Politics aside, this country has, in my opinion, suffered a huge loss in the last month – one I, as a female business owner, feel I need to pay tribute to.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, passed away on September 18, 2020. As though an election year complete with a pandemic and an economic crisis wasn’t rough enough, I feel our country lost a true advocate for gender rights. Whoever replaces her will have some huge shoes to fill.
Notorious RBG, as she has been lovingly come to be called, was a steadfast fighter for equality among genders. I truly believe that had she not paved the way over her 87 years, my life would be drastically different – and Flamingo Consulting LLC would not have been possible. Her influence resonates in everything we try to do as a business:
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” -RBG
She believed in strategic change over a complete overhaul. She embraced the idea that change cannot happen overnight. Prior to her role on the bench, RBG worked with the ACLU and founded the Women’s Rights Project. Here, she focused on making one legal precedent at a time, allowing for major shifts to occur over time.
As a business, we at Flamingo Consulting push for the same thing. We want every move to be in the right direction – one that supports the vision of our clients and one that makes them proud to continue to build and grow. This belief in small changes having a great impact allows a business, a brand, or a country to shift and grow as the world changes.
She fought for women’s rights for EQUALITY with men, which also meant fighting for men’s rights. While it seems a little counterintuitive at first to achieve gender equity by fighting for men’s rights, it was clear RBG knew how necessary this was. She spent her early career fighting for men’s rights as caregivers of family members and the spouses of female service personnel. She did not push for women to surpass men, but to be their partners and their equals.
She continuously discouraged legislatures from treating men and women different under the law – focusing instead on allowing all of us of any gender the ability to choose our own path.
A female entrepreneur was nearly unheard of – especially one who would be coaching and supporting other businesses. Add in the ability to both start and grow a business (a traditionally masculine role) while being a SAHP (Stay At Home Parent – a traditionally feminine role) – and my very existence in the business world would never have been acceptable without her strategic shifts over her career as both an advocate and a judge. How different would your world look – even if YOU were able to start your own business? How different would your support system, your vendors, your marketing look if not for the many boss babes we work and interact with now?
“If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.” – RBG
She believed in partnership in relationships. Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her husband, Martin Ginsberg, shared a 56-year long relationship and partnership. The two worked in tandem, supporting each other throughout their fair share of struggles. Soon after the birth of their first child, Martin was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Ruth not only attended classes for him to take notes, she typed his dictated papers and cared for him and their young daughter, all while attending law school herself. Martin continued to support his wife’s dreams and advocated heavily for her first court appointment. He felt she belonged on the bench and focused on her career path as much as his own.
Throughout their decades together, the two worked together not only for their careers, but to balance the roles at home. Martin lovingly told stories of his wife’s terrible cooking and how he out of self-preservation, had to learn to become a better cook. Ruth, in order to keep the household duties equitable, took over the role of cleaning up.
This overall shift in acceptable behavior led to a generation – my generation – that believed there was room for two partners or spouses to be equals – and for both to be successful. I have consistently been supported by my husband, who views my work as equally important to his. In every regard, he has given me the space and opportunity to grow my business in the time we have – from supporting my decision to leave the corporate world to become a SAHP, encouraging me to create businesses that fuel my passion, supporting me to attend seminars and training, giving me the opportunity to take evening and weekend meetings while he plays the primary parent role, or even being behind the scenes as a supporter and cheerleader. Without the cultural shift brought about by RBG’s (and Martin’s) inspiration, my role would have been simply to be home or to work for someone else – and I’d have been fighting my own entrepreneurial spirit in order to maintain my predetermined role.
“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” -RBG
She didn’t always win, but she made sure she was heard. Especially later in her career on the Supreme Court, she made it a point to not only write her dissenting opinion when needed, but to actually read it from the bench. She did not want an opposing opinion to be lost to the law textbooks but to allow the masses to hear a differing opinion, even if it was not the winning opinion.
By going on the record with her opinion, she could be sure that the masses – the normal folks like me who do not sit down to read legal opinions – could hear both sides when all 9 judges obviously did not agree. It allowed for discussion and changed perceptions. She did not go to the presses to bash those who disagreed. She simply did what she could with her judicial position to be sure she acknowledged that differences existed (check out this great list of her dissensions for examples: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s top opinions and dissents, from VMI to Voting Rights Act)
I am, by nature, vocal about my opinion when I have one. I certainly do not expect to win every argument or to be the primary leader in every endeavor, but I will certainly voice a dissent. I proudly stand by my opinion, but will go in the direction that is needed, even when my opinion isn’t the winning one. And – in business as well as law – that dissent is necessary for growth.
“Fight for things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” -RBG
Finally, she advocated for not only improving your life, but to bring others with you. Throughout her career – with the ACLU, on the bench, and even in the public eye – RBG was an advocate for learning, teaching, and becoming more. She embraced her gifts of understanding and speaking to be the voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. She fought tirelessly until her dying day for equity for all of us – no matter gender, skin color, or upbringing. Her impact was seen and understood – and she was honored by being the first woman and first Jewish person ever to lie in state at the US Capitol. Flags were held at half-staff for 30 days. 2500 people attended her vigil the day following her death and mourners around the country hosted vigils at their local courthouses. Thousands poured in from around the country to pay their respects and many more mourned at home.
Her influence allowed others to follow in her footsteps and continue to push the barriers that kept women in inferior roles. Her precedents, opinions, and dissents allowed others to thrive and embrace the roles they were meant to have – whether they were traditional or not.
This particular trait is something I live and breathe every day. I firmly believe there is room for everyone to be successful in business, and I strive to give as many business owners the tools and support to build a stronger, more consistent business. I actively seek out new relationships with emerging or newly-graduated writers and marketers who are looking to grow their skills and résumé in a career path that doesn’t always offer the “first big break.” I donate time to aspiring entrepreneurs who just need a little direction. I support moms who are wanting to rejoin the workforce or find alternatives to a traditional “job” that takes them away from the day-to-day experiences and activities with their small humans. If Flamingo Consulting does nothing else, I want this business to be known for helping businesses and people to grow into what they are driven to be.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer for women like me – women who didn’t want to be solely defined and limited by their gender and their expected role. She paved the way for millions of women to push for equal pay, the right to fight for their country, and the right to choose their own direction in life.
As a woman, a female business owner, and a mother of young girls – the loss of this ally is heartbreaking. I can only hope to use these rights she fought so hard for to better the lives of those around me – to support my family, to bring up the next generation of movers and shakers and dissenters, and to live the life that I have chosen and be an example for other strong women to rise.
~ Alicia Shumaker
Founder & Owner – Flamingo Consulting LLC