Cat: And then I thought, "Do I know what feminism is?" So really what it comes down to is feminism is the idea that all women should have the same opportunities and access as men. Sounds simple. We all probably, if you're listening to this podcast, had some sort of gender studies sometime in your life, and you probably know that feminism is a complex topic. It's often a bit of a dirty word depending on what community you're in. It's politicized, it's slandered, people are called Femme Nazis. So we're comparing it feminism to Nazis? Okay, that's a leap. And it's just complicated, so even to call myself a feminist now that I'm 34, running a business, has felt like a bit of a courageous leap, and I think that we should all be able to call ourselves feminists.


Lorelei: Why?


Cat: Why? Why not?


Lorelei: [laughter] Accurate, but tell me why.


Cat: Because while we might say that feminism is just about gender equality, we know it is so much more than that, or I hope that we can start to think about how it's more than that. Being a woman is hard. Being a woman at work is hard, being a woman who stays at home is hard. Whatever your path is, there are so many obstacles and identities that are put on us that are really, really challenging to navigate, and if we don't have a framework for demanding equity, inequality whatever that looks like at work, at home, in your career, in your education will hold us back in so many ways that we're gonna talk about today.


Lorelei: Excellent, so tell me, how has your feminist lens changed your career and your experiences in the workforce?


Cat: I always thought I was a feminist. I was very, very fortunate to grow up with a mother who was an unapologetic feminist. My first boss who I worked for for years in Chicago was probably the most progressive feminist I had ever met. I worked at a gay bar in uptown Chicago for years, and she was a trailblazer. She was queer, she was a feminist, and she and my mother both modeled, "Do whatever the fuck you want. And people will get out of your way." Looking back, I can see how courageous they were, so I went into my 20's and 30's thinking, "I got this. I'm a feminist," and then I started to realize I felt a little bit like a frog in boiling water. Things were getting worse and worse around me, toxic workplaces were eroding my self-esteem, I felt like I needed to be a perfectionist all the time, that I had to carry all the emotional labor of home and work. I work in non-profit fundraising, so I was always on display as well. Talking to donors, having to wear make-up, having to wear high heels, and somewhere along the way, I think I strayed from that feminism of my youth and the feminism I studied in college, and all of a sudden I was just going with the flow. Kind of miserable, to be honest. It came to a head professionally when I had my daughter in 2017. I gave birth to my daughter, which was not a surprise, was wonderful, but I was surprised by the experience of navigating maternity leave at a company that I thought had really family forward policies. I felt incredibly alone throughout the process, incredibly disappointed, and even now, four years later, it's one of those really yucky memories that just kind of gets my tackles up every time I think about it. Everything I had experienced up until that point and navigating the maternity leave and stepping into this pretty seismically different role of motherhood, brought it all together, so in what might have been brilliant, might have been just lack of sleep, I started a company. Well, so that's really how it's changed my career is I threw it all out the window and started a company with a two-month old.


Lorelei: Oh! To circle back on your prior work experience, you became an entrepreneur. When you were talking about maternity leave, I hear from you that they had a culture that that was okay on the surface...


Cat: Yes. I think most of the places I have worked [and I'm excited that this has come up because I'm literally having a text conversation with a former boss about maternity leave] said, "Yes, of course, we support working mothers."


Lorelei: They say one thing...


Cat: They say one thing, maybe they have it in their handbook. They probably don't have any maternity leave or parental leave, which is a topic we could discuss at length. That's another podcast.


Lorelei: Oh yeah.


Cat: And then you live it. And then you tell your boss you're pregnant, and whether or not you do have a child, I think the navigation of maternity leave for women is just a really, really clear lens of how a lack of feminist leadership impacts us because it's so big. So I told my boss I was pregnant, and I ended up having to navigate the six months of being pregnant in the workplace alone. I was expected to completely create a plan for covering my maternity leave. I was told I couldn't hire anyone and that the work would be waiting for me when I came back, and no matter how much I advocated for myself... And keep in mind, at this point, I was in a senior leadership role... It was basically "too bad you chose to have a kid."


