Feminism

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.

We’re Still Marching and Making Our Voices Heard!


Right now, the next chapter of the women’s movement is being written – and it’s up to each and every one of us to help author it by fighting for what we believe in – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
In 2017, on post-Inauguration Saturday, 4.6 million marched for women’s rights as human rights in 642 cities on every continent on the globe. One year later, women recognized that anniversary, and once again took to the streets to make their voices heard. Proving that there is power in numbers, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in major cities and small towns around the globe.
Last year women marched to express their outrage in what The New Yorker described as a, “shell-shocked solidarity.” With hundreds of issues among them, headlines generally spoke to the core issues surrounding women’s rights, with messages as diverse as the marchers.

Power To The Polls


This year, U.S. activities focused on a power-to-the-polls theme, with a focus on registering voters and encouraging women to run for office in 2018, and especially in the November midterm elections. Women’s March organizers launched a #PowerToThePolls campaign, which focuses on combating voter suppression and making sure that all people who are eligible to vote can easily exercise that right. Reuters reported that March organizers hope to build on the energy felt by Trump opponents after his surprise election victory and channel it into gains for progressive candidates in November’s midterm elections, and they used the weekend to work towards their goal of registering one million new voters. The campaign was timely as events took place against a backdrop of political dysfunction, with the federal government newly shutdown.

Pine Island ROAR Rally in Bokeelia, Florida


Nationwide, women and their families promised to use their votes to shift the course of American government during the mid-term elections. And in many areas where there wasn’t an official march, women organized and took to the streets as part of the #PowerToThePolls campaign to get people registered to vote and use their voices to shake up the status quo.

And We Marched…

Every event and gathering around the world had its moments, as energized crowds continued to work towards change. In Los Angeles, Viola Davis explained that her “testimony is one of poverty” and “one of being sexually assaulted.” She continued: “I know that every single day, when I think of that, I know that the trauma of those events are still with me today. And that’s what drives me to the voting booth. That’s what allows me to listen to the women who are still in silence.”
In New York, 23-year-old singer Halsey delivered a free-verse poem recounting her experiences with assault and feelings of powerlessness. Her poem closed with strong words of hope and encouragement that triggered an outpouring of support and gratitude from around the world. “We are not free until all of us are free. So, love your neighbor, please treat her kindly. Ask her story and then shut up and listen. Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian. Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs. Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues. For the people who had to grow up way too young. There is work to be done. There are songs to be sung. Lord knows there’s a war to be won.”
In Washington, D.C. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez emphasized the number of women running on the party’s ticket in November. “If the Congress, if the White House, if the governorships across America had more women like I see here today, we would be a much better America.”

We Marched With Our Male Allies

For many men, this year’s #MeToo movement raised greater awareness of the fight for gender equality and led them to participate more fully in the events. In Las Vegas, men at Sunday’s march said they felt an obligation to speak out about their gender’s treatment of women and stand beside women as allies. That’s good news because leading into the 2017 Women’s March, some men weren’t sure what role, if any, they should play in the day’s events. Men were “slow to support” the march, Washington Post writer Michael Alison Chandler wrote at the time, because they worried that attending a demonstration led by women would make them seem “unmasculine.”

Pine Island ROAR Rally in Bokeelia, Florida

Will the March Be as Effective?

There was some concern leading into the weekend’s events that the movement that began with the Women’s March one year ago lacked the cohesiveness to move forward. Experts speculated that there were too many special interests and too many different messages to truly affect change. However, what’s important to remember is that it has brought change and done what it was established to do. One year ago, the Women’s March aimed to start a movement of women from all walks of life who would continue their activism long after they had gone home. In many ways, that goal has been realized.
One year ago, thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, and the march events provided a rare chance to build a network of like-minded people. The networks that were formed in 2017 have grown and expanded, and the women involved remain active.
Jo Reger, a professor of sociology at Oakland University in Michigan was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the feminist movement, like other important social movements, has always had people coming together and then breaking apart. “We think it looks so chaotic and full of factions and what it really looks like is every other social movement. Often those factions end up coming back together later on.”
Whether you marched, registered voters, or supported your sisters on the street in some other way, it’s time to turn our focus to the polls, register voters and support women preparing to run. It is at the polls that we can truly affect change and create a world where women and men don’t have to march in protest, but instead live in a world where equality is the standard, and women are safe in the workplace, and in the community. Change starts now. Let’s work together. To make it happen.

