feminine leadership

Why Gaining Equality Inspires Women’s Hope

What a thrill to experience women’s quest for equality through the play, “Gloria: A Life”in New York City this past weekend! The theater-in-the-round evoked Gloria Steinem’s living room, with each seat backed by a colorful pillow, the stage filled with Persian rugs and ethnic prints, stacks of books, and electrified by a powerful ensemble cast of eight women actors. Multi-media projections brought history to life as Christine Lahti enacted Steinem’s career, starting as a “girl writer” in the news industry of the time, which was unashamedly dominated by white men, also portrayed to entertaining effect by women actors.

For two hours, we were THERE with the young Gloria as she struggled to escape the pink ghettos of fashion and beauty writing assignments, as she fought to gain recognition for her skills rather than her looks, and as she learned from experienced African-American organizers. Over the decades and in community with other women, she gained the courage to overcome her fear of public speaking and began her life’s work as an organizer.   We learned with her, as she spoke with other activists hundreds of times each year, learning and educating around a still-radical notion: women and men arefully equal and human.

My fifteen-year-old granddaughter sat riveted throughout the performance, and said she learned a lotthat she had not known about the women’s fight for equality. I learned a lot too:

  • That the U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy, that Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to attend the Constitutional Convention as consultants, and that their first question was, “Where are your women?”
  • That despite denigrating public pronouncements by national (male) TV commentators, the first issue of magazine, which Steinem co-founded and published free of fashion and beauty advertising in 1971, sold out in Los Angeles in just eight days.
  • That experienced women activists of color were allowed to speak to the media only about race while Steinem, a newbie, was elevated as the spokesperson for women’s issues (which might explain a lot about racial tensions surrounding the 2016 Women’s Marches.)
  • That the protesters who piled bras, girdles and other restrictive clothing into a barrel never set a match to it because they could not get a fire permit and were too obedient to break the law, even though the press forever after dubbed them “Bra Burners.”

And so much more. What a great teaching tool! I hope the play becomes popular in high school theater programs because young people need to understand what it took to gain the rights they enjoy today.

The play is adapted from Steinem’s fascinating 2015 memoir My Life on the Road, and if you can’t get to New York to see the play, you should read the book. At the performance I attended, which was a benefit for TakeTheLead, Steinem herself led the audience discussion that forms an integral part of every performance. Women and men, young and old, asked questions, shared personal stories, and expressed their appreciation for the doors Steinem and her peers opened for all women today. Rights young women take for granted today were absolutely outrageous ideas then.  Sexual harassment, previously accepted as “just life,” is now a thingthat women can fight. Today women have a legal basis for seeking equal pay, equal opportunity, and the right to control our own bodies, even though progress is uneven and continually threatened.

Steinem, now 84, noted in her closing comments one benefit of growing old: she can remember when things were so much worse than today. She stressed that women’s equality is not something to be won in a mass movement later, but by each woman every day doing a small thing to stand up for equal rights. We gain the courage for those actions by connecting and living in community with others, sharing our stories, laughing and crying, and making our plans together. She left us with a challenge and a question: “What outrageous action for equality will youtake in the next 24 hours?”

Gloria Steinem’s Endorsement is Something I Cherish

This is a big thank you to Gloria Steinem, who endorsed our new book, In This Together – How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. I will thank her in person on December 15 when I attend the play “Gloria, A Life” in Manhattan (please join us there), but I’d like to tell you now why it means so much to me that she wrote:

“Whether our problem is isolation in a male-dominant culture, distance across racial barriers, living in front of a computer screen, or all three, Nancy O’Reilly’s In This Together will help us to create community, success, and well-being.”

That’s exactly what I hoped this book would do, and Steinem’s radical idea that we are “linked, not ranked” is the key to women to supporting each other. When we join together around our common goals for women and girls, there’s no limit to what we can do. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be divided by income, social standing, race, ethnicity, gender expression, background, or any other differences. As a traveling feminist, Steinem learned “one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” That’s crazy talk, right!

Gloria Steinem, as you know, is a feminist activist and organizer who has stood up for her belief in the equality and full humanity of women and men since the 1960s. It’s this simple yet radical concept that underlies women’s worldwide fight for equality. She is a thrilling writer and thinker, author of five books, and co-founder of NewYork magazine and Ms. Magazine, where she still serves as consulting editor. Steinem and I are united in our support for Take The Lead, as they seek to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to leadership parity by 2025.

