Superpowers Revealed at #50 Women Can

Tabby Biddle & Elisa Parker
Photo by Woods Photography

by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
It was amazing to see how women can make history by coming together and supporting each other while following their passion and purpose. On February 2, Take The Lead’s 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment  kicked off with a celebration at NeueHouse Hollywood. This gender parity leadership initiative was spearheaded by two powerful Take The Lead Leadership Ambassadors, Elisa Parker (host of the award-winning program “See Jane Do”) and Tabby Biddle (bestselling author of Find Your Voice). Overall, 50 women were chosen from the media and entertainment industry to participate in the #50 Women Can initiative. These women represented various aspects of the industry, including broadcasters, filmmakers, producers, performers, directors, media company founders and more. These are the storytellers who will change the way women and girls see themselves in the future by reaching gender parity in the media and entertainment industries.

Photos by Woods Photography

The energy was electric with so many powerful women coming together focusing on a shared goal. With the help of WomenConnect4Good, Inc., CBS, HBO, a partnership with NeuHouse and others, this cohort of women can step forward in the coming year to make lasting changes in the industry that shows women every day how they should see themselves. Gloria Feldt, co-author of Leading Women, and bestselling author of No Excuses, conceived the initiative to move parity forward within individual industries.  The first 50 Women initiative, which represented the social-profit/non-profit and civic industry sector in Arizona, launched in 2016. With the model in place, Elisa and Tabby teamed up to launch this second initiative in Hollywood. Like the earlier 50 Women, this cohort will focus on empowerment through the use of Gloria Feldt’s 9 Power Tools for women with the goal of propelling women into parity in the media and entertainment industry by 2025.

Photo by Woods Photography

The real work began Saturday, February 10, with a two-day workshop at Mount St. Mary’s University, a Take the Lead Partner that produces a Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™ highlighting issues of gender inequity across the state. The next statewide gender equity report will come out in March 2018, and include a discussion on how 50 Women really Can Change the World in Media & Entertainment.  Plans are for a one-year collaborative research study assessing the impact and efficacy of 50 Women.
These 50 Women will participate in workshops held at Mount St. Mary’s and in on-line webinars for the 50 Women cohort during the next four months. Curriculum will cover critical areas of professional change that includes asking for what you want  in regard to funding and financing, legal insight for women in the industry, tools for dealing with difficult people and situations, supporting and becoming an industry game-changer, and much, much more. Focusing on the already impressive talents of these 50 women, the program will arm them with super-tools to tackle the challenges they face every day in this male-dominated industry.
There were many inspirational speeches made at the launch. Ana Flores, the founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network proclaimed, “Being at the #50WomenCan Flagship Reception I felt like a fire was lit in me. The collective energy of the women in the room validated my vision of women helping other women grow and thus effectively changing the way business is done and content is created and distributed. I could feel the change is no longer a request, but a mandate and we’re all ready to play our role in it.”
Alica Ontiveros, Senior Producer, Q Creative said, “The industry is ripe for change, but it’s going to take true commitment from stakeholders at every level and sector of the business to make that change meaningful and lasting. I’m proud to have the opportunity to collaborate with so many successful women about how we can bring this industry into a new more equitable and profitable future. This initiative couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The time is NOW! I’m impatient and don’t want to wait until 2025 for women to reach parity. Each day we can do something to support another woman and help each other in all our communities to bring women forward into the leadership positions that both create the role models for our daughters, and make the world a better place. Using our voices and telling our stories in the world of media and entertainment gives us the loudest megaphone possible. Partnering with our sisters and supporting their vision of real women’s stories opens the door for untold possibilities. Parity is in our grasp and our most powerful tool is our stories. I’m convinced these amazing 50 Women Can really change the world.