You Can Help Women Speak Out

2017 was the year that women made their voices heard, particularly in Hollywood. It was there that women spoke out, and their allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment by producer Harvey Weinstein and a growing list of other high-profile men launched a national conversation about power and abuse. As a result, we have reached a tipping point and nationwide, women from all walks of life are courageously speaking out about being harassed, groped, cat-called and even raped. These women have broken their silence, and by talking about their experiences in the workplace and in their communities, they are helping other women do the same.
Some women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others, and stepping up to say, “me too,” whereas others still hesitate. Perhaps they are worried about the ramifications of doing so. Maybe they are afraid they won’t be believed, or worry about retaliation, harm to their careers, financial losses, threats to their safety and more.
Some experts speculate we’ve just reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes exposing sexual harassment. According to a 2017 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) study, three-fourths of sexual harassment victims never report it. The EEOC also reports that up to 85 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and many men as well. However, other reports show the tide is shifting. One evidence of this is a TIME/SurveyMonkey online poll of American adults conducted in November, where 82% of respondents said women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations. Either way, there are still a lot of women keeping their stories to themselves, and not receiving the support and resources they need.
Whether a woman steps forward with allegations, or shares her story with you quietly — a whispered conversation over a cup of coffee, or a tearful recount at the water cooler — she needs your support. After all, punishments and threats to keep women quiet remain prevalent, and whether she makes headlines or just makes small waves, she needs to know she is not alone. It is up to us, women and men, to support the women who find the courage and strength to share their stories, and support them as they navigate the process.  Here are a few ways we can help.
Listen – Listening builds a foundation of trust, creates empathy, and paves the way for conversation. If we all take real time to listen, we can truly support the woman speaking her truth and clearly show her that her voice has merit. But as The Wall Street Journal recently reported, experts find we’re naturally not good at listening. We have a tendency to swap stories, so we interrupt. We’re uncomfortable with emotions, so we avoid focusing too closely on someone else’s feelings. We’d rather talk about ourselves, so we rush the talker along. We need to hone our listening skills, take time to hear what each woman has to say, be a support, and help the speaker share her truth.
Lend Your Voice – Today, the actions of the women speaking out are spurring many others to do the same. As we can see in TIME’s “Silence Breakers,” whether the woman speaking out is a world-famous actress in Hollywood or a housekeeper or a nurse in the Midwest, what separates them is less important than what brought them together — a shared experience. Whether you have a story of your own to share, or want to lend your voice to theirs to bring about accountability and change, now is the time to make your voice heard. We must add our voices to this cause. We must be part of the solution.
Offer Your Support – Those who have come forward publicly have helped others, and many women now feel safe speaking out. These advances are real and valuable. However, we need to look deeper at the inequalities that keep harassers safe and victims silent. We need to support initiatives geared towards removing these inequalities and creating a just and equal workplace and society. Whether you volunteer, join in a march, participate in a movement, or reach out to your human resources department or elected officials – act. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and observe. Lend your time, talent, and resources to help bring about change. We can also reach out to our male allies and ask for their support. While they may not be able to directly relate to the experiences that women are sharing, they can and do feel empathy, express compassion, and can lend their voices and support, not only to help prevent harassment, but to build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.
The time to act is now. The world is paying attention. It is crucial that we keep moving forward, help women speak out, and do what we can to build a world where all women, and men, are able to live without fear of harassment, and are valued and treated equally.
 