Lorelei: Oh okay.


Cat: That was the undertone. When I decided not to come back, it was largely because I knew I would be stepping back into a role that would not have support, because it had been modeled that parenting was one thing, and work was another thing, and there was no room for them to meet. Anyone who has a life, whether you have kids or dogs or house plants knows that work and life mix. They meet and they should. And I felt like there was no way for me to bring my whole self to work when I had become a mother and manage work, my child and my mental health. It was pretty clear which one had to give.


Lorelei: Right, how do you think the lack of feminist values being incorporated into management and leadership roles hurts the workforce in general? In your story about your workforce maternity leave experience it is probably not anywhere in the realm of unheard of. Let's be clear, like so many women listening to show, so many women we know, there've been women before us have had that experience, they feel alone, they feel let down, they feel like the company was talking the talk, but not walking the walk.


Cat: Yes.


Lorelei: How do we think that hurts the workforce as a whole?


Cat: It does hurt more than just women, so I'm really glad you brought that up. And yes, my maternity leave experience, as negative as it was for me, was fairly benign when I compare it to a lot of the other women I know. And I had the completely unwarranted privilege and luxury of being able to quit my job and start a company. I had the support system that not a lot of women have, and so of course, it looks like women are the only ones impacted. We're seeing nationally how a lack of family-forward policies, or what I would call feminist policies and feminist management, are impacting everyone. Covid is such a great and tragic example of how a lack of supporting women impacts all of us. I was reading a recent study by the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress that talked about how almost a million women have dropped out of the workforce in 2020.


Lorelei: Yeah, they're calling that the she-session.


Cat: Yes, it's gonna cost us billions of dollars as an economy. Billions with a B. It's going to undermine family economic security, a lot of these women want to work. For many women, work is not a luxury, but we tend to paint it as, "Oh, I could stay at home with my child or I could go to work."


Lorelei: Nah, it's a necessity.


Cat: It is a necessity. These women are bread winners, they are part of the economy, they are part of their family, and because we haven't built a culture of work that allows for women to show up fully and authentically, they are being driven out of the workforce. And we are going to see this last an entire generation of women.


Lorelei: What was that rate?


Cat: I think it was four times as many women than men have dropped out of the workforce in 2020, and it's about 800 000 women.


Lorelei: Wow.


Cat: Yes, and of course, unfortunately, many of those women are women of color or women from lower income families who have had to make the choice between taking care of their children or their families or their parents, or being able to work. Which is a choice that women should be able to make on their own and not one that is made for them.


Lorelei: Right, 'cause the economic consequences are going to be severe.


Cat: Yes.


Lorelei: So we're talking about the lack of feminist values and the toll it takes on our society as a whole, let's dig in a little bit more, how does that affect maybe our male counterparts? How does that affect our pocket books?


Cat: What I experienced on maternity leave, what I experience as a woman in the workplace, and I think what we're nationally experiencing impacts men, women, family, friends, all of us. I have heard from so many peers, including men, that they feel like they can't take care of their families because they have to live at work, which is not sustainable. And why does anyone wanna live at work? I love my job and I still like to spend time away from my desk. I have a dear friend who's husband was penalized and actually driven out by wanting to take a paternity leave.


Lorelei: What?


Cat: Yes, and that's not uncommon as well. So many companies have an unlimited PTO policy, that they're not supposed to use. They can't take the time. They have a paternity policy on the books 'cause it looks great, and then when he wanted to take it, his manager started really gaslighting him and treating him poorly. And ultimately he ended up leaving with an HR grievance on file. So again, another example. And I think we all have a lot of examples, but what that means is that it takes a toll on us. It takes a toll on women, men, families. It takes a toll on companies. I know as an employer, my employees are the heartbeat of my work, I could not do this without them. And if they were forced to leave, I would be up the creek where I need them. We're also seeing a lack of skilled labor right now. Companies are having a hard time finding talent, and the story we keep hearing is because people can't work because of life, because they have to be a caretaker, because they have an elderly parent. Because they have a child, and if we continue to assume that everyone can work nine to five butts in seats, we're seeing how unsustainable that is. It's not going to get better.