In My Life on The Road, Steinem tells stories about the travels and relationships that have shaped her activism. She lived in India as a young woman, and that is where she first witnessed the power of talking circles, where everyone in the village had a chance to speak and listen in turn, and the goal was understanding and consensus rather than winning or losing.

Why Equality for Women Frightens People

Change is about more than uniting people in a movement, though. Steinem encourages others to find their voices, noting, “The first step toward speaking for others is speaking up for ourselves.” By suggesting that women should have equality everywhere, she up-ended the patriarchal power structure. People who have power usually fight to keep it, and feminists became a lightning rod for criticism, controversy and often vocal protests. Even some women have felt more threatened by this idea than liberated.

We write a lot in In This Together about the many gender stereotypes that limit women’s aspirations and behavior. Refusing to accept those limits when writing in praise of the benefits of travel, Steinem pointed out, “Even the dictionary defines adventurer as “a person who has, enjoys, or seeks adventures,” but adventuress is “a woman who uses unscrupulous means in order to gain wealth or social position.”

When people fretted that Steinem was in danger when traveling alone, she pointed out, “Records show that women are most likely to be beaten or killed at home and by men they know. Statistically speaking, home is an even more dangerous place for women than the road.”

Full equality would empower women to provide safety for ourselves and our families, and to pursue any career. Steinem recalls working as the only “girl writer” on a pioneering political satire TV show. Women were – and are – poorly represented in the writing room, she wrote, “probably because the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy. Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule.”

Have you noticed that when women gather together, we laugh a lot? When we link together joyfully around our common humanity and goals, it’s a wonderful life! Women are better off now than at any time in history, due in large part to the continuing work of courageous women. We’re keeping it going. Thank you, Gloria Steinem for taking the lead.

2018 – An Amazing Year for Powerful Women in Politics

Woman holding sign in crowd that says Volting is my Super PowerWhen women and girls are empowered to participate fully in society, everyone benefits. ~ Melinda Gates

In 2018, women across the country were elected to a record number of local and statewide offices. The “Pink Wave” also swept across the nation in midterm elections that carried young women and veterans to victory in Senate and governors’ races and brought some major breakthroughs for women of color. Some of the big winners of the year were seasoned leaders, like Michigan governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, and Kansas governor-elect Laura Kelly. But many of the toughest House races were won by political neophytes taking their first steps into electoral politics.

The “firsts” this year included: 

  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Iham Omar of Minnesota became the first and second Muslim women elected to Congress.
  • Deb Haaland of Arizona and Sharice Davids of Kansas became the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Davids also made history as the first openly LGBT woman of color in Congress.
  • Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman.
  • New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old progressive, won in a shocking upset.
  • Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became Texas’s first two Latina congresswomen.
  • Lou Leon Guerrero became the first woman governor of Guam.
  • Angie Craig became the first openly lesbian mother in Congress and the first openly LGBT member of Congress from Minnesota.
  • Jahana Hayes, a former schoolteacher, became Connecticut’s first black congresswomen.
  • Young Kim of California became the first Korean American woman in Congress.
  • Marsha Blackburn became Tennessee’s first woman elected to the Senate.
  • Janet Mills in Maine, Kim Reynolds in Iowa, and Kristi Noem in South Dakota became the first female governors for their states.

The 2018 election cycle was also the first following the defeat of the first woman presidential candidate of a major party. In this cycle, many women saw a need to change the status quo and volunteered to run without being recruited. They also ran differently. Instead of putting on the power suit and spouting resume talking points, they featured their children in ads, offered personal testimony about sexual harassment and abuse, and opened up about family struggles, drug abuse and debt. Their openness connected with many facing the same struggles, and their authenticity paid off.

According to figures compiled by the Center for American Progress in November 2018:

  • A record number – at least 126 women so far ­– have won seats in the US Congress (three races remain uncalled by the Associated Press).
  • A historic high of 43 women of color were elected to Congress, along with at least three who identify as LGBTQ.
  • The number of women serving in state legislatures will exceed 2,000 for the first time ever.
  • The number of women governors rose by 50 percent, from six to nine.