2018 To Be Another “Year of the Woman”

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically change the world. And you have to do it all the time.”Angela Davis
While 2017 was a tough year, it was also one of a great deal of progress. It was in 2017 that women made their voices heard in unprecedented numbers. From the Women’s March on Washington to the floodgates opened with the #MeToo movement, women are proving that they are no longer willing to remain silent, and the momentum of change is fast and far reaching.
TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as the magazine’s Person of the Year, in a nod to the women coming forward to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, and not only for the global conversation, but the movement they began. Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards write in TIME that, “This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women.”
While the fight for equality, justice and dignity for women started with the suffragettes, the events of this past year have made a similar impact, and women are taking their message to the streets, the internet, and the workplace. Retired US Senator Barbara Boxer writes in USA Today, “As we say goodbye to the chaos of 2017 and its seemingly never-ending turmoil about…well everything…I believe it is possible, maybe even probable, that we will see 2018 turn into another Year of the Woman.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees and has also been quoted as saying that 2018 could be another big year for women. Predicting that female candidates could sweep elections across the country, she recently told party officials at the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting that, “Based on what I see out there that we are going to have another Year of the Woman.”
“What it means is that we have an opportunity to really turn this next year into a year of change affecting women,” she added.
So how can we best position ourselves to help make that change? Here are a few places we could start.
Support the women speaking out. As Melinda Gates writes in TIME, “2017 is proving to be a watershed moment for women in the workplace and beyond. Instead of being bullied into retreat or pressured into weary resignation, we are raising our voices—and raising them louder than ever before. What’s more, the world is finally listening.” Right now, women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others to step up and say, “me too” and to share their stories. Many high-profile men facing sexual misconduct allegations right now aren’t denying them. The allegations aren’t limited to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, or the hallowed halls of Congress. The problem is far more wide-reaching than one man, or even one industry. This has impacted women in every industry and every walk of life, and is finally experiencing the spotlight of public attention and, more importantly, action, it deserves. Right now, we need to listen to the women who are speaking out, and create environments that are safe for all women and men.
Support the women running for office. EMILY’s List, VoteRunLead, and She Should Run have all reported a huge surge in women interested in running for office. As these women muster their courage and support and take the first steps to run for office, it demonstrates that this truly is a woman’s time to lead. It’s important in this time of unprecedented female engagement that we support the women who are running, and those who have run, perhaps already won, already hold office, and are serving in their communities, states, and nation on every level. We need to celebrate the women who have paved the way, and support those who prepare to follow their lead.
Make your voice heard. Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.
Work towards gender equality. The solution to much of what has been coming out of the #MeToo movement could be solved by having more women in leadership positions. The problems we face today – from our local communities to the workplace, and the global stage – require diverse leaders who have a variety of skill sets. Women bring the additional skills needed, as well as a different perspective to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the game. By recognizing that we do indeed need more women in leadership, and working together to help women gain confidence and the skills they need to overcome barriers and reach their goals, we truly can change the world into one of 50/50 parity, where both genders value each contribution and shed the harmful effects of living in a male-dominated culture.
In 2017 we have seen an unbelievable progress towards gender equality, however, we will still need to continue to fight and work hard to claim equal rights for women. That is going to take all of us working together, and joining forces with the women and men in our lives who, like us, feel that equality shouldn’t be a lofty goal, but a way a life.

Amplify Women’s Voices Around the World

Lauren Anderson


International Geopolitical Consultant Lauren Anderson is excited about the huge world-wide momentum that’s building of women reaching out to help one another across the boundaries of professions and countries  in the many organizations where she serves. Driven by the need to be of service to others and the benefits of justice and equality in our world, Lauren has journeyed through a 29-year distinguished career as an FBI executive, both in high-risk domestic and foreign service, overseeing anti-terrorism and FBI relations with 24 different countries to present-day global efforts on many fronts to empower and help women and girls become leaders in their chosen professions. Lauren serves on  numerous boards and in many capacities, including service as a public speaker and expert with the Women’s Media Center , as Global Ambassador with Vital Voices, Leadership Ambassador with Take the Lead, and  more.
While in the FBI, she saw an enormous amount of talent not being used. In fact, cultures in many countries actually held women back from contributing their skills and talents. While she saw the limitations, she couldn’t dream of all the possibilities. When she became a fellow with the International Women’s Forum, she says it exploded her world open. For the first time, she was in an environment with women from all sectors and many nations from around the world. She saw expertise, knowledge and sharing that could go beyond what she had considered with her background in law enforcement, intelligence and diplomacy.

Vital Voices Partners with Leading Women to Make Their Vision A Reality.

Founded in 1991 by Hillary Clinton and others, Vital Voices is made up of powerful bi-partisan women. Lauren says that Vital Voices identifies and works with women leaders around the world. They started where women had no capacity, in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia, regardless of their sector. Their programs range from something as basic as how to write a business plan to the global ambassador program that Lauren is part of. They select women who are at a tipping point in their profession and pair them with another successful woman. She says that the beauty of Vital Voices is they cross sectors and match people with their skill sets. For example, she currently is coaching a Somali obstetrician-gynecologist, a Filipino businesswoman and a woman in Beirut who makes cookies, though her own sector is much different.

Red Dot Foundation-Safe City Identifies Hot Spots to Protect Women.

Lauren was just asked to be the board chair for Safe City in India. The program was started by Elsa DeSilva after the horrific rape, torture and ultimate death of the young Indian doctor in 2012. Compelled to do something about the violence and sexual harassment in the streets that women go through, she and a couple of friends created the The Red Dot Foundation–Safe City. Lauren says that when it was formed, it was the only crowd-sourced and crowd-funded platform where women could share their stories. Now, Safe City has collected 50,000 separate stories of women who have experienced everything from sexual harassment to rape. The analytics this collection is providing has helped the police identify hot spots within 4 cities in India where they can increase coverage to protect women.
The Safe City model is so successful that it has expanded into Kenya, Nepal, Trinidad,  Nigeria, Cameroon, and others are set up to come on board in the future.  The United States is also looking at ways this model can be used in work environments and on college campuses.

