Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits in our office alongside Dolly Parton and Michelle Obama in the form of saintly candles. But she's also present in so many more ways than most of us even had to think about until last week. Upon hearing she’d died, heartbroken and afraid, a colleague joined me for a (safely distanced) drink and we recognized that The Key honors her simply by existing.
When called to “have her memory be a revolution,” we realized that a woman-owned business like ours is serving revolution every day in how we tell a new story.
My connection to Ginsburg began before either of us was born, and long before she became The Notorious RBG.
In founding Cornell University, Ezra Cornell articulated “I trust we have laid the foundation of a University — ‘an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.’” It was 1868, and that revolutionary statement included not only the breadth of socioeconomic classes to which much of university education was off limits, but also that Cornell would educate women.
That statement compelled me to apply; RBG later addressed our shared alma mater with Ezra Cornell’s words from a letter to his granddaughter: “I want to have girls educated in the University, as well as boys so that they have the same opportunity to become wise and useful to society that the boys have.”
Said Ginsburg of that letter, “I didn’t know of that letter when I attended Cornell. I would have treasured it then; I treasure it now.”
Coeducation is now the norm instead of the exception, and women continue to rise in the workplace - though our numbers in the C-suite, on the board, or measured by funding reflect how recently we were permitted.
I was a Managing Director at Atomic when I had my first kid, at a global communications firm when I had my second -- only possible because of RBG. When I started this company, it was in part to make work even more equitable for women and parents, and folks still left out of the common corporate narrative. When I incorporated and set up my own financial accounts, I was able to do so because of RBG.
When we consider benefits for the team, or work with fintech clients broadening access to wealth first held exclusively by (white) men, recognize the holidays celebrated by the various cultures represented among us, or work to extend our Key Agreements to be more inclusive -- each step honors her fight and we collectively stand on her enormous figurative shoulders.
Whether measured against the timeline of Cornell University (nee 1868), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (nee 1933), me (nee 1979) or The Key (nee 2017), we’ve made incredible progress in who gets considered as part of the American story. My life would have had to follow a very different path, and the timing is so closely tied to RBG’s impact, it’s uncanny: in the years leading up to my birth (1973 to 1976), she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning 5.
Now, as she passes the (sometimes sequined, sometimes lace, always impeccable) mantle, Kerry Washington may have put it best, calling for us each to step up in the space left by our heroes.
And as we continue to Tell a New Story at The Key, we take a cue from RBG, the first time she appeared before the court, quoting nineteenth-century abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sarah Grimke: “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks” but we extend it to all of our brothers and sisters with knees on their necks - both literal and figurative. As women, we have benefited from tremendous change and are dedicated to using our power and voices to fight for justice for those still held down by racism and other oppressive systems at work in this country.
Stay tuned for updates to our agreements, and let us know what impact RBG has had on your life and what you’ll do to honor her legacy today.