More Gains to be Made

These are exciting numbers and historic wins, but we clearly still have a significant leadership gap. As of January 2019, women will still represent less than one fourth of members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate. Although they will hold 28 percent of seats in state legislatures, women hold only 18 percent of governorships, and, as of August 2018, are less than a quarter of the mayors of America’s 100 largest cities. To be clear, women make up slightly more than one half the population.

We must continue our support of women doing the hard work of holding elected office and encourage women to run and especially to run again. One defeat means nothing in a political career. EMILY’s List, VoteRunLead, and She Should Run all reported a huge surge in women interested in running in this cycle. These women who mustered their courage demonstrated that women are truly ready to lead, and that the people are ready to elect them in their communities, states, and nation. We need to celebrate these women who are paving the way, and help others follow their lead.

We can also encourage and inspire our daughters, granddaughters, and young women in our communities. There are a number of organizations that will make good use of our time, talent and treasure. For example, Girls Inc. has chapters nationwide and works to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers has an initiative dedicated to making women’s public leadership visible to the next generation, with programs set up nationwide, called Teach a Girl to LeadTM. The Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at University of Missouri St. Louis prepares college women and has even hosted a Girls’ Summit for middle schoolers.  Ask around in your community for opportunities to mentor and engage at a local level, and if you don’t find any, join with other women to start one.

Ultimately, we want 2018’s “Pink Wave” to close the leadership gap and make our voices heard on every level. Women leaders change the game. We do indeed need at least half our leaders to be women, and by working together we can make it happen. Just think how that will change our country and the world!

We Need Male Allies to Help Us Get Ahead

Male AlliesFor gender parity to succeed, we need male allies at every level of government, in the workplace, and the communities we call home. The main argument for achieving women’s parity is that you only get half the results when you engage half of the population. So doesn’t it make sense, that the same is true in working for parity itself? It should be obvious that we’ll get there faster if we all work together, but the system that rewards sexism in the workplace and our communities is strong and works against us to keep the status quo itself working against closing the wage gap, assuming our fair share of leadership positions and achieving full equality.  We must engage men (the other half of the population) in new ways, make them feel like they belong and help them understand their own benefits from women’s advancement, and shift their perspective of how they can help us get ahead.
Men often don’t see the disparities, despite the fact that they have a larger stake in women’s equality than in the past. Many men today count on the financial contribution their wives make to the family economy, and they were likely raised by women who worked. They also want their daughters to succeed and will express outrage when the women in their lives encounter discrimination or barriers at work. But that personal perspective needs to be widened to a world view for them to truly understand the value of gender parity.

Include Men In Gender Equity Discussions

To help our male counterparts become more aware and include them in discussions around gender equity in the workplace, Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that some women’s conferences and employee resource groups are changing their approach by creating events aimed at men, and inviting them to attend. Their approach is based on evidence which shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress – compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.
Do the math, an organization has a 66% greater chance of succeeding if men are “deliberately engaged.” That’s huge. In fact, this discrepancy illustrates that if we don’t work with men, significant progress is doubtful, and gender inclusion programs will likely fail.
The evidence for parity just keeps multiplying. Take for example the pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) projects that the U.S. economy would generate additional income of more than $512 billion if women received equal pay. And if that doesn’t get your attention, a recent McKinsey study showed that stricter workplace gender equity practices could add $12 trillion the global GDP by 2025 (seven short years from now) with stronger workplace gender equity practices. $12 trillion dollars definitely makes the case for working together to change the status quo. That extra money isn’t just for women. Everyone benefits. Men too.We, yes women and men, need to recognize and acknowledge the gender inequality problem so that we can work together to correct it. Equal pay for equal work is a unifying goal that benefits all of us.

Male Allies Also Subjected to Backlash

However, including men in our efforts to close the gap isn’t as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. As HBR reports, these efforts often reveal reluctance, if not palpable anxiety among targeted men. While some research has shown that white men face no penalty for promoting diversity, other studies suggest that there can be a cost to acting as an ally. In fact, men who display willingness to be an ally and behave as mentors, collaborators and other ways identified as feminine work-styles, they can be subjected to the same backlashes as women. It’s called “the wimp penalty.” The HBR reporters sum it up, “Sexism is a system, and while it’s a system that privileges men, it also polices male behavior.”
Diversity and inclusion doesn’t just happen, and while we may have a group of men willing to stand with us, the impact of that system can keep men in their place, just as much as women. Awareness can give us the tools we need to work around it and get men to help us claim our fair share. However, not all male allies are created equally. Diversity consultant Jennifer Brown frames allyship on a continuum ranging from apathetic (no understanding of the issues) to aware (knows basic concepts) to active (well-informed, sharing and seeking diversity) to advocate (committed, routinely and proactively championing inclusion).