Lorelei: I don't think it's reasonable to expect that it's gonna get better, it's gonna get worse. And it's gonna pull our nation down, it's gonna disrupt our intellectual capital as a society.


Cat: I feel like maternity leave, or paternal leave in this case, is a canary in a coal mine. It shows us how broken the system is, and it shows us how a lack of what I call feminist perspective or feminist leadership, in which other folks might call family forward policies, are critical to everyone in order for our economy to flourish.


Lorelei: So how might folks start taking their feminist perspectives into their leadership roles?


Cat: I really wanna say, "Just do it, just be a feminist at work," and I also know that I still have a hard time answering the question of what that is. So it really is a complex question. At its core, feminism is about respecting the experiences and the identities of all women and working towards gender equality. That sounds great, but sweeping platitudes about feminist theory aren't going to help us when we have a crappy boss who's telling us to smile.


Lorelei: Right.


Cat: And I think those are the experiences a lot of us can have. What I've come to in my own work, and so much of this is based on my own experience over the last 15 years in the workforce and four years as an entrepreneur, is that feminist leadership starts by modeling how women can bring their whole selves to work. Your experiences you've had, your identities, the knowledge you have, whether it's professional or otherwise, and the strengths that you have. That's really important. We face so much crap at work. I think back to when I was in a senior leadership position, how many times I was asked if I was a secretary because I was a 30-year-old woman, and I know that I'm not alone in that. I hear so many women lamenting about the emotional labor they perform at home, and we bitch about it, particularly if you're married to a cisgender man. We're probably carrying more of the emotional labor.


Lorelei: Well, that doesn't stop at home.


Cat: It doesn't stop at home. You're also making coffee and picking up donuts or being asked to come in at 7 AM to let someone in the building. You see that your male counterparts are not being asked the same thing. So how do you bring your feminist self to work when you might just wanna cuss out your boss or go sit in the corner and cry? Again, it goes back to just acknowledging, acknowledging that you need to bring your full self to work and holding space for it. I try to model that by living what I want other people to experience. So the way that I brought my feminist leadership into the workplace, and I have the privilege of being able to do whatever I want as the leader of my business, is by modeling what I want. I want it to be normal that we have lives. My life has an obnoxious cat, a dog that pops into video calls, and a three-year-old who has been known to run into many meetings, butt naked saying "Hi, friends," or "Look at me." And my clients know, particularly during the pandemic, when she was home, that when you work with me, there's a 50% chance you're gonna get mooned by a three-year-old.


Lorelei: Eh, hazards of work.


Cat: I also noticed that when I started bringing other women on to my team, whether or not they were mothers, they seemed paralyzed to be themselves. They would apologize incessantly for, "Oh, my kid was up all night, teething. And I'm so out of it today, I'm really tired." And I'm thinking, "Bitch, go take a nap." And I really had to push them to go take a nap or stop apologizing or feeling like they had to justify taking time off. Even though they are all part-time contractors, there was this overwhelming justification of the fact that they had lives. And being in a leadership position and hearing what I know I had probably offered my bosses over the years was sharing. And so modeling it meant my kid's butt naked and that's what you get. Or, "I'm going to take a nap. Don't call me," and really being very candid, very transparent and very clear with my expectations for their work. But more than that, my expectations for them to take care of themselves. I hate that that's radical. I think it should just be decent management, but I also know it's not something that I have ever experienced in the workplace, which is really unfortunate.