Who You ARE Makes a Difference

Founder of Blue Ribbons Worldwide

Helise “Sparky” Bridges

Helice “Sparky” Bridges had it all – a big house on the Pacific Ocean, fancy cars, beautiful sons and an emotionally abusive husband – when she hit the wall. She fell to her knees and cried, “Stop the world I want to get off!” and a voice answered,” You can’t end your life because you are going to sing and dance and write.”Later on she also understood that she must also make a difference in the world. The fact that she couldn’t sing, had never danced a step or written much beyond a real estate contract didn’t stop her. She left home with a potted plant and some clothes and did those very things in spite of apparent shortcomings because of what she IS–outrageous.
Sparky realized that everyone just tries to be the best mom or dad or teacher, but what everyone really needs is to be recognized and loved, just like she did.  She created a symbolic hug in the Blue Ribbon ceremony in 1980, now called “Blue Ribbons Worldwide” with a goal of uniting humanity through the power of love and within three months 35,000 people were honored with it. Sparky’s goal is to reach one billion people by 2020. That’s one in seven people in the world, the mathematical tipping point for social change.

“Bing!” is the sound of making dreams come true.

With over 40 million people and counting, Blue Ribbons Worldwide is working hard on its goal to unite the world through the power of love. Sparky calls it the glue that’s missing from our lives. The blue ribbon she created says, “Who I Am Makes a Difference” and the ceremony requires seven steps, beginning with looking the person in the eye and honoring them for the qualities that make them special, asking permission to place the ribbon over their heart and for them to receive the honor, and finally “Bing!” to signify making their dreams come true. Each blue ribbon presented is followed by two more with a request for that person to pay it forward to two others.

Sparky tells her own story and the inspiring stories of how the Blue Ribbon Ceremony made a difference in people’s lives in her book, Who I am Makes a Difference: The Power of Acknowledgement, Stories that Connect People Heart-to-Heart and Ignite the Human Spirit. One story on how the blue ribbon prevented a teen suicide is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul. That is at the heart of Blue Ribbons Worldwide, to end teen suicide, heal the world by helping one person at a time understand how much she/he matters. Today more than 40 million people have been honored with blue ribbons, but 2020 is only a couple of years away.


Sparky says that people need to have personal connections and not be in such a “doing” world, but in a “being” world, where we can see each other’s hearts and the beauty in people. She is inviting others  to join her in becoming sponsors of a new initiative to train 40,000 middle and high school students to discover who they are, why they were born and the difference they make. The students will be honoring each other, honoring their parents and writing stories about it to unite the community in supporting everyone else’s dreams. Besides reducing teen suicides, bullying and the other epidemics that are infecting our teens, Sparky says that it will elevate education in America by developing social and emotional literacy. Instead of concentrating our efforts on conflict resolution, the Blue Ribbon Ceremony will focus on elevating our relationships to a higher bond of respect and love. To learn more about Blue Ribbons Worldwide, contact Sparky directly at her e-mail:
Listen to this conversation for more inspiring stories and to hear the 7-step Blue Ribbon Acknowledgement Ceremony from Sparky to Dr. Nancy. Check out Sparky’s website and ways Blue Ribbons Worldwide is uniting the world through sharing love with 40 million people and counting.Find out how you can help make it One Billion by 2020 at Blue Ribbons Worldwide.

Five Ways Thanksgiving Gratitude Gives Back to You

Appreciation, or gratitude is the first and most fundamental happiness tool. Gratitude is the purest, strongest form of love. It is the outward-bound kind of love that asks for nothing and gives everything. Gratitude is the antidote to fear. Fear is strong, but love is stronger – Dan Baker, PhD.
It’s definitely that time of year, and many people are thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. However, gratitude shouldn’t just be an annual November exercise, but a daily practice.  More and more researchers are finding that gratitude doesn’t just make you feel like a better person, it’s actually good for your health. What’s more, gratitude is more than simply saying thanks, it’s a way of seeing the world.
“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.”
Emmons also reports that people who keep a gratitude journal have a reduced dietary fat intake — as much as 25 percent lower. Who knew gratitude was a diet aid? Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. And having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging to the brain. Being thankful has such a profound effect because so many positive feelings go along with it, Emmons said.
Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to show gratitude, according to Emmons, because the two go hand-in-hand. “The word ‘thanksgiving’ literally means, giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is an action word. Gratitude requires action.”

