We recently talked with Lynn Yeakel, President of Vision 2020, the National Women’s Equality Coalition, about the things she has been doing and thinking during the pandemic.
COVID-19 restrictions forced Vision 2020 to reschedule all of its Women 100 programs and events. What has that been like?
The situation obviously has been challenging for everybody but the whole team has really risen to the occasion in terms of creative thinking and problem solving. I know I am thinking differently and it has been interesting to watch others thinking differently as well. It turns out this is part of a historical pattern. The July 20 New Yorker magazine had a fascinating article recounting how pandemics of the past shook up the way people think, which led to radical cultural change.
Do you really think the COVID chaos will bring about something positive?
Yes. We are living through an incredibly historic time. So much is changing all at once that new opportunities and possibilities are emerging. We just can’t see them yet because we’re in the middle of the turbulence. Being an optimist, I think the country, and maybe the world, will come out the other side of this with a whole different way of thinking and problem solving — and hopefully working together!
You founded Vision 2020 to advance the cause of women’s equality and leadership. Has progress been stalled by the pandemic?
Not stalled in a macro sense, but I would say the importance of achieving women’s economic equality has been illuminated by the disproportionate negative impact on women. From a leadership perspective, the crisis is impressing on people how much leadership matters, at every level. The public is aware, perhaps more than ever, that the U.S. has major leadership vacuums to fill. At the same time, we are seeing women leaders in our country and other countries doing an amazing job. I believe the November election will show greater acceptance of the fact that we need the right leaders in the right places, without regard to gender.
How has the pandemic affected your personal life?
Working from home has affected the way I think about time and how I use it. I was always so busy, running around all the time, I didn’t think about whether my use of time aligned with the things I value. Over the past several months I have spent more time communicating with family members and reconnecting with people I care about. I have rediscovered how much I love to be outdoors, take a walk, watch plants bloom, listen to the birds. I have been tackling postponed projects around my home and I have gotten more sleep for sure. I have found all of these things to be extremely rewarding. The big negative is that I can’t hug my six grandchildren!
Have you made any surprise discoveries about yourself?
It is no surprise to people who know me that I am an extrovert and have a strong drive to be accomplishing something all the time. The forced isolation from others has given me the opportunity to discover two things: that I can be happy in non-social settings, and that I can feel content using some of my time to do things that are personally fulfilling but don’t result in a professional accomplishment.