Lorelei: And I want you to clarify for us that you think all folks can take their feminism to work with them.


Cat: Yes. Men, women, anyone, no matter how you identify, you can bring feminist values to work, and that starts with allowing people to bring their whole selves to work.


Lorelei: What does that look like?


Cat: I can tell you what it doesn't look like.


Lorelei: Yes! Let's start there.


Cat: One of the women on my team, who is probably one of the most valuable folks I've ever worked with, one of the most brilliant people I've ever worked with, came to me after she left her last company because of a maternity leave snafu. She was in a fairly senior position, and after she had her kids, she asked if she could leave work half an hour early most days to get home. Get on the train, pick them up from childcare...


Lorelei: Half an hour...


Cat: A half an hour early. And they said no. And I know this woman. She has the work ethic of... Gosh, I don't even know. She's incredible. I know she was getting there early, I know she was winning millions of dollars in grants, and they put her in the untenable position of choosing between having her butt in a seat or taking care of her son. Like me, she had the privilege of being able to walk away from that. And then she called me, and I benefited big time from them fucking her over [sorry for my language]. But what an example of how a lack of feminist leadership undermines not only the company, but the people that work for it.


Lorelei: In order to not undermine the show, we're gonna take a quick sponsor break, we'll be right back.


Sponsor: Hi, Barbie here from Moonray, husband and wife indie-pop duo. If you enjoy the intro-music, we invite you to listen to our debut EP Honeymoon. Streaming now on all platforms. Visit www.moonray-music.com for more.


Lorelei: And we're back talking with Cat Ashton about feminist management and leadership. Cat, how does managing with a feminist perspective change workplace culture?


Cat: Being a feminist manager and leader, to me, is so inextricably tied to my personal experiences through my career that I can only speak to what I've done to change my culture. But I hope that that can serve as a model for other folks looking to change their culture and bring some feminist leadership and feminist perspective into their work, whether they're a manager or just like a development coordinator, like I was when I started on this journey. If we start to think about bringing a feminist perspective into the workplace to change the culture, I think we start to see how family forward policies that we talked about allow us to bring our whole selves to work. I've said that multiple times, bringing our whole selves to work. But what does that mean?


Lorelei: Yes.


Cat: It means you can leave half an hour early because you have a kid, it means you can take time off if a parent dies and you need to take care of them, it means you can take a mental health day and watch Dancing with the Stars if you need to recharge. It means that we acknowledge that people are people.


Lorelei: Human beings got feelings and challenges.


Cat: We have feelings. They're messy, very joyful, they're complicated, and we can't just show up to work and compartmentalize ourselves into a little box and then go home and live our lives.


Lorelei: Right.


Cat: It all sounds really wonderful and radical, and we're all gonna have these perfectly balanced lives, but as we talked about, if you don't allow people to live their lives, their work suffers...


Lorelei: And the bottom line suffers.


Cat: Yes, then the workplace culture suffers and the bottom line suffers for sure. And the economy suffers, as we're seeing right now. As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic and folks are struggling to hire.


Lorelei: 'Cause low retention costs a lot of money for companies.


Cat: I hate hiring. If nothing else, being a feminist leader means I don't have to hire as many people, and very selfishly, that's a great goal for me. I find it really challenging. It's expensive, like you said. It's incredibly time-consuming, it's incredibly nerve-racking, and I know I'm not alone in that. I don't ever wanna have to hire a bunch of people because I drove out good talent, so if I can create a culture where we're bringing our whole selves to work and I'm able to mentor folks and people are transparent about what's going on in their lives, whether it's I'm having a shitty day and I need to take a beat, or I need more career progression and I need a mentor to help me get there. We all benefit because we're able to work more productively and bring all of our talents to the table. And I'm gonna reiterate this because I'm so passionate about it. When we bring our whole selves to work and we create space for that, ideas that might seem really radical, like salary transparency [God forbid, we talk about the amount of money we're paid], mentoring, promoting, negotiating for a better pay, negotiating for a better job title, and even getting into really, really challenging topics like equity and anti-racist principles in the workplace, they become a whole lot less scary because they aren't threatening the status quo. They're supporting the whole team.