Taking Take the Lead to Global Ambassadorship

Now Lauren and Gloria Feldt are looking into taking Take the Lead’s Leadership Ambassador program world-wide. The Leadership Ambassador  program  applies Gloria’s “9 Power Tools” to help women transform their relationship with power so they can use it to accomplish their intentional goals. They partnered with the Leadership Foundation Fellows of the International Women’s Forum and delivered a partial version of “The 9 Power Tools” to a group of women from around the world. The Leadership Ambassador program expands  beyond Take the Lead, as each Ambassador teaches entire new groups of women, so the message and the method grow exponentially.
Listen to this interview to learn about more collaborative programs where women are reaching out to help other women around the world. Check out the links of the programs that offer these opportunities for more details about how you can become involved in the movement of women reaching out to help other women around the world, and visit Lauren on Linked-In, Twitter and Facebook.

Wonder Woman Film Inspires Kindergarteners, Entrepreneurs and Hollywood Actresses

Humans are meaning-making creatures. We love to tell stories, and these shape how we see ourselves and our world. That’s what makes our ever-present media so powerful.
“Anytime we see women in powerful roles on-screen it challenges narrowly defined and antiquated views of leadership,” said Stacy L. Smith, communications professor at the University of Southern California. Smith is quoted in the New York Times about the impact “Wonder Woman” might have on young girls. “Whether women are serving as C.E.O.s or, in the case of Wonder Woman, striding across ‘No Man’s Land’ and taking enemy fire, it broadens our notions of who a leader can be and the traits they exemplify.”

Stories from Kindergarten

Small children readily imagine themselves heros, and a woman who works at a kindergarten posted comments from five- and six-year-olds the first week after the film’s release. Their stories were filled with power and possibility. One group asked to wear superhero costumes when they sang their song about bunnies. When a girl asked if she could ditch her school uniform for Wonder Woman armor because she “wanted to be ready if she needed to save the world,” her classmates took the new look in stride. Seven girls playing together during recess decided that since they all wanted to be Wonder Woman, they should all be Amazons and not fight but instead work together to defeat evil. Another little girl said, “When I grow up I want to speak hundreds of languages like Diana.” A boy who had been obsessed with Iron Man asked his parents for a new Wonder Woman lunchbox instead.
The teacher who posted these comments closed with this comment: “Consider this your friendly reminder that if this movie completely changed the way these girls and boys thought about themselves and the world in a week, imagine what the next generation will achieve if we give them more movies like Wonder Woman.” Imagine indeed.
Adults are slower than children to suspend disbelief and after researching and writing a book on Wonder Woman’s complicated origins, author Jill Lepore says in an interview that she remained puzzled about the character’s appeal. One day, however, an eight-year-old visiting from foster care “found this box of postcards … covers of original DC Comics from the 1940s. She started picking through them, pulled out all the Wonder Womans, and she lined them up in a row and she just looked at them. Then she looked at me and she said, ‘She is so strong.’ It just knocked me out. This is why Wonder Woman touches people.”

Stories Inspire Entrepreneurs

Even two male writers told stories showing how Diana’s many strengths offer lessons for entrepreneurs. The way John Rampton tells the story, the years the Wonder Woman franchise spent pivoting and rebranding would be familiar to most business owners navigating a changing marketplace. His verison of the story highlights Diana’s truth, peace, equality, empathy, fearlessness, and the power of mentoring. Diana is no loner but instead shares the glory. When Steve Trevor says she saved the day her response is, “No, we did this.” The story told by another journalist, John Boitnott, highlights Diana’s ability to inspire others with her courage and compassion, those precious attributes women display in abundance.

