Celebrating Women's Equality Day & the Y's First Female CEO

26 August 2021
Woman's Equality Day

By Amelia Baker, Chief Marketing Officer, YMCA of South Hampton Roads

"Men are from earth, women are from earth. Deal with it." —George Carlin

I searched for a quote to open with, hoping it would be profound and motivating then landed where I did because that's as simple as it gets, right. WE. ARE. EQUAL.

Today is August 26th, Women's Equality Day. Established and honored to celebrate this day in history in the year 1920 after a 72 year crusade (1848-1920) when women were finally granted an opportunity to vote. The 19th amendment reads like this:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

If we take the way back machine to the time when Susan B. Anthony was actively fighting for our right to vote in the mid 1800s, you'll find many states didn't recognize pants as appropriate attire for women and women weren't allowed to join the military, keep their maiden name, own property (or a passport) if they were married, attend college, shop without an escort, serve on a jury, or compete in the Olympics.

173 years after the battle for a woman's right to vote began and 101 years after we finally gained that right is today. Today, I write to you while I wear pants, in a home I own, working for an organization that began by serving only men, in a leadership position earned through schooling and employment opportunities. Progress has been made y'all.

Please don't misunderstand progress for perfection. Our cups runneth over with opportunities for improvement in equity and equality but today's a day to celebrate where we were, where we are, and where we are going. The Y is one of my favorite examples of progress. The Young Men's Christian Association is a nonprofit human services organization, founded in London in 1844 to serve only men and evolved to hire its first woman in 1886. But that was just the beginning.

Ys are a federated nonprofit model giving it both local heart and national strength. What that means is each cluster of Ys are managed independently and that can make sweeping national or global change slow and rigorous. I am consistently impressed at how the Y continues to evolve its service to the community and who it employs to serve the community. Today, 74% of the YMCA of South Hampton Roads' workforce is female.

August 9, 2021 the YMCA of the USA announced a new CEO was hired to lead us into the future. Suzanne McCormick is the first female CEO of Y-USA. She was selected from a national and highly competitive interview process, has 27 years of experience, and has unwavering support from Y staff and board members in her ability to advance the mission of the Y. As president and CEO of Y-USA, McCormick will be responsible for leading the 170-year-old organization, and the Chicago-based national resource office for the more than 2,600 YMCAs across the United States. No small feat and no doubt she can lead the Y into the future.

Happy Women's Equality Day!