Gratitude can help you:
Experience fewer aches and pains. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people report feeling healthier than other people. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health and exercise more often, which is likely to further contribute to longevity.
Have better immune health. Not surprisingly, gratefulness is also linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health. For example, a University of Utah study showed that stressed-out law students who were optimistic had more immune-boosting blood cells than people who were pessimistic, according to WebMD.
Help you sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before bed has been shown to help you worry less and sleep longer and better. Another study found that gratitude predicted better sleep quality and duration and less sleepiness during the day. Researchers explained that when falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts that impair sleep and more likely to think about positive things, thereby enhancing sleep quality.
Boost your energy levels. In Emmons’s gratitude-journal studies, those who regularly wrote down things that they were thankful for consistently reported an increasing sense of vitality. Control subjects who simply kept a general diary saw little increase, if any. The reason is unclear, but improvements in physical health, also associated with giving thanks, may have something to do with it. The better your body functions, the more energetic you feel.
Keep your heart healthy. One study involved 186 men and women, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of heart attack or even an infection of the heart itself. Researchers had participants fill out a questionnaire to rate how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives. It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. When blood tests were then conducted to measure inflammation or plaque buildup in the arteries, researchers found lower levels among those who were grateful — an indication of better heart health.
It’s important to remember this week –– and every week –– that gratitude is a lifestyle strategy, rather than something we do casually during the holidays. Our lives are all filled with miraculous gifts to be grateful for, to savor. By taking the time to feel grateful for those gifts , we in effect honor the things that make our lives so rich and full, and improve our health along the way.

BE the Change You Want to See in the World

entrepreneur and philanthropist

Mea Boykins

International philanthropist and entrepreneur Mea Boykins may have been born with service in her heart. She started early helping others and her passion developed quickly. While still a junior at Spelman College she founded the Student Emergency Assistance Scholarship to provide funds to two friends who faced expulsion when their money and resources ran out. To date, she has awarded five scholarships and launched a speaking career telling people how she did it. Now a 501c3, her foundation also works with disadvantaged youth and displaced individuals around the world. Mea is a positive force on a global scale connecting with others to live her mission to BE the change she wants to see in the world.
Mea credits several things for propelling her into her life of service. First, her small town upbringing in Opelousas, Louisiana, where opportunities were few and education wasn’t valued, exposed her to people living in impoverished circumstances. However, it also exposed her to a broad range of church-going experiences. Mea was curious and attended churches with everyone she knew. Whether they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic, Mormon or Pentecostal, she tagged along. The result: she became deeply spiritual and opened her heart to other people.
Moving to New Orleans in her teens to live with her father transformed her life. She enrolled in a private Catholic school, where she was the only black student. The emphasis there was on community service and she participated by helping the elderly. She also traveled to Paris for the first time, where she learned French. Her well-established taste for travel and experiencing different cultures deepened during her time at Spelman College. Although a liberal arts college for people of color, Spelman’s students represented 49 states and 15 countries, including the Caribbean Islands. The heritages represented are rich and varied. Mea followed that education with two master’s degrees: one from Kings College in London in Child Psychology and a second in International Studies in San Francisco during which she also studied in Spain and Asia.

“You can never do too much. There is always more.”

When Dr. Nancy asked Mea, “What makes you different? You saw a great need and reached out to solve it. Why don’t more people do that?”, Mea answered, “Because of all the hardships I had to overcome, I realized that my life’s purpose was bigger than me.” When she would face an obstacle, she felt that God put it there for her to overcome, not just for herself, but so she could help others overcome it also. She is empathetic, but warns that you also have to be balanced, stay focused and do the inner work within yourself, so you can be happy and whole and continue to be a vessel and servant to do God’s work. She stays focused on her spiritual path and her purpose in life.

Most People in the World Are Good

Having lived in five countries and developed positive relationships with people from dozens of others, Mea is firm in her belief that people really do want to get along. She says that only a few have hate in their heart, but they get a lot of attention. She also credits the imbalance of wealth as a root for world-wide problems with the top 3% not doing what they should to help equalize it.
In April Mea founded a company: Global Management and Marketing, LLC, providing project management, event planning, sponsorship, proposal writing, marketing, branding, social media management and web development.  Beginning with global clients that she met while traveling, she is already starting to spread her wings in this new business venture. She is also directing  strategic relations for Noirbnb, a travel company for millennials of color that identifies accommodations people can rent and unique venues for fun experiences. She says they are looking for organizations and rentals that fit their target market and travelers to take advantage of what they offer.
Check out Mia’s website and listen to this interview to hear more of her inspiring journey to live her life’s purpose and BE the change she wants to see in the world.

