Women, let’s be agents in this Social Justice business by @theflyways

by Hillary Strobel  | Featured Contributor

Women, let’s be agents in this Social Justice businessI’ve been reading up on the opportunities for women to jump headlong into the social justice world. Perhaps I should clarify that I’ve been trying to read up on the opportunities for women interested in social justice. I run up against the same type of article again and again.

Women need social justice, but they are very rarely agents of it.

First, let’s clarify what social justice is: “the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society.” Rights are typically bestowed upon us, in institutional ways such as the United States Constitution, or by others who deem us “deserving” of them. When we are talking about social justice, we are talking about the equitable distribution of these human rights, in ways where any and all have the same access to realizing their full potential.

We all have potential already. Nobody needs to “give” that to us. What we need is to be able to fully express it.

I recently came across a wonderful scholarly journal article by University of Chicago law and ethics professor Martha Nussbaum on the capabilities of women when they are able to see themselves operating not only at their own full capacity but with the full backing of their culture as well.

The culture will vary from place to place, and therefore the horizons of what seems to be and what is genuinely possible for any given woman will also vary. In general, though, women are agents of their own empowerment and opportunity when they are not constrained by being the means to someone else’s end.

We can turn the whole world around if we not only believe we can, but support one another to do so. We must be the agents, actively making this present reality, more so than receiving it from others, in the form of aid for example, or believing that it is “not for us” to meddle in.

“What she is actually able to do and to be”

This is the measuring stick of capability and success for a woman, according to Nussbaum.

There is a very real difference between what people think they are capable of or have a right to based on past experience or current circumstance, and being enabled to achieve at their best and highest capacity. When the environment surrounding any particular woman is hospitable to, say, economic advancement, she will naturally grow into that opportunity, because she not only knows she can, but is also encouraged to do so.

So let’s start coming up with ways to enable women to be agents of this profound change rather than passive recipients of it.

Here is a prime opportunity for business to step into that role: women as business owners. Women as business leaders. Women as agents of economic and social validation. They are already operating in huge global numbers within the informal economy. Let’s legitimize that.

Global organizations already recognize that women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of human sustainability in the 21st century, including the United Nations Development Programme, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (which issued a white paper on the Millennium Development Goals in 2010, highlighting the fact that “Women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development, pro-poor growth and the achievement of all of the [goals]”), and the International Center for Research on Women.

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that “economic empowerment” encompasses financial compensation for work women do within the home, as caregivers to others and maintainers of the family’s physical environment. Women most certainly are not “required” to work outside the home in order to be validated by this movement. All of the work that a woman does is of the utmost value, period.

Those women who do work outside the home, or who draw wages from non-family-related work, also have an incredible opportunity to help create the global movement to support our sisters and ourselves. We must include men in this social justice, too, of course, because our success is their success as well.

It’s much less important to single out a single woman or small group of women and hold them up as “success stories” than it is to create the overall environment in which all women are successful in any personally chosen endeavor.

Education is priority number one, as is formalizing the informal economy.


Women must be able to understand themselves in these roles and actually inhabit them in order to make this really work. Women must also deeply agree to the notion that what we chose to engage in with our fully actualized agency is what is right for each of us. Let us not be judgmental of another’s choice, but rather celebrate the profound ability to make the choice.

What she is actually able to do and to be… We must become the agents of our own social justice, as economic drivers (and let’s admit it is more fun to drive the car than to be a passenger in the car) and supporters of each other’s economic empowerment, so that we may all do amazing things and be amazing people.


Hillary StrobelHillary Strobel is a single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and the ass-kickin’ President and CEO of The Flyways, Inc. We publish story projects that are interactive and highly creative, and 25% of profits are donated to support social justice causes: from business incubators serving vulnerable women, to agencies working to reduce recidivism rates.

Hillary also runs a consultancy for businesses and organizations seeking to meaningfully build social impact programs from the ground up. The three pillars that support this mission are: designing outcomes and developing goals, measuring impact and creating a universal metric, and quantifying results to the public.

After a long and varied career in just about every kind of Liberal Arts field imaginable, and in every type of job — volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, non-profit worker, and freelancer — Hillary has decided to marry her two deepest passions: storytelling and social justice. The results have surpassed her wildest expectations.

Follow Hillary on Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Medium

Share :