Koa Beck is the former editor-in-chief of Jezebel and author of WHITE FEMINISM: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind, which explores how society's notion of feminism acts as a barrier to change, rather than a vehicle for it. In TIME, Koa asserts that recognizing systemic failures and rebuilding institutions beyond white feminism is necessary for all women to move forward. Koa joined us for a conversation with Chief Member Spectra Asala, and we're sharing a recap below:

The Origins of White Feminism

In the first wave of white feminism, the suffragettes were considered deviant women. So through an elaborate PR campaign,  they designed who a suffragette was and homogenized her image. They played into racist, paternalistic ideas to convince you that when you voted down suffrage, the person you were disenfranchising was a young woman who was white, thin, able-bodied, middle class, and heterosexual. She aspired to be a wife and a mother.

That is something that plays out amply today. Our image of mainstream feminism is a nice looking, very professional woman under age 35 with a smartphone. She's checking her email and eating a salad with chia seeds in it. And that image not only homogenizes the movement, but completely erase the women and non-binary people who have feminism that isn't based on any of those things. Their feminism is based on achieving a basic standard of living — like food security and access to healthcare.

How Leaders Can Use Their Power for Inclusive Feminism

There are a lot of things that are "good for women's or marginalized gender's rights" that have also been framed as being "bad for business." And powerful women like you have the capacity to advocate for change — for a better parental leave policy, higher wages, shorter work days. These things will impact your bottom line, and your board will not appreciate that — but that is the power that you have as a leader. We cannot move forward by getting a woman into a position of power and then having her maintain the patriarchy once she's there.

Use your role to put forth policies, because companies change all the time. People leave, and you may have a better job coming down the pipeline, but you need to leave some sort of legacy for the women that will come after you. And that is through policy. There's no telling what the person after you will put into place, but policies will be harder to abolish.

The Pandemic's Impact on Women in the Workforce, and What It Reveals About Our Feminist Ideology

One of the narratives that I've seen build in 2020 is that the pandemic has been a disaster for feminism. But COVID-19 has not been a disaster for feminism — it has revealed the key fissures in a white feminist ideology that has never prioritized things like federal paid parental leave or subsidized childcare or increased rights for domestic workers.

If anything, COVID has revealed to me how aspirational white feminism has always been and how its goal has never had any structural critique. This sort of aspirational fantasy does not square with a lot of real circumstances that have to do with women's work and domestic labor —  labor that has never been factored into the patriarchy or white feminist ideology.

Working Together as a Means for Change

We need to start working collectively with other women. Mainstream feminist discourse has encouraged women to look inward and to think of themselves as individual touchpoints for revolution. But the things that you have experienced in the workplace and boardroom have happened to a lot of other women and non-binary people in this country. So remove yourself as the essential piece of all feminist change in the world, and start working with other women.