Women’s History Month

Women Reshaping the World

Confidence. Empowerment. Change.

Our mission at Theory is to make clothes that matter—styles of exceptional quality that empower their wearer, and in some small part help them to do great things.

As a continuation of this philosophy, for Women’s History Month we are partnering with the Institute of Global Politics (IGP) at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) to support their inaugural Women’s Initiative Launch Summit and facilitate ongoing conversations between inspiring changemakers. This partnership will also fund research and programming that aims to eliminate the barriers women face in the workplace.

In addition to our goal of achieving a 50% ratio of women in management positions, within Theory’s organization we have spearheaded a number of initiatives aimed at advancing women. From our networking and mentorship opportunities for female employees to our family benefits and industry-leading child care stipend, we empower our employees to thrive both personally and professionally.

At the IGP Women’s Initiative Launch Summit on March 4, 2024 we presented a panel, Advancing Gender Equity in the Workplace. Click here to learn more about IGP and watch the full Summit livestream.

How does digital harassment disproportionately affect women?

It’s a tremendously pivotal time to protect women’s rights everywhere in the world. 

Early in my career I started looking at online mobs and multiple information operations. This coordinated harassment absolutely disproportionately impacts women. Now it's taking a toll on the diversity of our political leadership too. It's hard for women who are in the public eye—journalists, politicians, etc. That's something that I want to make sure we can tackle because, again, we need a diversity of voices in public life.

How do we create safer spaces for women online? Are there any successful examples of such spaces or anti-harassment policies you’ve seen that we should learn from?

I’m inspired by European leadership on these issues, with legislation such as the Digital Services Act that requires higher standards around content moderation transparency. 

Social media platforms are top of mind, but there are many areas that play a critical role in keeping women safe online. Messaging platforms like Signal, for instance, have good end-to-end encrypted messages that offer privacy and security in their communications. 

We’re also seeing dating apps think about user safety increasingly, an experience that women deserve to enjoy. So I’m interested in thinking about safety more holistically when we think about tech.

How do we humanize these issues that occur in the digital world but have real world implications?

We’re making progress because powerful women have had the strength to share the reality of what they are experiencing online—the scale and violent nature of it. We’ve seen many instances where online harassment leads to real harm. It’s not just a few instances of internet cat-calling.

You’ve spent much of your career working in tech. What is your advice to the next generation women entering male-dominated workplaces?

My advice—you belong here. That took me a minute to learn and I’m still learning. My second advice is to lead authentically. For me, that means leading with the empathy that’s required for the kind of work I do.

What prompted you to begin Moms First and join the fight for paid leave?

We were convinced for so long that, as women, the problem was us. That if we just got a mentor or a sponsor, or tried a little harder, or did a power pose before a talk, that we, too, could be free. We are not the problem—the structure is the problem. Whether it's paid leave or equal pay, we're coming together to fight for real structural change, which means we're going to finish the fight once and for all.

How can we hold the powers that be accountable when it comes to supporting women in the workplace and closing the gender pay gap?

History has shown that when women come together and they fight, we succeed. That they can't divide us.

In recent years, we’ve seen the power of people organizing at the ballot box. It's a glimmer of hope, but I think it takes real, intentional organization. You have to go company by company, or pass legislation that ensures that companies have to pay women and men the same.

In a society where employers and the government aren’t investing in women’s issues, how can women fulfill this year’s International Women’s Day theme and invest in ourselves?

Use your power and your platform to uplift issues that might be on the margins, like paid leave and child care. Brands like Theory help bring those issues into the mainstream. On this International Women's Day, ask yourself, “How am I going to use the power that I have, to uplift women and uplift issues that affect women?”

You’ve made a career of investing in female leadership. What qualities do you look for in leaders?

I find that women often lead from experience. They see something in their community, often not something good, that impacts them personally, and they can't look away. They feel ignited by it. They want to do something, they want to push for change, and that inspires them to step up and lead.

What is the global impact when organizations like yours invest in women?

Because women experience things differently, you get businesses you never would've gotten before. You get new organizations, new ideas. We’re closer to the problems, thus we come up with more innovative and—quite frankly—practical solutions. 

What have you learned from working with these female leaders?

We’ve had this model of leadership, a very male model. It’s to women’s detriment when they go in and try to be the male model rather than embracing who they are.

For me, it’s been an incredibly powerful lesson to learn that women lead differently and that difference is precisely what our world needs.

What has been your advice to women looking to lead change, particularly in male-dominated spaces?

Find your mentors, and not just the more senior people, but your peers who are going to really have your back and support you in your career. I run a network of 20,000 women leaders we've made investments in over the last 20 years. They’re pioneering innovative solutions and working in male dominated spaces, and the savior for them is having a peer network of women who are non-competitive; it's a non-hierarchical, but very diverse network from around the world.

It pushes them to take bolder risks and I think that’s critical.

Much of your work involves reframing the undervaluation of domestic work as an economic issue. Can you expand upon the importance of that shift in mindset?

Domestic work is the work that happens inside of our homes and for our families, that allows for all of us to go to work knowing that the most precious elements of our lives are in good hands. They're taking care of our children. They're supporting our loved ones with disabilities to live full lives. They're taking care of our aging parents and maybe even grandparents. 

