I write to you with feelings of sadness, gratitude and more than a little bit of anxiety about what the future will hold for women without Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Lest the politics of replacing Justice Ginsburg on the court overwhelm the remembrance of her contribution, I feel compelled to add my voice to the reflections, for few justices in history have affected more constitutional change in a lifetime than the notorious RBG.
It is difficult to imagine the court without her. In her 27 years on the bench, Justice Ginsburg made a huge and indelible imprint on American society — though she would place the credit on those who came before her. In a statement accepting the National Constitution Center’s 2020 Liberty Medal recently, Ginsburg recognized the women of many generations who pushed for equality. “I was scarcely an innovator,” she said. “For generations, brave women and enlightened men in diverse nations pursued [women’s equality], but they did so when society was not yet prepared to listen.”1
In her view, her arguments on behalf of women and other marginalized groups resonated because they came at the right time — a time when society was ripe for change, a time when society was ready to listen.
Society is listening even more closely today, and, more importantly, society is saying something. We have seen this with the #MeToo movement. We have seen it with the companies in our portfolios, who have taken to heart our urgings for gender and racial pay equity and enacted it in their workplaces. We have seen it during the last several months of civil unrest and the emergence of a new civil rights movement.
This is critical. As RBG asserted, “Courts are not leaders in social change. They follow after movement in the larger society.”1 Society must speak for change to occur.
As gender lens investors, we say something with every share we purchase. But we need to amplify our voice and redouble our efforts if we are to bring about lasting change.
Trepidation about a future without Ruth Bader Ginsburg is understandable; no one person can fill her shoes — not even close. But we can’t become discouraged in our grief. Instead, we would best honor her legacy by advancing along the path she blazed and re-dedicating ourselves to the causes of justice and equality that she championed.
1Jeffrey Rosen, “RBG’s Life, in Her Own Words,” The Atlantic, Sept. 19, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/rbgs-life-her-own-words/616414/