Make Happiness Your Default Setting

In the world today, happiness can be elusive. There are injustices, wars, need, greed, divisiveness, and more at play on a global scale. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the struggles of daily life. While all of these issues affect women and men, it seems to impact women more. In fact, one of the best documented gender gaps is the mood disorder — depression. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression.
However, a new study finds that many women get happier in later life, particularly in the years between 50 and 70. The study, believed to be one of the first of its kind, measured “Qualities of happiness” which included optimism, self-esteem, social support, social interest, freedom, energy, cheerfulness, and thought clarity. University of Melbourne researchers also found that both negative mood and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over that time.
Study author and psychologist Katherine Campbell says the findings suggest that mood improves as women transition from midlife to late-life. “The women in this study reported feeling more patient, less tense, and they tended to be less withdrawn as they entered their sixties,” she says.
“Women feel more in control of their lives and are still physically capable of enjoying their hobbies and traveling. They are often more financially stable and have less responsibility for children. They are free to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and are able to prioritize their own needs and wants.”
That’s great news because happiness is important, not only because it feels good, but also because it’s actually good for you. According to study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women who have a positive outlook, or are happy, have a much lower risk of dying from serious illnesses, especially cardiovascular diseases. The study finds that a higher degree of optimism coincided with a lower mortality risk from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection.
For those women who have not necessarily hit their “Golden Years” of happiness, or are off to a slow start, there are several things Martin P. Seligman says you can do to make happiness your default setting. First, he suggests that we learn to be miserable or happy internally, not through material or external rewards, but by building good character. The rewards are not extrinsic but intrinsic, stemming from inner satisfaction rather than satisfaction from the outer world. Seligman’s school has identified 24 character strengths that we can develop to guide us to happiness in our lives. Their study of over 5,000 men and women revealed four core traits that were most important. They called these “heart strengths”: gratitude, hope, zest and the ability to love and be loved. Put simply: “Relationships with other people are what makes us the happiest.”
In addition to working on creating or improving our relationships, we can also work to embrace a “path” to happiness. Seligman suggests:

  • The “pleasant life” path involves finding activities and things that give you pleasure. You enjoy lots of fun, good times and play.
  • The “engaged life” path allows you to lose yourself in some passion or activity. You look up and the time has flown. That is joy.
  • The “meaningful life” path requires having a purpose in your life. Giving of yourself as a volunteer provides a reason to get up each day. You’re doing more than just taking up space and oxygen.

Choosing a path and working towards happiness not only makes a difference in our health, it can make a difference in how we relate to ourselves and others. My Leading Women co-author Kristin Andress writes that, “When you focus on mastering your mind, and thus your perceptions and perspective, you discover different paths in the landscape of your possibilities.”
Framing and reframing your experiences can prevent you from slipping into a state of anxiety or depression. The ability to catch yourself when you get that sinking feeling lies in being aware that it is happening, and choosing to pause and select a new perspective. This is much more than seeing the glass half full or making lemons into lemonade. It is a matter of deciding how you will integrate your way of “being” into your life and lifestyle. The power to reflect on your perspective and reframe it gives you an opening to see the world, other people, and yourself in different ways. Typically, it is also a much more peaceful and satisfying way to live.
As negative stories continue to dominate the news and genuine happiness seems to become the exception, not the rule, it really is the perfect time to take control of our power and perception, learn to master optimism, and create happier, healthier lives. We can also reach out and connect with other women and help them find a way to take control of their lives and find happiness in the everyday too. We are all sisters; when we connect we not only become happier people, we truly can change the world!

A Woman’s Guide to Winning Leadership

Political Activist for Women

Rebecca Sive

Rebecca Sive is a self-proclaimed fierce and devoted advocate for women’s full participation and leadership in every sphere of public life. She is also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies, where she was the founding Academic and Program Director for Women in Public Leadership and author of Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House.

Can Women Candidates Win?

When asked the question, “Are the American people ready for a woman president?” Rebecca reminds us of the fact that millions more people voted for a woman to be president in 2016 than for the person currently holding that office. She adds that millions of women in the U.S. today want to run for public office. And when a woman runs, statistics show that she is just as likely as a man to win. It’s true! Winning is not gender-based today because women and men have an equal shot at winning a public office!