In our current economic model, much of the care that happens every day is either invisible or undervalued. But it's the first input that makes everything else possible in our economy, so we call it the work that makes all other work possible.

The care economy, in terms of child care and long-term care, represents $648 billion of economic activity per year in the United States. For comparison, the pharmaceutical industry accounts for $550 billion.

And that number is often overlooked because domestic work falls on women, specifically majority women of color.

There's a social scientist named Jessica Calarco who says, “Other countries have a safety net and the U.S. has women.” What we mostly have is unpaid women, moms, and family caregivers, and then underpaid women who are majority women of color, who work as professional care workers in the care economy.

It's not our fault that we're struggling. It's actually the reality that in this day and age when 70% of kids are growing up in households where all the adults have to work outside the home in order to make ends meet, that we just need a different kind of system in place to support us; one that includes well-paid care jobs and, simultaneously, care that is more affordable. All these things are policy choices.

What can we do to aid in the creation of a new system?

These issues are universally supported and popular issues. Our political environment right now, though, is very locked up, and policy is happening along party lines for the most part.

The call to action is threefold. It’s 1. Vote 2. Make it known to candidates who want your vote that you want them to champion child care, paid leave, and long-term care. 3. Call your existing elected officials—everyone from your county supervisor to your state legislative representative to congressmen and senators. Let them know you are counting on them to pass policies that support care.

What is the most actionable way we can support the women doing this essential work?

Everyone has a caregiver in our life. Call that caregiver up and just give them some love on International Women's Day. Let them know that you see what they do every day to care and support others.

What is your advice to the next generation of organizers?

Know that you are part of a long and proud tradition of women who’ve expanded the realm of what’s possible. It’s not always visible or valued the way it should be, but it really matters for the next generation to come.

People are so quick to dismiss the harassment of women, particularly when it occurs online. What has been your experience overcoming those biases in order to shed more light on this very serious issue?

People think, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me," and it's just not true. Not only do I research this stuff, but I've been the target of a years-long harassment campaign online as well. And I can tell you—it gets to you. These threats can result in real danger to our physical safety. I’ve done a lot of work to give voice to these issues because I don’t want this to happen to anyone else ever again. 

Despite affecting half the population, women’s issues are often, as you’ve put it, relegated to the kid’s table politically. How do we shine a brighter light and bring these problems front and center?

I love that we have a group of powerful women gathering today [at the SIPA Women’s Initiative Launch Summit], but we also need more powerful men in the room acknowledging this problem. We need tech companies to be thinking of this first and foremost when they're rolling out new technologies or new features on their platforms. We need policy makers to be thinking of this and not just the gender policy councils of the world. Everybody needs to be on board when it comes to protecting women, because protecting women isn't just about women, it's about all of us.

What are some actionable items we can do to reduce the amount of hate women face online?

Individually, if you see something bad happening online, don’t just scroll by—report it. On the flip side, I personally make it a habit to engage whenever I see content I love that’s created by a woman. 

The easiest way to invest in ourselves is by lifting each other up. I am really tired of infighting and sniping between women, but luckily I don't see a lot of that in my space. I want to do everything I can to put other women on a pedestal. There's room for all of us.

How do you stay positive when working in such a heavy space?

As women, we’re not allowed to be emotional. We're told that we're so emotional all the time that when expressing anger or joy, we're told that we're just being silly little girls. Men can tear down traffic lights when their favorite sports team wins, but we can’t be excited to go to a Taylor Swift concert. It’s hard, but I’ve been trying to lean into expressing joy online and in real life.

What piece of policy do you think has had the biggest positive impact on women in recent history and what’s most essential moving forward?

Once upon a time, some of the most critical and transformative gains for women were made in the courts. Cases like Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut established the right to abortion and contraception. Now many of these gains have been taken away or are at risk. It’s why we need to keep fighting to protect access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care. Our fight now goes beyond just restoring Roe, but to establishing durable and guaranteed freedoms.

How can women advocate for more equitable healthcare and how does that bring us a step closer to overall gender equality?

We can advocate by making our voices heard everywhere — at our dinner tables, at the salon, at the grocery store, at work. Whether we’re talking to our elected representatives, talking to our employers, talking to our partners, our children, our educators. We have to think of advocacy as an everyday experience — not just one that we can engage in on the first Tuesday of November. Yes, advocacy is voting, but it’s also creating awareness, educating, and sharing our experiences. 

How do you stay motivated while women’s healthcare and your organization are constantly under attack?

I’m most motivated by the stories we’re hearing from patients across the country. In spite of countless barriers, they are continuing to choose hope and taking long journeys to get the care they need. They’re a reminder that hopelessness is a luxury we cannot afford. If patients are traveling hundreds of miles out of a hope to live the life they want to lead, we ought to be fighting to make sure that’s possible. 

What message of hope do you have for young women and girls of the next generation who may feel discouraged by the recent regression of women’s rights?

I’m so inspired by the fierce energy of younger generations, who have already taken up the baton of leadership and shown the world that they will not stand for the loss of their freedoms or stop fighting once those freedoms are secured. They also keep me hopeful. We’ve already seen the payoff of their work — like in the 2022 elections, where young people turned out in droves to elect candidates who stood for abortion rights up and down the ballot. There’s no doubt in my mind that by locking arms across movements and generations, we will ensure that the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t get the last word on abortion access. We will.