Lorelei: Oh, that's powerful. Good call out. Thank you for them. Do you think there are any downsides to incorporating feminism into our management styles or these workplace cultures? Just playing devil's advocate here.


Cat: I don't know if there are any downsides per se, and none come to mind. But there are certainly very big challenges. Like my biggest challenge has been unlearning really a lifetime of socialization.


Lorelei: Yes, every time!


Cat: Every time, right? I mean, for those of us who are high performing women, I'm a 34-year-old white woman living in the suburbs. I got a lot of identities I have to unpack that are very, very easy to fall back into. So I'm learning my own internalized misogyny to be the kind of leader and mentor I want to be has definitely been a challenge for me.


Lorelei: Do you have any perfectionist tendencies?


Cat: Who doesn't? I mean, yes. Yes, I do. I've certainly had to make a concerted effort to learn and to commit to this. This doesn't come naturally, I didn't wake up one morning and say, "I am going to be a great feminist leader, and my team shall the adore me and I should mentor them." It takes a lot of humility, it takes a lot of falling down, it takes a lot of saying stupid things and admitting it. And so I really had to look at my own education, looking at leadership programs, reading books, and just striving to be the kind of person and manager, I want to be, which is certainly easier said than done. And certainly a luxury that we don't all have if you are in a toxic workplace or you are working to put food on the table.


Lorelei: Right. So not many downsides, but plenty of hurdles.


Cat: Not many downsides. But plenty, plenty of hurdles. And on a bigger scale, I think we see how often it's easy to talk about creating culture change. Maybe you have a DEI committee at work, or a women's group at work. And we have wonderful conversations about that. DEI is a buzz word, or JEDI, as we're calling it now, or whatever.


Lorelei: Yes, that's justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. For those of you all not in the know.


Cat: We're calling it a lot of fun names to avoid having to do the work.


Lorelei: Yeah, talk the talk, again, but not walking the walk.


Cat: Yes, and to walk the walk, it's hard, it's really hard. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing a team with feminist values. In the same way that there's no one-size-fits all in terms of being a woman.


Lorelei: Yeah, so how do you think people can bring feminist management and leadership into their companies as a value prop?


Cat: I think that we all have the capacity to bring feminist values to the workplace. Whether you are in a leadership position and you can start to really implement family forward policies, or if you're in a more junior position, just trying to figure all of this crap out. We can all talk about our salaries to each other, which is something that we're taught not to do, particularly as women. And that radical act instantly promotes feminism and anti-racism because we start to close the pay gap when we talk about it. We can mentor each other, which is huge. There's a lot of research and conversation about how women across the board, whether you're in a blue collar position or a high level white collar position, lack mentorship. We don't have feminist role models to look up to in our daily lives, so mentor folks. And that doesn't have to be some really, really serious relationship where you're getting coffee every week and have set times you're gonna meet. It can just be having candid conversations. I know when I hire new folks and I start to work with them, I have to really stress that there are no stupid questions. You might have a question about your taxes, and I am a huge personal finance nerd, so let's talk about it.


Lorelei: Thank goodness for you right now.


Cat: Maybe don't take my advice, but I think I know a lot. I have a lot of Excel questions, let me tell you.


Lorelei: Oh, yes.


Cat: So I love those folks where I can say, "Help me please." So creating a space for questions and sharing those experiences openly is a huge way to lift all women up. That sounds so simple, but most of us don't have those opportunities and we have to do it all ourselves, learn it all ourselves, and there's that perfectionism coming back.


Lorelei: Backwards and in heels. Well, to wrap our episode, you mentioned some amazing resources to continue our learning journeys, share some with us.