18 Million Cracks and Counting

Rebecca’s inspiration to write Every Day Is Election Day came from the 2008 Presidential Election. When she saw the “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” created by people voting for a woman candidate, she reached out to ask women their stories of the obstacles and strategies they used to win their races and to share her expertise in leadership and politics. Rebecca has two reasons behind her passion: first she was raised to believe that working in public service furthers the greatest good, and second, most women seek public and political leadership because they care about issues and it follows that if they win, things will get better.

The Biggest Barriers to Women in Public Office

When Dr. Nancy mentions how women are attacked for how they look or what they wear–things that shouldn’t matter to political office, Rebecca agrees. However, she says that gender prejudice is only one of the barriers. The biggest barrier is that women do not get to sit at the table where leaders decide who runs for office. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that women often don’t decide to run early enough. Before they can make that decision, they have to talk with their families about how serving in public office will change their lives. Yes, most women take the majority responsibility at home, so the commitment and time away from those duties affects everyone in the family. But however it’s done, support for women candidates must be communicated to the decision-making committees before we will see more women in public leadership.

How Can You Help Women Candidates?

The first thing to do, Rebecca says, is identify a woman in your peer group—perhaps one of your close friends—who is willing to seek a leadership position. Tell her that you want to support her. The same goes for you if you want to seek office. Tell your close friends and family what you want to do and how they can support you.
Next put your strategy together. That part, Rebecca advises, requires many different areas of expertise in politics, issues and business. Friends can help in their professional areas, such as accounting, contacts in the community or state, etc. Like any professional position, public service requires training and there are many organizations that provide this online (some are listed in the Resources section of Rebecca’s book).
Of course, every candidate needs financial help, but you don’t have to be wealthy to help. You can have a bake sale, organize a fundraiser, or sponsor a benefit. Finally, and most important, if the campaign begins to struggle, for example if your friend loses points in the polls, let her know you are still there for her. And there are numerous ways to support depending on the situation. For example, someone at a forum asks your friend who is going to cook dinner for her family when she has a meeting. You can expose the gender bias by asking a male candidate the same question. It’s up to all of us to be aware and advocate for women leaders who are willing to take on the task of making our world better for all of us.

More Guidance from Rebecca

To learn more about Rebecca’s work, check out her website and watch her videos at or read her posts on Huffington Post. Every Day Is Election Day is available on line and from Now you can get it for half price with the code, SheRuns. Also group sales are offered for 38 or more copies. Rebecca says the more women do things women have never done, the more we will reduce the barriers to our leadership potential. Listen to this interview for more insights into the most important actions we can take to resolve what Rebecca believes is the biggest crisis facing us today.

ALL Moms Are Leading Women

A Mother’s Day Celebration of the Leadership Traits We Naturally Possess

If you’re a mom, your kids have done more than steal your heart, make you laugh, and (occasionally) drive you crazy. They’ve also brought out your inner leader. Just in time for Mother’s Day, Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly looks at seven leadership traits moms possess naturally, and how they manifest in business as well as in the business of mothering.

