What I Have Learned in the “Year of the Woman”

Like many busy women, I use a planner to keep my life in order. I ask for the same "Passion Planner" each year for Christmas, and I use it religiously all year long. My favorite part is that at the end of each month, there are pages for reflection. It asks me if I’m happy with how I spent my time, what top three lessons I learned that month, who and what I’m grateful for, concrete goals to improve in the coming month, and more questions that give me the chance to dig deep and process where I am in life. I look forward to journaling in these pages every month, and as simple as it is, it always feels like an indulgence - 10 minutes all for myself, to reflect on the good and the bad from the past 30 days.

It’s that time of year again when we constantly hear, “I just can’t believe it’s December already!” I’m finding that time passes more quickly the older I get, and sometimes it feels like the years go by in less than a blink. It’s easy to jump right into plans for next year without stopping to reflect on the joys, accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned from the past 12 months.

So now, as we approach the year-end, what can we learn from all of the ups and downs of 2018? What are we grateful for? Are we happy with how we spent our time? And what can we do better next year?

This year has seen its fair share of conflict. We never could have predicted that this would become the era of #MeToo, or that 2018 would be called the “Year of the Woman.” Who could have known what impact these stories would have, or if this “watershed moment” would lead to anything bigger? It’s up to us to decide. What will we make of this?

As a young woman in the beginning of my career, I feel lucky to work for an organization like IWL, where I can constantly learn from empowered – and empowering – women who have paved the way before me. In some ways, I feel like a sponge, soaking up as much wisdom as possible so that I can go out into the world with the confidence to stand by what I know is right. Here are the lessons I’ve learned this year with IWL:

  • These workplace issues won’t fix themselves. Companies, and the individuals in those companies, have to commit to taking an honest look at themselves and doing whatever it takes to be on the right side of history. It will take intentionality and work, but I believe that with positivity, education, and resilience, we will get there. Progress always wins in the end.

  • Men and women must work together and are better together. At IWL we put an even larger focus on including male allies in 2018, and we plan on continuing this on an even bigger level in the future. As powerful as women are, we cannot make real change without engaging the men with whom we want to integrate. We need to invite men in and help them in their allyship journey.

  • You’ve got to choose your guiding values and stand by them - as a company, and as an individual. There is no such thing as a perfect company or a perfect person. However, there are those with integrity and those without. Every day we make choices that directly reflect our values, and now is the time to decide what those values will be.

“So what now?” What can we do to be better in 2019? Contrary to some of the messages we’ve seen this year, I believe this action plan doesn’t have to be divisive. These problems give us all the chance to ask questions and expose our vulnerability. Having courageous conversations gives us the amazing opportunity to be real with one another - to be truly open, authentic, and appreciate different perspectives. And what a richer existence we can have if we can respectfully open up to one another! For 2019, these are my goals to build on this momentous year:

  • Educate myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me. I want to seek out resources and information that will make me a better-informed ally, friend, daughter, sister, and contributing member of society. It’s my job to find out what I don’t know.

  • Be an ally - we’re all in a position to advocate for someone else. I will use my privilege to speak up for other women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community when they are not in the room.

  • Remember that most people have good intentions and meet them where they are. We are living in a controversial time, and it’s easy to shut people out – but I know that’s not a solution. This year I will approach differences in opinion as opportunities for growth, learning, and connecting.

Workplace equality for women won’t exist across the board in 2019. It most likely won’t exist for a long time. Even so, now IS the time to push for positive change – whether that be personal, professional, or somewhere in between. This holiday season, I’ll be writing in my planner that I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to be a part of progress for women every day – and who knows, maybe with a little hard work and determination, we can make 2019 another Year of the Woman.


Anna Rauh is the Marketing Communications and Event Coordinator for Integrating Women Leaders (IWL) Foundation. She is responsible for leading efforts to build and maintain the brand of IWL Foundation, and to provide value through thoughtful planning of events and programs. She developed a passion for empowering women during her collegiate career at Butler University. Anna believes that equality for women is long overdue, and that with the use of empathy and positive education, change will be made. Anna has been a lifelong artist, dancer, and traveler. Her favorite place to be is on the water at her family’s business, Creekside Landing Marina in Louisville, KY, where her parents and little sister still live.

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