Stories from Women in Hollywood’s film Industry

How did women in Hollywood working on the film tell the story? They – like other diverse groups – are still struggling for representation and equal opportunity in the movie industry. The women who played the fierce warrior gods in the opening scenes of the film said working with a female director and a majority female cast made all the difference. “Everyone just walked with more power,” said Brooke Ence. “They walked with this Amazonian vibe.” “Many of the other Amazons are also mothers,” said Doutzen Kroes. “So we were all able to have our families with us during filming … it was simply incredible.” “I have never been around that many strong women at one time,” said Ann Wolfe. “It felt like we were real, true Amazons.”
Speaking of gender equity in the Hollywood film industry, Women Connect4Good’s producer Cathy Evans observed that Gal Gadot only earned $300,000 for this role, a fraction of what established male superhero stars make. Yes, and Hollywood contracts are byzantine patchworks of bonuses, royalties and percentages, and this is, after all, a brand new franchise. Evans hopes the sequels will correct some of the perceived problems, empower more women and girls, and earn Gal closer to the 79 cents the average woman makes on a man’s dollar.
Some reviewers, not big action hero fans, asked instead for more movies like “Hidden Figures,” an inspiring story based on actual human women. Agreed! But as psychology professor Christopher Ferguson points out, “’Wonder Woman’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ are not in conflict, but both move toward greater egalitarianism in film, albeit in different ways.” He goes on to caution, “All advocacy efforts, no matter how deserving, can run the risk of developing rigid, jargon-filled, political views that make the perfect the enemy of the good.”
In todays’ Women Helping Women Movement, let’s make room for every woman’s imperfect experience, even a retro comic book super hero. This is how we will pave the way for tomorrow’s real sheroes to step into their full and rightful share of leadership.

What Wonder Woman Story Do You Tell?

A recent Google search for “Wonder Woman Post” pulled up nearly 50 million hits, so it’s safe to say that the new film is generating a lot of attention. It’s the first in the super hero genre directed by a woman and strong attendance rapidly propelled it to become the number one film in the world.
Most of the attention is positive, but the acclaim is not universal and a few critics have framed the Wonder Woman story from a negative perspective. In their telling, the film demeans and disempowers viewers along with its lead character. Why? Every viewer focuses on a set of details that forms a context for the film and this framing determines the messages they take away.

Telling a Different Story

Stories can create great transformation, but they can also limit us and hold us in place, says my Leading Women co-author M. Bridget Cook-Burch. “Are you telling yourself stories—about your family, your past, your abilities, your relationships—that are negatively affecting how you present yourself to the world? If so, what new, empowering stories of love, honor, and celebration could you be telling instead?” She urges women to tell stories in which they play the “Shero.”
Women have been telling a story of scarcity for so long, they are overlooking the (admittedly modest) abundance of women leaders emerging around the world, says Tiffany Schlain in her 50/50 movie. It can be hard to get others to join a movement that tells a story of loss and defeat. Psychologists point out we are much more likely to change behavior if we praise what people are doing right, rather than criticizing their failings.

It’s Not Perfect

Women’s rights advocate Tabby Biddle found many aspects of the movie disempowering. (Full disclosure: I’ve interviewed Biddle, who is awesome and a brilliant Leadership Ambassador with TakeTheLead Women, an organization I strongly support.) Biddle said that during the all-female opening segment, she felt happy, invigorated and inspired. But then, “The film takes a huge turn. We are no longer watching a sisterhood collective of powerful women.” Biddle felt the heroine lost her power once she left the safe feminine island and entered the world of men.
She goes on to detail other shortcomings—typical male hero’s solo journey, evil female scientist lacking redeeming characteristics, Diana’s special powers bestowed by Zeus rather than developed on her own, she’s described as a god rather than a goddess.
Steve Rose, a reviewer for The Guardian, was also disappointed and describes Diana as a “weaponised Smurfette,” a lone female character dropped into a man’s world. The Smurfette Principle, first identified by New York Times writer Katha Pollitt, was later expanded by Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkesian.
We can honor these perspectives as different ways to tell the tale, but have you noticed that the perceptions you focus on expand? While some viewers find fault, other viewers describe the movie as empowering because they focus on different threads of the story and interpret them in their own ways.

Reframing the Wonder Woman Story

Look what happens when viewers frame the story from a positive perspective as Cook-Burch advises. “The greatest thing about Wonder Woman is how good, and kind, and loving she is, yet none of that negates any of her power,” said director Patty Jenkins. Diana refused to be dissuaded by soldiers who said it was too dangerous to save the village. She did not lambaste them for their weakness on the battlefield, nor did she argue or try to convince them they were mistaken. Instead, she simply charged out of the trench to save the village – and by her example inspired a small band of men to follow her. Jenkins described this story as a fine model for women trying to “be strong women leaders and retain our loving female traits especially in the business world.”
Yes, Diana lacked a supportive sisterhood during the war, but she stayed true to her values and gained support from men. She persisted and prevailed. And how refreshing was it was to see a woman being the rescuer rather than the rescued?
In the midst of the pastoral beauty of the opening scenes, Diana’s aunt and combat trainer, played by badass Robin Wright, shouted the most trenchant reminder for all oppressed groups fighting for equal opportunity and power: “Never let your guard down. You expect the battle to be fair. The battle will NEVER be fair.”
Read stories told by Kindergarteners, Entrepreneurs and Hollywood Actors