Cat: I learn by doing, and I'm all about down to earth learning that I can digest. After I put my hellian, Tasmanian devil child to bed. So for me, I really try to find resources that are accessible. My favorite professional resource, whether you are a woman, whether you are a man, whether you call yourself a feminist or not, is the blog "Ask a Manager." And I hope some of you have found it already. Have you ever read it, Lorelei?


Lorelei: I have not.


Cat: It's the best. It is a free blog. It's been around for years, 10 years or so now, and it's sort of the Dear Abby of the professional world. If you want really grounded, great advice about writing a resume or navigating some ridiculous work scenario, go to "Ask a Manager" and you will feel like this is the community of no stupid questions that you wish you'd had the whole time. So that's my number one resource. And that blog has definitely helped me throughout my career. I know it's gonna sound silly, but the sub-reddit, TrollXChromosomes is my happy place. Because we've talked a lot about how women face a lot of challenges and we face a lot of crap, and TrollXChromosomes on Reddit is a place where women just come and talk about what it's like to be a woman. And it is so refreshing, it feels so safe, so supportive, and so real that when I'm lying in bed at night scrolling Reddit [and I know I shouldn't have my phone in bed with me], it makes me happy. It makes me feel like people have my back.


Lorelei: Hey! Don't should yourself. I am a fan of TwoXChromosomes on the subreddit. That's one of my... I don't know if it's a happy place, but it's definitely an informational place.


Cat: Yes. And if I can share a word of caution or a pet peeve of mine, shall we say when we start to talk about feminism and leadership, particularly as a woman entrepreneur, is that it's hard to find discourse like this. I am so grateful to HERdacious for having this conversation, because I know as a woman entrepreneur, I have a very hard time finding real conversations about being a woman leader that really offer knowledge. There's a lot of faux feminism out there that is just as harmful and undermining of our accomplishments as it is fun. Rachel Hollis comes to mind with her book, "Girl, Wash Your Face." She's under fire right now for being racist as well, so a lot of intersectionality of feminism and anti-racism work, but I see a lot of young ambitious women gravitate towards these resources that say, "Lift yourself up by the boot straps, lean in, build your authentic life," that are disingenuous and harmful. So don't get sucked into the glitz and the glamor of faux feminism. Do the work to find what feminism means for you.


Lorelei: Alright, well, speaking of doing the work, what is your favorite Olympic sport?


Cat: I cannot tell you when the last time I watched the Olympics was.


Lorelei: What! ?


Cat: It's like maybe high school? I know. So I'm going to say horseback riding, because I grew up horseback riding and all of the men, they were boys at that point, all of the boys would say, "That's not a real sport." And they would make fun of me.


Lorelei: Equestrian work has been in the Olympics for hundreds of years.


Cat: And anyone who's done horseback riding, particularly Hunter/Jumper, which I was doing, knows that's a workout. That's a sport. So I'm going to show my ignorance of Olympic sports, but also throw down that equestrian work is a sport.


Lorelei: It is, it is. And again, it's been in the Olympics for 100 years. I don't know if it's stereotypical or not, but I've always been a huge fan of the figure skating and the gymnastics. They get me every time. Always so powerful and emotional. Now, whether you're holding your breath as those gymnasts jump through the air or quickly counting the number of stunts divers can pull off before hitting the water, there is one thing we all know. The summer 2021 Olympic games are really trying to show up this year, especially if the Tokyo organizing committee has anything to say about it. The officially re-scheduled 2020 Summer Olympics, which were postponed last year due to the global pandemic, are slated to start on Friday, July 23.


Cat: I didn't know any of this. This is all brand new to me.


