Lego’s new “Women of NASA” collection is a breath of fresh air sweeping through the stale negativity and tired politicking of Women’s History Month. Instead of lamenting all the barriers that face girls and women, Lego has taken a different approach: highlight women who have changed our world and put them into the hands of the little girls who will take up their torches.
That’s certainly a better way to inspire young girls. Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride (pictured above), Nancy Grace Roman, and Mae Jemison show what is possible, rather than a fixation on how old vestiges of sexism continue to hold women back.
This approach stands in sharp contrast to the rhetoric coming from those behind the “Day Without a Woman Strike,” which once again pushes the idea that women are all disadvantaged victims.
This message—that society’s deck is still consistently stacked against women—is also sent in more subtle ways, even in spite of the best intentions. For example, in his recent speech to the joint session of Congress, President Trump reiterated his commitment to partner with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada to “help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.”
Certainly, this effort is well intended, but it is ultimately condescending. It reiterates the presumption that women are disadvantaged and need government’s help to have a chance at success. The evidence is much more encouraging. According to research from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) cited in the Atlantic:
[a]bout 29 percent of America's business owners are women, [and] that’s up from 26 percent in 1997. The number of women-owned firms has grown 68 percent since 2007, compared with 47 percent for all businesses.
Furthermore, women account for more than half of all professionals and are more than half of all managers in businesses. Clearly women are increasingly playing a more prominent role in companies large and small—a trend we can expect to continue in the years to come as young women, who tend to be better educated than their male peers, enter and move up in the work world.
According to the History.com, International Women’s Day is “a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women,” and Lego is certainly acting in that spirit. There are so many inspiring women in history and among us today who we can look to for inspiration and motivation. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Myer, Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Kellyanne Conway and many other women on both sides of the political aisle are readily available examples of achievement and progress.
The theme of this day shouldn’t be “we could if only …” It should be “we did, and let’s keep going!” This message is far more powerful in setting up the next generation to succeed.