Our Male Allies Matter

We need to let our allies know, at all phases of the continuum, how much they matter. HBR reports that gender parity efforts are most effective when men believe they have an important role to play, that their partnership is valued, and that transformation of the workplace is something they can share in. Feeling accepted boosts male allies’ internal motivation to participate and further strengthens gender alliance efforts.
Men are a great and necessary resource in advancing leadership opportunities for women in the workplace. It’s in all our best interests to make our companies as productive and profitable as we can. That’s why we all need to work together to change the status quo and make a real, daily commitment to working together to change the system to one that supports more balanced diverse management and workforce.

Guiding Women from College to Career

Susan Kellogg points out that when she began her career in fashion 30 years ago, only 15 percent of the CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies were filled by women. When she left her job as group president of VF Corporation, the needle hadn’t moved—still only 15 percent. In spite of the fact that women are over half the population and are earning more college degrees than men, they still lag behind in positions of top corporate leadership. So Susan decided to help by filling in the mentoring gap between college and career.
As a graduate of UCLA, Susan joined that university’s board for the sociology department and also serves on board for the Cal Poly Pomona Apparel Merchandising & Management and Agriculture Departments. She notes that we’re doing a great job of educating women to prepare them for leadership careers, but there is little follow-through after that. Now, as a consultant pursuing her mission to give back, Susan guides women in their senior year to make choices that puts them on the path toward successful leadership careers.

Choosing That First Job after School

Susan says that people get paralyzed by that first job, but it doesn’t have to be the perfect job. It doesn’t even have to be the right job and it certainly doesn’t have to be what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. She urges women to ask themselves:

  • Is it interesting?
  • Is this something I can dedicate myself to?
  • Do I find it inspiring?
  • Do I have talent in this area?

If in the first year, it’s not right for you, move on. She says to treat every job experience as adding to your tool box. Even if you realize that you made a mistake, sign up for a year, then figure out your next step and redirect your path.
She also advises that you don’t have to move up every time or even make more money. She moved sideways, accepted a less prestigious title, even less money if it would take her to a company she wanted to work for and where she wanted to live. She always had to feel that she was learning something new and there was opportunity to advance.

“Women Can Have It All, Just Not All at the Same Time.”

Susan reflects that people often ask her if she has any regrets and she answers “no.” She did miss a lot of weddings and funerals, but while on her corporate path, she did all she wanted to do. And she helped other women along the way. A point of pride is that she prioritized racial and gender diversity in her new hires, although qualified women weren’t always available in the technical areas of production and finance.
Also, she notes how sad she would feel if she never had her daughter and believes women need more than a career to feel fulfilled. However, because women’s partners often do not do an equal share of domestic chores, they fall behind in networking and other activities that would advance them into senior positions at work.
Listen to this interview for more insights from a woman who has been in the top ranks of the corporate world, been the only woman in the board room, and continues to work toward helping women achieve a greater percentage of top leadership positions. Learn about what women need to do to achieve their fair and equal share of CEO positions. Whether you’re just starting out, making a transition or looking for a way to give back yourself, this conversation will help inspire your next move.

Harness the Power of Women Helping Women

Women Helping WomenThe power that is unleashed when women help other women is becoming abundantly clear to everyone through the initiatives like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Women, speaking out in unison, are amplifying the voices of victims, who were once blamed for the crimes against them. Nearly every day, we witness the power shift as the once-powerful perpetrators are being removed from their places of authority. However, in other settings, women continue to remain distant and unsupportive of other women, maintaining the limitations of the glass ceiling for possibly brilliant women leaders, who struggle to get to the first rung of the ladder and advance their careers.

Ann Welsh McNulty, co-founder and managing partner of JBK Partners, recently wrote in Harvard Business Review that some senior-level women distance themselves from junior women in the workplace in response to inequality at the top, and cited a study published in The Leadership Quarterly that found that the inclination to, “Separate oneself from a marginalized group is, sadly, a strategy that’s frequently employed. It’s easy to believe that there’s limited space for people who look like you at the top when you can see it with your own eyes.” She also reports that whereas many women are navigating alone, men are 46% more likely to have a higher-ranking advocate in the office.