Stepping out of the Circular Firing Squad

Our diverse histories and realities lead us to tell specific stories about our experiences. For the sisterhood to advance us toward equality, we need to accept that all these perspectives are valid. I understand that Biddle wants Hollywood women fully empowered right now! So do I.
But I also agree with Dawn Poindexter, a Facebook friend, who read Biddle’s post yet defended the movie. She wrote, “Wonder Woman is based on a comic book written by a man in 1941, and I would have been appalled if it wasn’t somehow true to its origins. I was proud to tell my granddaughter, ‘See, you can be smart, beautiful, and badass.’” For all the sweetness of Diana’s childhood home, few women are interested in a world without men. “Sisterhood is great but I also have brothers in the world,” she continued, “and I want equality and respect for all of us. ‘Wonder Woman’ is not meant to be the poster child for feminism, but it could show a woman could direct sequences as great as any man!”

Sisterhood Is the Answer

Viewers who like or dislike ‘Wonder Woman’ are not necessarily working toward different ends. WomenConnect4Good social media pro Cory Goode pointed out that their differences “reinforce the importance of maintaining sisterhood while women (and men) work together to heighten the female perspective in cultural narratives.” The movie is providing a mega-platform for women to share their stories (50 million posts!). Bring on the energy of controversy, which Take The Lead founder Gloria Feldt says women can harness in their drive to achieve equality.
For anyone seeking to deliver a message through a creative medium, Biddle’s complaints also highlight an artistic dilemma. At what point would an authentic and engaging retelling of a 75-year-old comic book story become a blunt instrument of feminist propaganda? The miserable, gray, male-dominated wartime scenes were difficult to watch, sure, but wasn’t the filmmaker making a metaphorical visual point about the dark forces arrayed against the champions of love and nonviolence? Real life women who labor in corporate trenches today can certainly identify with the bleak absence of peer supports and the need to rely on their own powers.

Where Does Wonder Woman Leave Women?

Wonder Woman began, after all, as a World War II comic book character wrapped in Greek mythology, psychology, suffragist history, feminism, Vargas pinup girls, soft porn and the fight for legal birth control. This heritage makes her nearly as complex as a typical woman’s psyche.
The ways we react to this cultural artifact reveal the vast differences in the ways we frame our experiences, attitudes and beliefs. The film is a beginning, and we look forward to the evolution of a robust franchise with empowering and inspiring sequels. Maybe Diana, missing the Amazon community to which she can never return, will develop her own group of supportive, powerful women CEOs and world leaders. Maybe she’ll create a mentoring network for SuperGirl and her peers. Possibilities abound.
To continue to move women and men forward, let’s accept rather than undermine each other’s efforts, even the imperfect ones. By joining together in today’s women helping women movement, we can succeed in spite of our failings and accelerate change in adverse circumstances. We can highlight our wins in the film industry – and all industries – so that women are no longer under-represented and under-valued.

Five Must-Do’s for Women Seeking Greater Influence in 2017

Charlene Ryan had never been political, but the polarizing candidates in 2016 changed that. For the first time, she worked to elect a candidate and even donated money. Since the election, although nervous, she is ready to play a leadership role in her community, but where to begin?
The first step is to lean into her circle of women friends. The 20 women now in the US Senate – from both sides of the aisle – have made news by meeting for dinner every quarter to work together. One of their most notable agreements prevented a government shutdown in 2013. One commentator joked, “The women are the only grownups left in Washington.”
No one party or person has all the good ideas, so the important thing is for us all to work together for the good of the country. Here are a few useful strategies I’ve learned from the smart, amazing women co-authors of my book, Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life. These strategies will increase your ability to advance your beliefs and increase your influence.

1. Look closely at how you feel about exercising power.

Today, many women and men are willing to step up and act. Feldt’s nine power tools help women understand who they are so they can define their own terms. Women have plenty of ambition, but too often fail to use it to develop their plan, and take responsibility for working it.
Although the doors to power have been open for decades, women haven’t been stepping through. Co-author Gloria Feldt says when power is defined as “power over,” women want no part of it. When she redefines it as the “power to” work with others, women feel quite differently. With this simple paradigm shift women can “choose power over fear to lead authentically as women.”

