In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Girl Squads, groups of women uniting with common goals in mind, lifting each other up. Though recently introduced to common vernacular, “Girl Squads” are not new to the scene, and, in fact, have been driving forces of feminist ideals throughout American history.
From the antislavery and temperance movements to leading the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were the dynamic duo that paved the road for the first wave of feminism in the United States. Anthony traveled the country to network for the movement, delivering Stanton’s eloquent speeches and building a national Girl Squad that ushered in the first wave of feminism. In the 1970s, activists Dorothy Pitman-Hughes and Gloria Steinem toured the country together challenging the notion that feminism was restricted to white middle-class women. The pair exemplified how feminist unity, understanding the different levels of marginalization that women of different races, sexualities and class face, is crucial to progress.
Today, Girl Squads continue to shatter glass ceilings well into the 21st century. On the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan have been at the table to legalize same-sex marriage and uphold decisions to protect reproductive rights. Freshmen Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have hit the ground running since their elections in 2018. The progressive women of color are rapidly destigmatizing historical perceptions of political leadership (aka, not all successful politicians are white males). As Girl Squads have found themselves in the corridors of power, they have championed each other while they challenge the status quo in Washington. They push the envelope on how female politicians look, how they respond to criticism and how they fight for policy change.
Social media has amplified the reach and impact of Girl Squads. The above-mentioned Congresswomen are leveraging social media to communicate directly with the public and the results speak for themselves. Freshman Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is three months into office and has 41% name recognition; to put that in perspective, Speaker Pelosi has 11% name recognition after thirty years in Congress. Ocasio’s authenticity and control of her narrative has skyrocketed her to influencer status – she even led a social media training for her House colleagues.
So what’s in store for the future of Girl Squads? We know that there is still more work to do to achieve meaningful equality for women. In the tight labor market, more females are moving into male-dominated fields like construction, transportation and utilities. Girl Squads can play a key role in ensuring that women in these industries have a voice to demand equal pay, equal respect and equal opportunity to move into leadership roles. We hope that Girl Squads will continue to serve as vehicles of positive change.