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John Gerzema: The future of civil rights must be gender equality

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

John Gerzema , social strategist; executive chairman, Burson Marsteller's BAV Consulting

What needs to happen in the next 50 years for equality to be fully-realized in the U.S.?

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Courtesy John Gerzema

Consider employment, income, wealth and political power, and it's hard to escape the fact that gender equality must be our leading goal when it comes to the future of civil rights. Beyond the hard data, it's hard to deny the anecdotal evidence that men still enjoy greater respect and privileges in most of life's arenas.

As human beings, and as fathers of daughters, we believe that gender equality is a moral good in and of itself. However, it brings with it a series of benefits that should turn even the most self-interested among us into advocates for women's rights.

As we discovered when we wrote two books on business and leadership -- "Spend Shift" and "The Athena Doctrine" -- all organizations, from families to businesses to communities, function better when women have equal access to power, authority and responsibility. We're not saying that men and women are the same. But it is precisely because we aren't the same that we cannot afford to exclude the strengths and wisdom of half the human race.

We found evidence of the power of equality across America and in more than a dozen countries. In African villages women are a leading force for small-scale economic development, and in Colombia they have been peacemakers in the barrios of Medellin.

In India women are fighting caste discrimination, while in Peru, women are fighting domestic violence. And in Britain and the United States, female entrepreneurs are reviving economic activity in areas hardest-hit by recession.

And in every country, our opinion surveys found that men and women alike believe in a future where women have full equality. Everyone's just waiting for leaders to take us there.



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