2. Build your power by speaking in public. 

By speaking up, “A woman is transcending conventional attitudes toward the woman’s role and the woman’s place,” Phillips says. That’s OK. Claim your outsider status as a badge of honor. Draft your bio carefully and let the emcee establish your expertise so you get the respect you deserve.
“Delivering a presentation that achieves its purpose can be empowering,” says co-author Lois Phillips, PhD. Success requires planning, so start by deciding: What do I stand for? What do I believe? Am I willing to take the heat for asserting my ideas?

3. Plan ways to keep the floor and make yourself heard. 

For example, if another woman acknowledges an interruption by saying, “Now, let’s hear more of what Elaine was saying,” she is more likely to regain the floor. When a man offers Elaine’s idea as his own, her ally could say, “Thanks for supporting Elaine’s idea. Let’s ask her to give us a few more data points.” There are personal strategies to help a woman recover after an interruption, but she is much more likely to succeed with allies.
Men are accustomed to talking over women, says gender communication expert and co-author Claire Damken Brown, PhD. To combat that, strategize with other women to get the message out.
When you do have the floor, make sure you don’t numb your audience with every detail. Keep it simple, and offer one word, one sentence and then one paragraph to keep the attention of the audience.

4. Gather Your Nerve and Take Your Rightful Seat

“Women have been trained to hide their skills,” says international speaker and co-author Lois P. Frankel, PhD. She urges women to claim the seat they deserve at the table, regardless of how many men are present.
“Think strategically but act tactically,” says Frankel. While it’s tempting to roll up your sleeves and jump into an assignment, ask yourself some questions first, such as, “Will doing this add value? What is the most efficient way to do it? Should I be doing this or is someone else better suited? What might be a better idea?”

5. Strategize and Use Your Feminine Leadership Skills

Bringing dissenting sides together, knowing when to push, when to pull, and when to stand your ground is typical of feminine negotiation styles. These so-called soft skills are in fact hard to learn and apply, according to-author Birute Regine, EdD. Considering all sides of an issue, listening attentively, empathizing and keeping your focus on the big picture are feminine skills that help women develop beneficial policies.
The quarterly dinners of Democrat and Republican women senators are an example of this willingness to work together. “The women are an incredibly positive force,” one woman confided to a TIME reporter. “We work together well, and we look for common ground.”
Women like Charlene Ryan get involved when they want to change something. That’s great! When you learn a great change technique, apply it in your own life and share it with another woman. Let’s create a world in which every woman claims her power, sees her advice and expertise valued and respected, conquers her internal barriers, and works together with other women and men.

Three Ways You Can Help Change the World


An estimated 4.5 million Americans, mostly female, made history when they joined the Women’s March the day after the 2017 presidential inauguration. Since then, many have taken up political activism for the first time. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, women are rethinking how they allocate their time and energy. They are either engaging in political activities, joining grass-roots groups or finding new career paths, including running for office, to further causes they believe in. In fact, organizations that recruit and train women to run for office have reported unprecedented interest in their programs at every level nationwide.
The recent election has motivated women at all points on the political spectrum to get involved. Many people are recruiting women to become candidates, and overall volunteer numbers are on the rise. Many women realize that running for office isn’t the only way that they can advocate for a cause they’re passionate about; funneling energy into community activism can also make a difference.
It’s definitely an exciting, perhaps unprecedented time for activism. Actress Kerry Washington summed up the connectedness many women are feeling right now in Glamour, “That idea of holding each other’s hands at the Women’s March – it feels like we are being invited to do that every day. So many of us are feeling attacked, and feel the need to protect and defend our democracy. And the march toward the dream of being ‘We the people.’ So that’s exciting, scary, and frustrating. We’re awake. We are awake more than ever before, and we have to stay awake.”
The sense of activism that’s swept the country is undeniably powerful, and history has proven that women who are passionate about a specific cause can be highly effective. So, the question is, if political office isn’t in your immediate future, how can you best get involved? You should definitely volunteer. Here are three great ways you can get busy making a difference in your community today.
Support a candidate you believe in. Whether you’re canvassing neighborhoods, making phone calls, or helping organize special events, female candidates need women like us to support them and help them reach their goals. It is only by helping them get elected that they can be our voice and help bring about change. Women are underrepresented in politics at every level of government. Whether the candidate is running for school board, city council or a state or national elected office, she needs our help. A simple phone call to campaign headquarters can get you started.
Align with a cause to move women forward. Whether it is joining the fight for fair wages or women’s equality, there are plenty of established causes and new outlets popping up every day that can help you make your voice heard.  You can spend a few hours each week doing everything from making calls to Congress to helping get voters educated or registered. Look locally and nationally for causes or movements that resonate with you, and make the call to get involved.
Connect with what matters to you. Is it education? Animals? Parks? Literacy? Food assistance? What excites you? What pulls at your heartstrings? Volunteer for something that is meaningful to you. All non-profits love volunteers, and you can usually get started with a phone call and a few simple forms. If you don’t have a particular organization in mind, there are several online resources like VolunteerMatch.org that can help you choose just the right outlet.
Whether you have a few hours a month or a few days a week, getting out there and getting immersed in your local community is where change starts. By lending our time, treasure, and talent to the places that we call home, we can build a solid foundation for growth. We need to work together to make our voices heard, and celebrate the women who are out there paving the way. When women get involved to help other women, we all win! It is time to help one another and change the world for the better!