McNulty writes that the antidote to being penalized for sponsoring women may just be to do it more — and to do it vocally, loudly, and proudly — until we’re able to change perceptions. That is a perfect approach. Times have changed and today there is room on top to make space for all of us. With that in mind, our upcoming book, In This Together, looks at the phrase “Not enough pie” which was used in the past to define women’s lack of support for other women. However, today Gloria Feldt sees women’s leadership not as a competitive win-lose situation, but instead as an infinite pie, and says, “The more there is the more there is. The pie just keeps getting bigger.”

Advancing women into leadership positions is not only the right thing to do, for a number of reasons, it is important to a company’s bottom line. For example:

  • A recent Catalyst report found Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance in three important measures:
    • Return on Equity: 53 percent higher.
    • Return on Sales: 42 percent higher.
    • Return on Invested Capital: 66 percent higher.
  • A recently published study from the Peterson Institute reports that companies with at least 30% female leaders—specifically in senior management—had net profit margins up to 6 points higher than companies with no women in senior management. That is a 15% increase in profitability.
  • In 2015, McKinsey & Co found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their counterparts in the lower quartile.
  • McKinsey also found that companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, leading to cost reductions associated with replacing top executives.

Women have a lot of momentum right now, and we can use that to work towards equality and advancement at all levels. There is more than enough room at the top, and as we climb the ladder we need to reach out to other women, and help them along. Just as #MeToo and #TimesUp are proving, when women connect and collaborate we can do anything. We prove it every day and we need to take note in these times, that the more we focus our efforts and support one another, the more of everything we can create, especially “pie.” Let’s focus on creating opportunities for all women. If we work together, we can change the workplace, and in turn, change the world.

More Reasons to Create Gender Equality in the Workplace

Gender Equality in the WorkplaceFor decades, in order to make our voices heard, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, for many of us trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads), and a new study shows that we can and will continue to utilize our feminine strengths as gender equality in the workplace becomes more the norm.
As women, we know that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. A researcher at the University of Salzburg in Austria agrees and suggests in his recent study that men and women not only have particular personality differences, but those differences grow in nations that have the greatest gender equality.
In addition to looking at personality traits, the study squared its findings against “gender equality” measured by the Global Gender Gap Index. The results showed that greater gender equality is associated with stronger expressions of gender difference. While the study’s author, Tim Kaiser says that it could be a “case of the personality adapting to changing societal conditions.” It could also be a situation where women are empowered to lead authentically as themselves.

Gender Equality in the Workplace Starts by Removing Bias

As it stands today, moving up the ladder is a competitive process, regardless of gender. However, to truly level the playing field, we need to create an environment where gender equality in the workplace is a given and ensure that advancements, promotions, and the entire workplace is free of discrimination and bias. Unconscious biases have a critical effect on our judgment and can stand in the way of women working their way into the C-suite.
Gender bias stereotypes – surrounding men and women – can lead to unfair decision making. To eliminate that from the workplace and advancement process, we need to educate employees about how stereotypes work. Mary Lorenz writes in Career Builder that since we are not always aware of our biases, we do not realize when they are influencing our decision-making; therefore, education and awareness are key to moving forward.
We also need to establish clear criteria before making decisions about hiring, promotion, etc. so that bias gets removed from the decision-making process.Research has shown the more formal the criteria are, the more women and underrepresented minorities will be hired. It’s also important to scrutinize that criteria on a regular basis and adjust and refine as needed.
It’s also important to set diversity goals, as agrowing body of research suggests that diversity in the workforce results in “significant business advantages.” Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School says that at the end of every hiring process, leaders should track how well they’ve done against the diversity goals they set out to achieve.” This also encourages those involved in the hiring and in other parts of the company “to keep diversity and equality top of mind.”
And more than anything, be transparent. With education, clear criteria, and diversity goals, it should be a no-brainer to post numbers. As Lorenz writes, keeping, “track of our progress in terms of how we’re doing in terms of gender diversity in our workplaces really causes people to be more thoughtful in how they’re making decisions.” Transparency and accountability are essential tools in creating a gender equal workplace.
Because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. But in order for that to happen, and for women to have the opportunity to lead authentically, we have to level the playing field and work together to create a bias-free environment where women can use their unique skills and strengths to lead a more balanced and diverse workforce.