It’s a great time to be a woman. Over the past few decades, the leadership torch has passed from one gender to the other. Not that men are irrelevant in business. (Far from it.) It’s just that women’s “feminine skills”—those inherent qualities that make the fairer sex such great nurturers, connectors, and collaborators—are being recognized for the tremendous value they bring to the global economy. And according to Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, these skills aren’t just seen at the conference table: They’re on full display at play dates and PTO meetings, too.
“When I was researching my book about the secrets of successful women, I realized something amazing (but not surprising),” says O’Reilly, who in collaboration with 19 other female leaders wrote Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, “All moms are leading women. Whether a mother works outside the home or not, nowhere are her leadership skills more apparent than when she parents her children.”
Lois P. Frankel, PhD, who is one of O’Reilly’s coauthors, says that you are a leader if you have ever convinced anyone to follow you. Mothers definitely fall into that category—just think of how they manage to corral their broods into a (more or less) cooperative group while handling a myriad of tasks such as negotiating client contracts, cooking dinner, and organizing the high school fundraiser!
Here are just a few leadership skills women naturally possess—and how they manifest in both business and in the business of mothering:
Mothers are flexible enough to do what works. Whether you’re moving forward with a new business plan, leading a team charged with fixing a faulty process, or pitching a new idea to a client, you’ll surely run into roadblocks and opposition. Women are great at navigating these situations because, instead of digging in their heels and holding fast, they stay open to other options. They’re great at coming up with solutions that benefit everyone. And according to O’Reilly, many women learn this skill in the trenches of motherhood.
“Kids don’t respond well to the ‘command and control’ type of leadership,” she comments. “If a stubborn three-year-old is refusing to eat her green beans, it’s almost impossible to force her. If you try, you will end up with an ugly scene, at best, or a lifelong aversion to green beans, at worst. A mom knows to say, ‘I forgot to tell you, these are special Big Bird beans. That means if you eat them, you can watch your Big Bird DVD after bath time.’
“The kid gets a win because she gets to watch her favorite video,” O’Reilly adds. “Mom gets a win because the kid eats the green beans and she, the mom, gets 30 minutes to herself after dinner. Is this a bribe? I call it good negotiation! It has the desired effect and is good for both parties.”
Mothers are giving, nurturing, and empathetic (and yes, these are leadership skills).  These “soft skills” are actually quite formidable and difficult to learn. After all, points out coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, no one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar! The innate ability to nurture relationships makes women amazing leaders in the workplace. They can have a huge impact on company culture and morale (and thus productivity and growth).
“Even more than business leaders, mothers give freely of their time, energy, and love—usually without questioning it for a second,” says O’Reilly. “Of course, this is only part of what it takes to raise high-functioning human beings—parents must also instill a work ethic, self-discipline, and so forth—but it’s the caring and encouraging that makes these life skills ‘stick.’ Why? Because it makes the kids want to master the attitudes and behaviors Mom is imparting.
“Soft skills fuel performance because they speak to the acknowledgment and validation people crave, deep down,” she adds. “This is true whether they’re five or 55—and whether the setting is the home or the workplace.”
Mothers like to talk. Yes, women occasionally get a bad rap for being chatty (which is actually a misconception in business, points out coauthor Claire Damken Brown, PhD, since research shows men talk more and hold the floor longer during meetings). However, it turns out that our talking patterns are actually a huge strength. Feminine communication contains valuable, detailed information that helps us understand the situation and make connections.
“This benefits us not only professionally, but at home, too,” notes O’Reilly. “We know what’s going on at school, down the street, and in the community—and we can leverage that knowledge to make sure our kids get the support, encouragement, and opportunities they need.”
Mothers make meaningful connections (beyond mere networking). In business, traditional let’s-exchange-business-cards networking rarely pays off in a meaningful way. Often, that’s because participants go into each interaction wondering, What can this person do for me? Instead, connections that result in success happen when we ask, What can we accomplish together?
“Women know that connection and collaboration, not competition, are best for everyone,” says O’Reilly. “In fact, a women-helping-women movement is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. And, of course, this movement has been helping us on the home front for millennia, as mothers reached out to other mothers to share childcare and chores and keep the family economy healthy. Reciprocity and the genuine desire to help are at the heart of these connections.”
Mothers know how to facilitate collaboration. Successful collaboration is a valuable business (and life) skill, and as anyone who’s ever done it knows, it involves a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. To achieve positive results, points out coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, leaders must accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, use empathy, and be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking.
“All of these are feminine skills, and mothers use them every day at home as we rally the troops to keep the house clean, cook dinner together, run a family business, or have fun during family game night,” O’Reilly says. “We’re experts at making sure everyone does their part while feeling heard, valued, and loved. In fact, it’s around the proverbial dinner table that we all learn to first speak up for ourselves and debate issues that are important to us.”
Mothers are resilient. In business, female leaders are often noted for their ability to power through tough times, creatively using obstacles as teachable moments and stepping stones. These women shift their focus away from what went wrong (and even away from how they thought the outcome should look) and focus instead on how their current resources can be leveraged to create a rosier future for their organizations. (For example, if a leader’s company is failing in one area, she might see that “failure” as a springboard to move in a fresh new direction.)
“Every mother knows what this is like,” comments O’Reilly. “We’ve been through all kinds of struggles with our kids, yet we don’t give up on them. We tirelessly work to make sure they have resources and opportunities, sometimes in spite of their best efforts to drive us crazy! We come to see, just by living and mothering, that ‘this too will pass,’ that life is a work in progress, and that the most frustrating challenges can lead to the most fruitful outcomes.”
Mothers don’t mind asking for help. For the most part, women are not diehard individualists. That’s because they value the greater good—of their team, department, employees, or family—more than their own egos. And on an instinctive level, they understand that utilizing the resources and expertise of others is often the most efficient and effective way to get things done—at the office and at home.
“Women don’t feel diminished as individuals when we enlist the aid of others—quite the opposite!” O’Reilly notes. “We understand that tapping into our ‘sisterhood’s’ collective intelligence is something to be proud, not ashamed, of. And this is nothing new; as I’ve pointed out, women have been relying on each other for eons. It’s easy to imagine one of our ancestors asking another, ‘Can I drop the kids off at your cave while I gather dinner? How do you get them to eat all their bison?’ And of course, we still do this: ‘Do you know a reliable babysitter? Where’s the best place to buy stick-on labels for summer camp?’”
“Even in our increasingly enlightened modern age, motherhood and career are all too often seen as two separate, and usually conflicting, arenas,” O’Reilly concludes. “And while we’ll probably never come up with a magic formula on how to ‘have it all’ (if such a thing is even possible), we can make meaningful strides in this direction by acknowledging that these two areas of our lives actually depend on many of the same skills.
“By seeing mothers as leaders whose parenting experience can translate profitably into the professional realm, all of us—moms, families, and organizations—stand to gain tremendously,” she says.
First appeared in Imperial Valley News on April 29, 2015.
Imperial Valley News is an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area.

