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Opinion: Local Kickstarter illustrates want for more female leaders

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A recently successful Kickstarter campaign is local proof of a significant and necessary change brewing in the United States.

Americans are voting with their ballots and wallets, and it’s clear, people want more women to be represented in leadership positions.

Springfield artist Ellen Schaeffer recently returned to Kickstarter with a crowdfunding campaign designed to launch two new sets of women’s history trading cards in her Persistent Sisters LLC product line.

The campaign more than doubled its goal, bringing in $9,350 via 223 backers.

The cards are a fun and educational twist on a product line that’s been prevalent for decades in several industries – think sports and gaming.

The latest trading cards from Persistent Sisters feature women in politics, including the only four female justices to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. There’s also a set showcasing “the bold women that paved the way.” Represented here are legislators Shirley Chisholm, Jeannette Rankin, Barbara Jordan and Margaret Chase Smith, among others.

The cards are illustrated by Schaeffer and other artists, and the crowdfunding campaign’s promo video was created by Springfield digital marketing firm Departika. 

“Our women’s history trading cards are an accessible and engaging way to inspire and educate girls of all ages,” Schaeffer says in the video. “We believe girls can be anything.”

You may know Schaeffer’s work from the mural she painted on the McDaniel building downtown that’s been renovated into The U student housing – and since removed. But it was a previous Kickstarter campaign that launched her first series of cards by crowdfunding nearly $13,000.

After I first wrote about Schaeffer’s newest Persistent Sisters project in a blog post on SBJ.net, she reached out to thank me for the article. What’s better, there’s more to come from her – and it could involve mixing her passions. A mural featuring the area’s forgotten women in history? It may be on the horizon.

“Hopefully I will get to that someday, and I’ll start with Springfield,” she says.

It’s a shame the McDaniel building mural was removed. Maybe Schaeffer can meet with the building owners at The Vecino Group and make a new mural happen. It’s difficult to imagine a better use for what’s now a blank, uninspiring wall. It does pay tribute to Schaeffer with a small plaque showing the former painting.

Schaeffer is a great example of a woman of influence doing great things for our community.

Outside of Springfield, Americans got some positive news with this year’s midterms.

The elections were a boon for female leaders, especially in the House of Representatives, where they now hold more than 100 of the chamber’s 435 seats. Women previously never held more than 84 of the seats in the House, according to an NBC News report.

That’s astounding. As Barack Obama did for minorities as the first black president, these women are paving the way for future female leaders simply by normalizing their elections. Other successes in female empowerment came through the elections of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

These women – and men who care about equality – can help to disrupt an outdated patriarchy. And that’s bound to have a trickle-down effect economically.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in August reported that in 2017, women ages 16 and older had median weekly earnings of $770, compared with $941 for their male counterparts. This problem has been well documented. According to the female empowerment nonprofit American Association of University Women, it’s brought on by multiple factors: the industries involved, education levels, past experience, beliefs about work and gender, and pay discrimination laws and policies. In Missouri, women last year earned 78 percent of what men earned, according to the AAUW.

As with men, women should be paid what they deserve based on their professional background. It goes without saying that discrimination should not play a part in employee salary decisions. 

Federal law, as governed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, prohibits such discrimination. But it still happens, as evidenced by the many discrimination lawsuits the EEOC files. Policy changes help, but cultural shifts are more important to address the root causes here.

A more diverse selection of leaders is a great start. 

Springfield Business Journal Web Producer Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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