“You’ve come a long way, baby.”
I find it a little unsettling that I still launch into song when I use this phrase. In the ’60s and ’70s—about the time it became the advertising slogan I’m singing to myself right now—it became a rather contentious phrase associated with the women’s movement. One moment, you could hear it used positively; the next, spitted as if the words themselves had a bad taste. Either way, it meant that women were gaining access to more opportunities than any previous generation.
The phrase didn’t mean that access would be easy, or would come without a fight. In fact, it usually meant you needed to be ready for one! As a result, it’s not the most flattering or accurate phrase you could use in relationship to gender equity.
So I smirk when I sing it—something else not so flattering. And I use it here to make a point.
When we launched our inaugural Women Worth Watching® issue, we knew we were doing something unique. We may not have been the first to celebrate the accomplishments of women in business, but we knew by telling their stories, we could help propel the wave of high achievers that would certainly follow.
In our early issues, we featured women who were pioneers in their fields: The first woman Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton; Annika Sorenstam, the first woman to “tee it up” on the PGA men’s tour; and Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first African-American congresswoman from the state of Ohio, to name a few. We interviewed some business pioneers too, like Ford Motor Company’s first female group Vice President, Anne Stevens; Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who as CEO of Carlson Companies, became the first Chair of the National Women’s Business Council; and both Anne Mulcahy and Ursula Burns of Xerox—the first women CEOs to serve back-to-back for any Fortune 500 company.
It became our mission to highlight women blazing a trail for others to follow. These were women worth watching, we thought. We remain dedicated to that mission today.
Just this year, women have broken through barriers in a number of areas. For example, the US Navy’s promotion of Michelle J. Howard to four-star admiral made her the first woman—and the first African-American woman—to hold that post. Becky Hammon became the first full-time female coach in the NBA—and the first full-time female coach in any of the four major professional sports in America—when she was hired this year by the San Antonio Spurs. Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman ever awarded the Fields Medal—the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics. And 2014 also witnessed the first all-woman team scale K2, the second highest mountain on earth.
Which brings me again to the phrase …
No matter how far we go and how high we climb, I believe we will always have summits to conquer. Yes, we have “come a long way, baby.” But we still have a long way to go.
The women we highlight in this issue are showing us the way up the trail. Hopefully, there will be many more courageous and inspired women right behind them.