By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogWomen’s cries for equal pay for equal work--a notion that dates back at least as far as Susan B. Anthony--are getting louder, and we work to continue to chip away at the shame that has always surrounded sexual assault.

In the United States, this is particularly visible at the college level, as young adults mobilize to bring attention to rapes on campuses across the nation and higher-education institutions’ long-standing habit of trying to hide them.

The movement is not limited to young women. Young men are speaking up too--the White House’s It’s On Us campaign puts the onus on both women and men to put an end to sexual assaults on college campuses. There’s also He for She, a more general gender equality movement led by men that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”

The equal rights of women and girls is, as Hillary Clinton put it, “the unfinished business of the 21st century.”

But it’s not just about women.

It’s about minorities, who will become the majority in this country within the next several decades, speaking out about inherent biases in society.

It’s about the gay and lesbian community pushing for the rights that have long and unfairly been denied to them. (By the way, if you are a jeweler with a store in one of the states considering laws like these, I would advise against denying service to anybody.)

Even the long-fought “War on Drugs” is going up in smoke, driven not by Congress but by the votes of people in state across the country, as they come to the realization that prison sentences that keep young men locked up for years on end do nothing but cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

At the heart of this period of great social change is the fact that the baby boomers are getting older and their children, the generation known as the Millennials who soon will outnumber their parents, are coming of age with a much more liberal set of beliefs.

[caption id="attachment_2819" align="alignright" width="473"]Social-change-rotator A participant’s sign at the International Women’s Day March for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, held Sunday in New York City. The Women’s Jewelry Association was among those organizations with representation at the march.[/caption]

The jewelry industry needs to recognize this. Behavior alleged in cases like this and this and this isn’t tolerated anymore. The old boys’ club is beginning to show cracks.

The industry should ride the wave of social change and be progressive for once instead of lagging like we did, and still do, in areas such as technology and marketing.

If there is discrimination of any kind going on at your business, you have absolutely no excuse for letting it continue without intervening. If you don’t, don’t think for a second that someone else won’t do it for you.

Just ask the fraternity brothers at the University of Oklahoma, who probably didn’t expect that one among them would tape and then post their racist chant to YouTube for all to see. But that’s exactly what happened.

People are speaking up and speaking out, using social media as a tool. That is fact. And while you might not agree with all my viewpoints expressed above, many of them are facts as well.

The Millennials will number some 75 million as of this year. They have a much more liberal set of beliefs than their parents and they are, whether you agree with them or not, the consumers of the future. They’ll be the ones to shape the social structure of the country going forward.

Retailers who hope to connect with them need to be progressive, be open-minded, and be accepting. Be ahead of the curve, instead of behind it.

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