WomenEd Blogs

The table


by Lisa Hannay @lhannay1

Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to congress and was a formidable force for women’s rights, equal rights as well as a voice for minorities and for those who did not have anyone speaking on their behalf.

Shirley coined the phrase well used today, 'If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair'.

The weekend of 2-4 October was the 6th #WomenEd unconference and, as a new Global Strategic Leader, I was involved with planning and did some speaking as well. More than once I raged about bringing a seat to the bloody table! I might have even suggested knocking over said table. However as the weekend came to a close and I had some time away from the screen I started to ruminate on this idea of coming to the table.

If we think of the table as a symbol, or even perhaps, a metaphor, I am not sure women who long for equal rights, who desire to have a voice that is heard, who want inclusivity, want a seat at this particular table. Think about it.

Around this table have sat for centuries, men legislating our reproductive rights, negotiating wages for public servants such as nurses and teachers – vocations largely comprised of women. These men have been making back door deals, side alley hustles and brazen front hallway take overs for all of time. This table, as a metaphor, might as well be a large brick wall.


The world’s billionaires have all gotten richer during the pandemic. Grocery store workers, frontline during the pandemic, initially paid hazard pay are now losing that pay so that there is a higher bottom line for the CEOs. States, countries, provinces battle over raising minimum wage or even granting a Universal Basic Income, but men, representing their constituents vote these down, citing ,we are broke,. Yet major companies pay almost no tax and get handout after handout.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough, replied, 'when there are 9'. Would women create a better table? A different table? I don’t know. Women are not the better gender. We are capable of the same foibles as men and are entitled to make the same mistakes. It is always harder to watch and know women like this, knowing that we have not fared well under men – but where would we have learned better?  Women leading countries have out-performed many of the countries where the government is led by men.

We need more Ginsburgs, more Chisholms, more Arderns so that young women have better guides to navigate this world.

The table I envision has equitable representation. There are translators. There are sign language interpreters. There are spaces at the table for wheelchairs to pull up. Agendas and notes are available in all languages and Braille for the visually impaired. There are varying heights to the chairs to accommodate people of all sizes. Everyone has a voice and there are always extra seats. We build the table as the people come. Heck we might even include the people in the design and functionality.

What would your table look like?

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Wednesday, 29 June 2022

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