If you can’t make the march on Washington or in any of the other 616 cities around the world January 21st, you’re not alone. Between the logistics, the timing, and the general I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening shock, there are plenty of good folks who aren’t able to make the trip, take the time off of work, or away from family (and other responsibilities, which studies show, can be significantly higher for women than for men).
But if you do want to stand strong for the #womensmarch, and against sexual harassment, income inequality, sexual assault, and the many other issues that impact women’s lives around the world, there are equally effective ways to support the 1.3 million-plus women predicted to march, ways that go a lot further than tweeting and sharing memes. Here are tangible, measurable ways that we can all make a difference for women, and the good news is they go well beyond politics.
As the CEO of BRAVA Investments, I support companies that economically benefit women, whether they are run by women or not. I do this not just because of my commitment to human rights: BRAVA is a for-profit venture committed to delivering returns, we do this because it’s fundamentally good business. An investment in women instantly returns, in power and economic impact: Women control 70% of household spending and $30 trillion of consumer spending and also reinvest 90% of income into the health, nutrition and education of their families — at three times the rate that men do. But I believe that in all of our spending choices, whether in our small daily personal expenses or major financial investments, each of us can choose to support other women. Here are three ways you can make a difference and level the playing field for women, every day:
1) Invest in a business that benefits women
One of the primary values of the march, according to a recently released mission statement, is that “ Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice. We must create a society in which women, in particular — Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, and queer and trans women — are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.”
Everyone reading this article is equipped to contribute to this mission, before, during, and after the march. We can all create new opportunities for women to thrive. Have a friend launching her company on a crowdfunding site? Donate to her today, any amount helps because crowdfunding is about spreading the word and leading by example to create social pressure and contagiousness. If you don’t know anyone personally crowdfunding, find a company that benefits women, through its labor practices, stated goals, or core mission. One of my recent favorites is Honor, an elder care company that pays its workers up to 40% more than industry average and still makes a profit. You can find more dynamic companies to support through Mergelane, an accelerator for high-growth women-led companies. I’ve personally invested in Mergelane companies and regularly support them any way I can.
2) Buy from or donate to an organization that stands for something
Historically, both donations and social capital are often strongest for an organization after, and during, moments of social unrest. Now is the perfect time to rally behind the causes you believe in but have perhaps neglected (or double down on your favorites).
The Stonewall Riots begat both movement building and big business: In the years that followed, safe zones emerged in Manhattan’s West Village and throughout the country, creating a ground zero for prosperous LGBT entrepreneurial efforts. The Trump presidency, and the outrage it’s generated among feminists committed to change, is an equally potent resource for grass roots community-driven change.
Immediately after the election results were released last November, the Planned Parenthood Foundation received donations from 182,000 people. The women’s political advocacy organization “She Should Run” reportedly also benefited: they heard from 2,500 people in a few days following the election, a massive surge.
Think of what could happen if a company that employed thousands of women in tech or celebrated women of every shape and size felt a similar surge on January 22?
3) Boycott films, companies, and products that harm women
For our collective investments to have an impact, we also need to consider where we won’t invest our $30 trillion in spending power. If we truly care about outcomes for women, we need to stop tacitly endorsing films, companies, and products that don’t consider the needs of women. We need to vote with our wallets even when (especially when) it’s considered “economically disruptive” or socially unpopular. Would you use a rideshare company that, apart from having a notoriously sexist corporate culture, doesn’t do proper background checks to keep women passengers safe? Uber is sitting on unacceptable numbers of assaults against women and has settled a $10 million lawsuit, yet they have not put forward a new background check policy to stave off future attacks.
How about boycotting a film that stars an actor with serious allegations of sexual harassment? Even though Casey Affleck settled two separate sexual harassment cases, where he was accused of sneaking into the bed of a cinematographer and directing a crew member to show a producer his penis, Affleck has largely gotten off scot-free for these allegations in the public eye. Instead, he will likely walk away with an Oscar. How seriously will women be taken in the future when they bring these types of allegations forward, if their abusers suffer no consequences? Rewarding bad behavior towards women in Hollywood impacts every single woman in pursuit of a place in that already tough male-dominated industry.
Coming out of this weekend’s marches, I invite you to picture a world where our spending maps directly to our collective values and shared interests.
What if companies that helped women knew they could count on our economic backing, and those that ignored women’s needs lost funding and public support?
What if the secret to making women’s rights a priority in this country is hiding in plain sight, inside our wallets? What if the front line of this fight is at the cash register?
That would be an effect we could all celebrate as our own: the rise of the economic superpower that is the female consumer. It’s high time we come together, wake the sleeping [economic] giant and do some damage, don’t you think?