When most career people turn 70, they start to look forward to retirement. Not so for Gina Glantz, the woman who decided to use that milestone as an excuse to embark on a whole new career, advocating for gender equality via an online community she built, called Gender Avenger.
In 2013, Gina celebrated her 70th birthday, as well as a lifetime of work as a political organizer, campaign manager, Democratic strategist, and consultant. She has also served on the board of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Although she had no doubt seen some great successes and moments throughout her career, she still had unfinished business. By 2014, at the age of 71, she launched Gender Avenger as a way to utilize her organizing skills in the online world and encourage many other like-minded people to push for gender equality in the world.
GA’s motto is “Challenge it, change it”. Their mission is to build a community that ensures women are represented in the public dialog, and their mantra is “women as equals will become the norm when it is the norm. Everywhere”.
Although it may seem surprising to some people for a woman of 70+ to stay on the frontlines of gender equality, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, Gina says it was precisely her age that gave her the IDGAF attitude to continue her mission.
“You can do whatever you feel like, and the consequences be damned. There is no need to be careful about who might be offended. Not that I was all that careful in decades past. But, to be honest, there were times along my political career path when I veered away from what my gut told me to do and toward what I thought would be accepted by the — yes, male — decision-makers around me. All too often, women especially fear hearing “there she goes again” as an indictment rather than having their point of view considered legitimate. Concern about being pigeonholed can silence important voices in critical positions. (Think the White House, the boardroom, etc.) I have discovered that this problem doesn’t exist when you reach a certain age,” she wrote.
Gina’s perspective on how to fight gender inequality in a range of areas is incredibly smart. Having lived through many decades of political campaigns and seeing the rise in technology and social media, she knows activism is not just about the actions of one person, but the many that can be mobilized (especially younger) who can continually fight the good fight decades from now.
By assembling a diverse board of directors, including a co-founder much younger than her, Gina doesn’t just hope to see Gender Avenger stay around for a while, she expects it.
“You know from sad experience that the job won’t get done in your lifetime but there will be others to carry on. That’s why you know you need and want to get younger folks involved. GenderAvenger’s co-founder is 20 years younger than I am; our webmaster, 30 years younger; and our director of communications, almost 50 years younger. You are not threatened by their knowing more than you about how to operate in today’s cyberworld,” she says, in her list of advantages to starting an advocacy organization at 71.
The website sends out regular emails to its community, alerting people about gender violations and suggesting ways they can raise their voice to make a difference. One such incident occurred when Esquire magazine published a list of “80 books Men must Read” in July 2015, 79 of which were authored by men. The GA team asked their social media community to express disappointment in this list, and it made a difference. By January 2016, the magazine issued not just any apology, but one clearly outlining that they knew where they went wrong.
“Esquire published a new list, this time “80 Books Everyone Should Read,” which was accompanied by this apology: ‘What can we say? We messed up. Our list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read” … was rightfully called out for its lack of diversity in both authors and titles. So we invited eight female literary powerhouses, from Michiko Kakutani to Anna Holmes to Roxane Gay, to help us create a new list. Each participant made 10 picks. It’s a new year, a new Esquire.com. We’re looking forward to reading and we hope you are, too’,” Gina shared.
Whether it is exposing the epidemic of the “all male panels”, the absence of women in key decision-making and leadership roles in politics and business, the blatant favoring of male talent in the entertainment industry, or the lack of women’s voices being represented in equal measure in the world as experts and leaders, you can be sure to find Gina and the Gender Avenger team on the case. They have even released an app called GA Tally (available on iTunes, Google Play and online), which specifically focuses on the lack of women on panels and at conferences, that is a people-powered tally of gender imbalance at major events.
Gender Avenger is certainly not alone in their mission, and in fact is part of the growing movement of global activists, organizations and passionate individuals who want to see change in the way women are stereotypically portrayed in society. Elle UK’s ‘More Women’ campaign from 2015 cleverly showed what it looks like in some of the most famous boardrooms and leadership spaces in the world when men are photoshopped out of the picture – hardly any women remain.
In 2016, a large group of female political scientists were fed up of seeing only male experts being called upon by major news media outlets to offer their opinion on political and social matters, they formed a database (appropriately) called ‘Women Also Know Stuff’ to shut down any excuses that networks can’t find qualified women to lead the conversation.
And of course most of us are familiar with UN Women’s He For She campaign, which is seeking to take the gender equality fight to the next level by engaging men to play their part and understand how equality benefits them also. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is simply to point out how important this fight is.
When we look at what Gina Glantz has created, it’s not simply about her ability to point out the problem backed up by data and analysis, it is her passion to use that as fuel to make a change and encourage other people to do the same.
“Simply railing against the siloing of women won’t stop the trend. The rumblings of discontent have to have consequences. That requires radical action. Women who can need to start saying “no” to being relegated to or reported on in separate spaces,” she said in another WaPo op-ed talking about how special “women-only” spaces are necessarily the solution to the problem.
“About a month after announcing the all-female ‘Ghostbusters’, Sony was promoting the return of the ‘Ghostbusters’ all-male franchise. Food & Wine magazine touted its January “all-women’s issue” but could only find two women to feature among their 11 ‘best new chefs’ in 2015. CSIS featured Penny Pritzker and Samantha Power among others in their Smart Women/Smart Power series, but in 2014 they could only find one woman to speak at their premier forum titled, naturally, ‘Statesmen’s Forum’,” she writes as examples of this.
Her own family is reason enough to want to see a more progressive and equal world, so that future generations don’t have to still be fighting the same fight when they are older.
“I am 72 years old, and I am tired of waiting. I want my grandsons to grow up to be stars and to see women stars in the same places they appear. It won’t happen unless their mothers, their aunts, their grandmothers say ‘no’ to the assumption that women can be ‘separate’ and ‘equal’,” she said.
If there is anything to be learned from Gina’s life and work, it is that there is no excuse to not fight for equality and justice. You can sign up to be a Gender Avenger, donate to their mission, and find ways to become an activist in your own community by going to their website.