Together, We Can Make A Difference

Right now, in every sector, women are making their voices heard. We are taking to the streets, gathering on social media, and organizing through numerous initiatives and movements. We truly are in this together, and we need to be in order to move to the next phase. While some may think this rise in conversation and feminine power may have started with the presidential election, or even with #MeToo, women gathering to further the common good started much, much sooner.

In 1848, a group of almost 200 women met at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. The first ever women’s rights convention kicked off with. Reading of the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances” which detailed the injustices inflicted upon women in the United States and called on women to organize and petition for their rights. The Seneca Falls Convention was followed two weeks later by an even larger meeting in Rochester, New York. National women’s rights conventions were held annually after that, providing an important focus for the growing women’s suffrage movement. Through gatherings in Seneca Falls, a movement was born, and after years of struggle the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920, granting American women the constitutionally protected right to vote.

The struggle continues as we work to close the gender pay gap, claim our rightful place in leadership positions, and live lives free of oppression and harassment. And guess what? In order to get that done, women are still gathering. The Women’s March saw 4.6 million women and men take to the streets and march to raise awareness on women’s rights as human rights in 642 cities on every continent on the globe. The anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment movements #MeToo and#TimesUp have also shifted the conversation on women’s issues, and elevated the global consciousness surrounding the obstacles women encounter in their daily lives.

Numerous organizations have also taken root in the past decade to further the needs of women, and help us claim our fair share. For example, our very own Women Connect4Good Foundation supports and connects women to empower and lift up all women to break through barriers that prevent them from achieving sustainable, fulfilling lives and claim their power to change the world.

Take the Lead prepares, develops, inspires, and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025, and their unique strategies create the breakthrough from where women have been stalled at 18-20% of top leadership positions for two decades.

Actually, when it comes to accelerating women’s leadership today, the sky is the limit. We’ve got Lean In, Emily’s List, Catalyst, Fem. Inc, Ellevate, Bossed Up, See Jane Do, SHEROES United, and more. And all of us are working towards the same goals – women’s empowerment. With training, tools, supports and awareness I truly believe that together we CAN make a difference.

The “I Am a Superwoman” Equality and Empowerment Summit, on Friday, August 24, is another great addition to the powerful movements happening all around us. Why is “I Am a Superwoman” important? Because women, sometimes at great personal risk, have fought for our rights in this country for nearly 200 years. However, our world is still divided and full of hate. In fact, in the United States 1.3 rapes per minute still happen. It is up to us to continue the fight, and work together to change the status quo.

“I Am a Superwoman” encourages us to assume personal accountability and individual responsibility for the future of our planet. It’s clear that a foundational shift in culture and leadership is essential. “I Am a Superwoman” highlights the need to recalibrate our societal mindset so we can move forward to create a better world for our children and for our community. It’s all about Equality. This is not a Partisan issue, it’s a Human issue. This movement is a critical step forward from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and aims to preserve and nurture the relationship between men and women. It’s time to re-direct our energies toward long term prevention focused on education and training programs that will stimulate positive change.

“I Am a Superwoman” invites women to build their legacy, and through the Superwoman Video Challenge urges women to prepare their Personal Bill of Rights. Wherever you are, simply pick up your phone and shoot a selfie video saying, “Here’s to the Superwomen who started the Equal Rights movement, and here is my personal Bill of Rights,” and share three to five things that you feel strongly about. Then you can post your video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and include #IAmaSuperwoman, #NowItsUp2Me, and SuperwomanDonations.org. Proceeds from the “I Am a Superwoman” activities will go to 501c3 organizations like SHEROES United, an organization my Leading Women co-author M. Bridget Cook-Burch founded that works tirelessly to help victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.

Remember, the momentum we gain when working together is unlike anything in the world. To find out more and get your ticket for the “I Am a Superwoman” Equality and Empowerment Summit, or to learn more about any of the “I Am a Superwoman” activities, go to SuperwomanCampaign.org.

