A Seat at the Table
After listening to five hours of new ideas from speakers at the University of Georgia’s TEDx conference in March, one lesson stood out to me. It came from Susan Fonseca, a 1996 UGA graduate and founder of Women@TheFrontier, a series of in-person forums and panels that features female leaders. Fonseca spoke about the “silent roar of female game-changers.” She noted that while women make up 50 percent of the population, they make up a much smaller percentage of CEOs, politicians and presidents. If women are 50 percent of the world, why don’t we always have 50 percent of the seats at the table?
Fonseca is one person in the growing chorus of women fighting to put them on the same playing field as men. Why did her speech stand out to me, more so than the environmental activists or the public health advocates? It could have been because, as a young female starting my career, I identified with what she had to say. She, like author and Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, have been bringing attention to the topic of equal representation in the business world. Most likely, it was a combination of the two.
I’m less than two years out of college, and while earnings for women with college degrees have increased more than 30 percent since women in my mother’s generation received their diplomas, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In the leisure and hospitality industry, the numbers are a little better—83.5 cents for every dollar—but they aren’t equal. And we still haven’t elected our first female president. Where are the female game-changers?
Fonseca urges women to not wait for a place at the table, but to build their own tables. “Perhaps it’s time to consider if the voices at the table actually represent the collective us,” she says. “Imagine what we’re missing out on—in imagination, creativity, ingenuity, potential opportunity—when half of us are not part of the conversation.”
Do you feel like you have a seat at the table? Or are you building your own?