Lorelei: [laughter] Well, strap in there sister. I got more for you. Every two years, the alternating seasons of the Olympic Games find their way to TV screens of millions of people around the world, and without fail, inspire community among sports fans, casual enthusiasts, like myself, and country folk alike. But it's worth noting that the signature feeling of community and camaraderie that the Olympics tends to bring out in us has not always been what it is today. So let's hit the rewind button on the Olympic games and delve into its exclusionary past. The Olympics first originated some 3,000 years ago in Ancient Greece and was rumored to have been founded by Hercules. Yes, that Hercules. To honor the Greek God Zues during a religious festival that took place in the City of Olympia. In the history of the Olympics, the four-year interval also called an Olympiad, which is why the games are hosted every four years, and to clarify the world now hosts a Summer Olympics every four years, and a Winter Olympics every four years, which run on alternating two year cycles, the Summer Olympics, then two years later, the Winter Olympics and so forth. So there were the sporting events, the rivalries, the athletes, the community pride, all that jazz. But there was not a single woman in sight. In fact, women were prohibited from not only watching the games, but obviously from competing in them. However, there was a fun loophole to this misogynistic rule. Chariot owners back in the day, back in the Grecian day, not the riders, were declared the Olympic champions and anyone could own a Chariot.


So Kyniska, daughter of a Spartan King, took advantage of this, claiming victory wreaths in 396 and 392 BC. Now, women actually had their own sporting event at the time called The Heraean games, which we covered in a prior femme fact. Now, the emergence of the modern Olympics finally saw the inclusion of women into the competition. Women first participated in the 1900 Paris Olympic Games, however, they did not compete in more "masculine" sporting events like boxing or track and field. Instead they had separate sporting categories like tennis and golf, as they were deemed more "female-appropriate." Due to the limited array of events that women could compete in, as well as the tortoise slow speed in which the Olympics were evolving at the time, women formulated their own women-only Olympic games, and kind of in retribution for the lack of representation of the Olympics. These events were spearheaded by Alice Milliat, after the International Olympic Committee refused to open a women's track and field event in the 1920 Olympics. This new Women's Olympics, later dubbed the Women's World Games after the IOC expressed extreme refusal to have any connection to the event, the Women's World Games took place four times between 1922 and 1934. They were obviously popular amongst women, attracting the participation of 12 international countries.


It was later discontinued in 1936 after the IOC had slowly started including more women's games into the Olympics, like in 1928 where possibly the most popular event in modern Olympic history was added, women's gymnastics. Other milestones included the addition of women's basketball in '76 and hockey in 1980. Fast-forward to 2012 when the official inclusion of women's boxing thereby made every single sporting event in the Olympic Games inclusive to both sexes. As of 2018, every national Olympic Committee has sent women to the Olympic games. And there you have it. It only took about 3,000 years for Olympic equality. And that my friends, is some sort of progress. On a more serious note, the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics will also be one for the history books with 48% of participating athletes being of the female persuasion. And for the first time at all of Olympic history all 206 national Olympic committees are required to have at least one female and one male athlete as part of their teams. To top it off, there was a change in IOC policy regarding gender equity starting in 2020 - all NOCs must have one male and one female athlete to jointly bear their nation's flag at opening ceremonies.


So keep your eyes peeled for our fellow athletically inclined international sisters representing their nations this summer, we think. 'Cause the pandemic. In conclusion, according to the Olympics, it is now socially acceptable for women to wrestle. So please, we encourage you, wrestle with the patriarchy every chance you get. And take home the gold, just like we'll be doing this summer. Team USA all the way. Cat, it was an absolute pleasure to have you today. Thank you for talking feminist management and leadership with us.


Cat: Thank you for having me, and I feel so educated about the Olympics now.


Lorelei: You're welcome. And all of you are welcome and encouraged to subscribe to this podcast, if you have not done so already. I also would ask that you share it with a friend or a sister, or a mother or a brother, I really don't care. Share it with people who you think might benefit from getting a little bit of career support on their professional journeys. Until next time. This is Lorelei. This was HERdacious. Go for the gold y'all.

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Femme fact: The Olympic Games