Champions for Change

Speaker, Author

Trudy Bourgeois

Trudy Bourgeois urges women to become champions for change. Trudy is a renowned and respected authority on leadership development and founder of The Center for Workforce Excellence, which transforms organizations through focusing on developing leadership skills with an emphasis on learning how to develop talent across differences. She built her outstanding reputation by experiencing a lifetime of “firsts.” Growing up African American during segregation in the South provided her ample opportunities to strive for equality and simultaneously check each advancement off for herself and other women like her. She says that she is grateful for each of her “firsts” because they help her understand how to help people get to their next level and reach their greatest potential.
When Trudy was the first woman of color vice president in the tobacco industry, diversity and inclusion weren’t even business concepts. Women were told they were too collaborative; they needed to be more strategic.  Now, she says that we’re in the fourth industrial revolution where technology outpaces technology and we can only out-distance the competition by investing in our people—our most important resource—and bringing everyone together. Companies who don’t leverage their talent and ability to change will not be in business long in this new competitive environment

Equality Depends on Having Courageous Conversations

In her third book, EQUALITY: Courageous Conversations about Women, Men, AND Race in the Workplace to Spark a Diversity and Inclusion Breakthrough, Trudy describes “5 Brutal Facts for Obtaining Equality.” She lists the old paradigms that used to work for companies, including outdated leadership models where leaders don’t understand “how to manage the most diverse workforce in history,” and points out how most of the research has been done on men and most of the research that includes women, focuses on white women. Bottom line, although there’s a lot of talk about diversity, leaders are not held accountable for leading in inclusive ways.
But women can change all that. Trudy discusses how the pendulum is swinging back the other way from the 90% white male power structure to an awakening of the female spirit with the #MeToo movement. She says that for a long time, when women rose to the top, they didn’t want to admit they were women. They took on the male persona. But that is changing and organizations are gaining an appreciation for the natural skills that women have exhibited all along.

Women Must Reach Out to Other Women

Trudy talks a lot in her new book and in this conversation about how women need to step up as thought leaders and be champions for change with no apology. Women haven’t been told we are good. We need to do that for ourselves and for other women. She encourages women to reach out and “pour into another woman” whenever there is an opportunity. Reach out to someone who is not like yourself. She also urges women to listen and learn. In her book, she uses the example of how Marilyn Monroe gave Ella Fitzgerald a hand-up by sitting in the front row of her nightclub performances to get her career started in clubs that wouldn’t hire a black singer. We may never have heard the name of Ella Fitzgerald, or more importantly never received the gift of her voice without another woman using her privilege to pour into another woman.
Listen to this interview to learn more about how Trudy says women must come to grips with our own biases and work together for equality. Check out her social media pages, her website http://workforceexcellence.com/, read her blog at Huffington Post, and get her amazing book to learn more about how she says we can be champions for change by reaching an olive branch out to someone who isn’t exactly like us.

Hear Her Song Honors 20 Women

“Hear Her Song” Performers at The National Gallery of Art

Carla Canales, Founder and Director of The Canales Project recently created “Hear Her Song” to celebrate and give voice to stories of women who are changing the world for the better. I was honored to be among 20 women recognized by the Project, and was beyond humbled at the inaugural presentation on March 18 at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Presented in partnership with Vital Voices and my Leading Women co-author Linda Rendleman’s Women Like Us Foundation, an astounding array of songwriters, musicians, singers and artists created songs, performances and recordings to commemorate powerful insights into the nature of women’s leadership and the challenges facing women world-wide.

“Hear Her Song” audience at the National Gallery of Art

Each woman honoree was asked questions about her story to reveal critical choices she had made to overcome obstacles and realize her vision of success. Jacqueline Suskin, The Canales Project poet in residence, then took that information and composed the lyrics to each song. Melodies were then added by emerging female composers under the guidance of Musical Director Kurt Crowley, best known as the music director of the Broadway musical, Hamilton.

More performances are planned, including one scheduled for Saturday, May 19, 2018, 7:00pm at the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose, California.

Dr. Nancy’s song:

Maggie Castrey, Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, Jen Dethro at The National Gallery of Art

Without doubt, the clarity
of purpose comes like a divine definition,
feminine form to craft a foundation
for the finest feeling.
This communal consideration
collects between hearts that nurture,
under the care of each voice considered
and always reshaping myths that block
us from betterment. In unison
we find the balance, bright bloom
of equality that brings us
into steadfast union.

~Jacqueline Suskin, Poet in Residence
~Madeline Myers, Melody

Check out The Canales Project.com for information about future performances and a complete list of the 20 women honored in the project.

“Hear Her Song” by artist Rosemary Feit Covey

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