Women’s History Month celebrations date back to 1978 when it started as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. Eventually, in 1980, the fight for this celebration to become nationwide was successfully lobbied and then-President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.
There were multiple resolutions that were passed between 1988 and 1994, and since 1995, it officially became a month of honoring women that have made contributions to the United States and to recognize all wonderful and impactful women.
During Women’s History Month, we honor all women who have made a positive change within their industries and other people’s life. All over the country, there are impactful women at all levels and Little Rock is no exception.
Lena Moore is the chief development officer at the Baptist Foundation who works every day to ensure pragmatic progress for Arkansas. Her journey was one of perseverance but also chances.
Coming from Malvern, a small town in Arkansas, a lot of her leadership skills and development came from sports as she had a full-ride scholarship playing basketball at Henderson State University.
“It wasn’t really a well-planned journey,” said Moore. “It was a journey of opportunities and chances that just came up along the way. I actually learned a lot of my skills through team sports. I learned a lot about how important it is to know your role. I learned a lot about how to lead and then I learned a lot on how to follow because you have to do both.”
Pamela Freeman is an elementary principal in Little Rock who thrives in her role as an educator and leader and strives for equity within the education system. She started her journey in education after graduating with an elementary education degree from the University of Central Arkansas.
She taught for three years and decided to become a business owner. After 10 years in that industry, she realized that there was more to the educational journey she wanted to explore and eventually acquired two master’s degrees, one from UCA and one from Arkansas Tech University in educational leadership.
“I went back into teaching and ended up working for a female principal that saw some leadership qualities in me,” said Freeman. “She encouraged me to pursue a degree in library media, so I went back to UCA and got a master’s degree.”
Many times women have to show up twice as much or work twice as hard as their male counterparts to achieve similar positions of power or goals, especially as mothers. However, the balance that comes from motherhood and professional life is one to be proud of.
“I am definitely proud to be able to be a mother but also to be a leader in the workplace,” said Moore. “There is something about mother guilt and balancing the two, and it is not easy, but I am proud that I am able to get up every day and start the day knowing I got another chance to get it right and be okay with that.”
Freeman felt that while running her own business, she had the opportunity to be very present during the developmental years of her son.
“I loved being self-employed,” said Freeman. “A really cool part about that was when I had my son, I took him to work with me, so I was able to work but still be a mom too, so that was a blessing.”
Both Moore and Freeman have had their struggles but their experiences have made them wiser and they share a few words of advice for young women seeking leadership positions in any industry.
“Always speak up, have a voice in the room, and don’t be afraid to,” said Moore. “When you approach anything with observation and with a listening ear, you will probably be able to gain way more than you would if you walked in with a loud voice.”
“You have to know what your core values are, who you are,” said Freeman. “[You have to] lean into those as you lead so that you’re authentic to who you are…and that we believe our voice is valuable regardless of who’s in the room.”
Female empowerment is vital to the betterment and progress of this country; there is an understanding that in order to be stronger and fight for equality, working together is the best way to start. Women’s History Month is a great time to focus on that and continuously try to make an effort for extraordinary chances within our country.
“Because I value working as a team,” said Freeman. “I always say I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, I just had to bring all the smart people with me. I like to make sure that that room is diverse and surrounding yourself with other strong women…and knowing who your support group is, is valuable as a leader.”
“I am very proud that women are starting to find their voice,” said Moore. “We are starting to appreciate who we are, even our imperfections and I think that is something that we often as women try to hide that we are imperfect because we feel like we are already judged before we walk [into a room] as being as such. There is some confidence that you gain in knowing that I am not perfect and it is okay.”
A woman in leadership brings diversity within an organization as well as a different perspective. Because this country is a melting pot, women’s voices should be as recognized just as much as a man’s. Women’s rights matter and this country can only progress when there is a mutual goal in mind.
“I do love that it seems like women are doing more to build each other up in this day in time than we have in the past,” said Moore. “There is definitely strength in that.”