DSC00865“Patience is a virtue.” Who first said that, and why? A quick Internet search points to a few “medieval poets.” Let’s leave it there—in the dark ages—and move on: to why patience is on my mind, and not in a virtuous, well-behaved way.

I just spent an evening at Seattle’s Town Hall listening to five dynamic women speak at an event, sponsored by the Women’s Funding Alliance, called “Fresh Perspective: Women Lead a Changing World.” Good title; wish it were true.

The speakers had some good news to share—the dramatic increase in the numbers of women obtaining bachelors, masters and PhD degrees; the previously unheard of opportunities for women in government, science, technology, sports.

But “Women Lead a Changing World?” No. Not very many of us are leading. Not by a long shot. And the world may be changing, but it sure is taking its time. And we’ve been far too patient.

It is time we made a virtue of impatience.

When eight of every ten corporations in Washington state have fewer than three women on their boards, it is time to be impatient.

When women in Washington* earn 75 cents for every dollar men earn—73 cents, if you have kids; 60 cents if you’re a single mom—it’s time to be impatient.

When Washington slips from first to eighth in the nation for female political representation, it’s time to be impatient.

When 415 thousand women and girls in our state have no health insurance, when reproductive rights are under assault, when one out of four children in our state don’t have enough to eat—impatience. Please. Now!

Kristin Rowe Finkbeiner of MomsRising.org nailed it when she said that what we have here is a “national structural issue, not an epidemic of personal failings.” We women are far too expert at blaming ourselves for problems like finding high-quality affordable childcare in a country where it is nearly impossible to put “high-quality” and “affordable” in the same sentence.

All of the speakers dealt deftly with the recently published elephant in the room: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Finkbeiner urged us to “lean together.” Award-winning Seattle Art Museum educator Sandra Jackson-Dumont praised Sandberg for igniting important conversations at a crucial time for women.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read Sandberg’s book, but I will. If she is igniting conversations, that’s a good thing. Conversations have a way of triggering collective impatience.

Women are more than half the electorate and, for the first time in history, half the paid labor force. We make 85 percent of purchasing decisions. Collectively, our impatience could have an impact.

And there are so many ways we could put it to work.

We can encourage each other to run for office, to seek out board positions, to stretch ourselves towards leadership by learning the skills we think we might lack and daring to use the skills and wisdom we know we have. We can go beyond simply voting and send emails, make phone calls, write OpEds and letters to the editor about the issues that matter to us.

I’m speaking in particular, here, to my age-mates. We know how busy women who are juggling work and child-rearing are because we were just there. Now, it’s our turn to lean together, work together. Get usefully, virtuously impatient. Together.

 *Research cited in this piece was provided by Lori Pfingst of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner of MomsRising, Ada Williams Prince of One America and Jennifer Stuller of GeekGirlCon.

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