It's Time to Help Women Lead

Where are the women leaders? Women account for almost 51 percent of the U.S. population, yet are sharply underrepresented in public office, particularly at the state and national levels. There are only five female governors among the 50 states and women make up about only about 20 percent of the U.S. Congress. That means more often than not, that the decisions that impact us all, on every level, are being made primarily by men.
The 2016 political season initially left many speculating that Hillary Clinton’s loss would set the number of women seeking elected office back, and an article in The Atlantic pointed out the thoughts held by many – that the contentious nature of the race and Clinton’s high-profile defeat could directly discourage other women from running for elected office. While Clinton’s loss may have caused some women to pause, the weeks since the election have served to rally women on both ends of the political spectrum, to get involved. Organizations that recruit and train women to run for office have reported unprecedented interest in their programs nationwide.
“Women run for office when they want to fix something or when they’re mad as hell,” Alexandra De Luca, a spokeswoman for EMILY’s List was quoted as saying by Reuters.
EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, held a candidate training on January 22nd for approximately 500 women interested in running for office who attended the Women’s March on Washington. In 2016, EMILY’s List successfully helped elect four new women to the United States Senate and eight new women to the House of Representatives, making this Congress the most diverse in U.S. history.
EMILY’s List has trained more than 9,000 female candidates and their staff members since launching efforts to recruit women into the political pipeline in 2001. “Being ready to lead does not have to do with your having been a seasoned elected official,” said Muthoni Wambu Kraal, the organization’s senior director for state and local campaigns. “We are in a moment, and it’s a moment that EMILY’s List is built for.”
VoteRunLead, is  nonpartisan organization that trains women for careers in politics, and recently told The Guardian that there’s been an enormous increase in the number of applicants for its training webinars — from 30 or so for a typical webinar to more than 1,000.
“In a 48-hour period after the election, we had 1,100 women sign up for our next webinar, and we had to close it and start a waitlist,” Erin Vilardi, executive director of VoteRunLead, told The Guardian. “Most women said they woke up on November 9 and realized they could no longer just spectate or click on online petitions, they wanted to know how to run for office, whether it’s the school board, the city council, state or national representation.”
Another organization that women contemplating public office can turn is She Should Run, an initiative encouraging women from all walks of life to run for the public office. Their online Incubator is free and provides guidance and support for all women considering public service as a leadership path. The nonpartisan group serves women who are curious about running for elected office but not ready to build a campaign. Erin Loos Cutraro, She Should Run’s co-founder and CEO, was quoted as saying women often feel a disconnect between the work they’re already doing and the prospect of what they could accomplish as an elected official. “When women run for office, they run to get things done, not to get power,” Cutraro told Slate. “Men run for office to get power.”
Part of She Should Run’s mission is showing women that their community and workplace leadership experience counts, and that they can have a major impact on the issues they care about by entering politics. Ultimately the organization has created a culture that inspires women and girls to aspire towards public leadership, and operates under the belief that women of all backgrounds should have an equal shot at elected leadership and that our country will benefit from having a government with varied perspectives and experiences.
Like EMILY’s List and VoteRunLead, She Should Run has also seen a surge in participants. Normally, between 100 and 200 women sign up for a program or request more information after an election. Since the 2016 election, 6,000 women have contacted She Should Run or been nominated by other folks as potential candidates. “Perhaps the endgame would have been the same [if Clinton had won], but the level of urgency may have been different,” Cutraro told Slate.
As all of these women muster their courage and support and take the first steps to run for office, it demonstrates that this truly is a woman’s time to lead. It’s important in this time of renewed female engagement that we don’t just focus on Clinton’s loss, we also need to look to the women who have run, perhaps already won, already hold office, and are busying themselves in their communities, states, and nation on every level. We need to celebrate the women who have paved the way, and support those ready to follow their lead. It’s when women help women that we all win, and it is time to help one another and change the world for the better!

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