It's Time for a Corporate Women's Uprising

02/22/2011 08:52 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

You've heard the phrase, "If you want something done, you have to do it yourself." If this is true, then it is time for women to rise up together and demand a change in our corporate leadership. What will it take for women to stage an effective uprising against the traditional male power structures in corporations?

The time for change feels ripe. There is a tidal wave of community activism going on. Some will lead to important dialogues, others are toppling governments, while others will unfortunately lead to the powerful silencing the many. Yet transformation seems to be in the air, both in our institutions and in our own restless spirit yearning for deeper meaning and more significant acknowledgment of our needs and dreams.

These movements begin with a spark of anger -- the moment one person feels that enough is enough and their actions call on and electrify those who have also been abused, held back or denied what they feel are their human rights. The energy empowers the group to rise up. The fervor for change fuels their outcry. Small and large, the movements are happening around us and within us, impacting every part of our civilization.

In my post, "The Decade of the Woman is Upon Us," I detailed the growing power of women world-wide due to an increase in financial self-sufficiency, urban migration, more access to education, mobile technologies, micro-credit and low-market entry costs. Over one billion women will enter the workforce or start businesses by 2020. There are nearly the same number of women and men in the U.S. workforce and an increasing number of women are moving into management positions each year.

Women, even if you don't have the power, you have the numbers to make a difference. What's stopping you from standing together and demanding parity in pay, recognition, access to resources and opportunities? Isn't it time you are represented in decision-making? Are you so afraid of being called feminists that you would prefer to win and lose your personal battles than rise up together to change the systems? If the movement needs a different name, then call it something else. How about the Corporate Equality Movement?

I'm not suggesting anyone beat down or seek to control men. I'm suggesting that women stand together to demand being treated as equals and being heard for who they are. For example, what has motivated most male leaders in the past has been the desire to crush the competition. This is not what motivates many top talent women and younger generation men. Instead, they want to be first to market, to be boldly innovative and to be recognized by the world for their cool accomplishments. The end result is the same: You crush the competition. Yet I've worked with executives who wrongly judged people when their goals, methods and motivators didn't match those stated at the top.

Aren't you tired of being told you create your own glass ceiling with your life choices? How much longer will you tolerate outdated assumptions?

Leaders need to understand who you are and what motivates you. You need to be seen, acknowledged and represented in decision-making. Actually, it's time everyone is equally heard and respected for what they contribute. Corporate leaders don't tend to do this well. If you wait for the leaders to be enlightened, you probably won't see changes in your lifetime.

What will propel women to take a stand together? Who should the leaders of this movement be?

Most of the women I coach and work with have a deep call inside to be vehicles for change, for having an outlet to express their best skills, gifts and wisdom in a significant way and for making an important contribution in their company or the world. Yet they either suffer in silence, like the woman who came up to me after my last speech with tears in her eyes because she just couldn't leave her technical management job in a Fortune 100 company right now -- a job that was killing her spirit -- because she had a family to support. Or they fight their battles on their own, becoming isolated warriors who eventually tire of the battle and seek a job somewhere else.

If there was a unified uprising, women could become revolutionaries fueled by their anger and their passion for an amazing picture of what the workplace could be. Instead of complaining about what is wrong, create the picture of what is right, reasonable and profitable. Then hold it high

This isn't just about women's rights; it's about human rights. And it is for the good of our country, which has become economically crippled by old and inefficient management styles, archaic gender assumptions and hierarchical systems.

Yes women face huge opposition. So did the women in Egypt, many of whom said they were energized by the uprising. For the first time, they banded together to make their views heard in public as they passed through the crowd, arm-in-arm. Continuing opposition hovers over the female politicians who stand for women's rights here in the U.S. but they march on.

If a corporate uprising doesn't work, things will probably return to the same unequal policies, actions and behaviors that exist in the workplace right now. Why not try? I'm imagining a world run cooperatively by conscious men and women. What can we do to make this happen?

So please, open the window and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Then join together, arm-in-arm, and show the corporate leaders that women are a force to be reckoned with. There is strength in solidarity. Forget your differences and come together to demand change.

It's time for your uprising. Let me know what I can do to help.


Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., is president of Covisioning, a leadership development organization. She can be reached at