Well, we’re going through a time now in which we all have the opportunity to get to know who we really are: what we care about, when we’re willing take a stand, and how much of a stand we’re willing to take.
We are each testing our own ideas of ethical leadership and who we really are.
This is not easy stuff: The issues that our country is grappling with right now can be tricky, emotional, and complex. Just this week, we are dealing with the after-effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and staring at Hurricane Jose; in turn, we are questioning how much of this may be driven by climate change, and what we are willing to do about it. And we’re simultaneously contending with the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA.
Physical damage and destruction. Emotional damage and destruction.
I spend a lot of my time focused on the issue of gender economic equality. No connection between that and these issues, right? Well, not exactly......
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a group at the United Nations. I was asked if more women with more money could help stop climate change; I stuttered a (really poor) answer — and, frankly, I thought it was a really weird question.
Sure, I thought, climate change can be a gender issue because it can be a socioeconomic issue. Those with fewer financial resources can lack the means to leave the low-lying areas that can be most impacted. And this in turn means women can be more affected due to the gendered distribution of wealth.
But, I now believe that women can also be part of the solution: Women give more money, as a share of their wealth, to nonprofits than men do. As we become wealthier, we can direct our money to a cause like this.
And how about the collapse of DACA?
Immigration is a fraught and complex issue; each of us is having to face how we feel about it beyond a for-it-or-against-it fashion. Control the flow of immigrants? Build a wall? Deport undocumented immigrants? Deport the children of undocumented immigrants, many of whom may have only ever known this country as their home?
The issue gets emotional quickly, as it should. For me, it’s hard not to think of my own children when considering my position: What if they were to be deported from the only home and life they had ever known?
But does gender play a role here? It may: In politics, we know that women are more likely to work across the aisle more effectively, to find bipartisan solutions. We know that, when men negotiate, they focus more on winning while women focus more on a win-win.
All well and good, but what can each of us do?
Call our elected representatives. Today. It matters; it really matters. I don’t think many of us want to sit these issues out. (I happen to know that my representatives and I agree on these particular issues; I called them anyway. When the individual answering the phone assured me that my representative was working on it, I replied that I want him to work HARD on it. I hope they receive an avalanche of calls to underscore that point.)
One other thought: As I consider which issues I want to engage with, give money to, march for, I use a couple of very simple rules. I ask myself “What type of country do I want my children to live in?” I also ask myself if I am acting like the person I hope that they become when they grow up. (The greatest clarity for me on ethical issues always emerges when I ask myself the simple question: If my children were standing next to me, what behavior would I want them to see? Not just words, but behavior.)
Engaged, caring citizen — of the U.S. and of the world. That’s what I want them to see and to be. And to see how we, as women, can use our power and our money to get us there.
About Sallie Krawcheck