For the past 20 years, my work has been driven by a single question (that those of you who know me are probably sick of hearing): what if half of the leaders were women?
I've asked that question hundreds - maybe thousands of times since running across it in the book, Sex and Power. I never finished the book - I couldn't get past that question: what if half of the leaders were women?
The question was profound for me for a number of reasons.
First, feminist that I am, I had thought about what it mean to have more women leaders. But I had never stopped to think about what it would be like if half of our leaders were women: half of our elected officials, half of our corporate leadership, half of the leaders at every decision-making table around the world.
I believe the world would be a better place. And I have yet to find a person who disagrees. I'm sure they are out there - I just haven't met them.
The other reason the question affected me so profoundly was that it a created a significant shift in my thinking. For years, my work had been motivated by the idea that women had a right to be at the table. We're more than half of the population, more than half of the registered voters, more than half of the college graduates in the US; women have a right to be at the table.
I knew we also have a reason for being there. In study after study, researchers have found that having women at the table does make a difference: better financial returns, less risky behavior, more innovation, enhanced corporate social responsibility. There was clear evidence that having women at the table does make a difference.
But when I thought about what the impact would be if women were half of the leaders in every walk of life, and my firm belief that we would have better decision-making at every level, more women leaders suddenly became a responsibility.
Women have a responsibility to step up and be at the table. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to help run the world to men.
I know - as if women didn't already have enough responsibilities on their lists of to-dos.