Leadership Lessons from Horses

Executive Coach, Author

Evelyn McKelvie

The transformation of her life and career as took place during her first experience with a horse, recalls Evelyn McKelvie, Executive Coach, author and founder of Equine Coach. She describes its effect on her as both physical and spiritual, to the degree that she felt her emotional body had been given a deep tissue massage. At the time she was working in Information Technology, which she calls a knowledge-based abstract intellectual pursuit, while learning all she could about horses and searching for a trainer. She found her perfect trainer in western Canada, named Chris Irwin, who opened her eyes to the secret world of horses, their language and the way they behave with each other. Erwin taught her how to communicate with horses so they understand her.
Evelyn began comparing the socialization of horses to that of humans in the workplace. Both species are mammals that perceive the world in terms of threats or safety. In fact, technology has recently shown that people react to potential threats much faster than possible rewards. Horses also perceive threats most of the time, but because of the difference in their brains and social patterns, their response is much different. In fact, the stability of the herd lies with everyone knowing their roles in the hierarchy and behaving within those roles.

First Respect, Then Trust, Finally Love.

Evelyn wrote a book about her experience and how she incorporates it into coaching called, The Executive Horse: 21st Century Leadership Lessons from Horses. She Executive Horse Book Coversays that the idea of the stallion as the leader came from the Victorians and is not how the herd actually works. The lead mare is acknowledged by the herd when she has proven that she can care for the herd and keep it safe. Horses don’t love until they know they can trust you. She describes the stallion as the doorman or bouncer who keeps other stallions from mating with the mares. But the leader is chosen by and earns her place within the herd. If humans chose their workplace leaders in the same way — based on behavior and character, instead of by power or money — Evelyn says our workplace leadership would be much more authentic, and our work more productive and positive.

Awareness of the Present Moment

Both Evelyn and Dr. Nancy talk about how you have to remain in the present when working with horses. Dr. Nancy laughs about what happens if you let your attention stray. Because of horses’ size and strength, self-awareness becomes absolutely imperative. Evelyn became comfortable with living in the now while riding. This present-focus kept her acutely aware of the interaction dynamic and how she could create a greater sense of ease and calm with the horse. If we would apply that to other humans, our relationships would be much more rewarding for both parties.
Evelyn invites everyone to check out her website. She has a 7-minute self-assessment there that only takes around seven minutes called “The 8-Fold Path of Equis,” which is based on the principles from her horse trainer. She also has a blog and offers to sign her book if you order it from her website. Also attend her monthly webinar in which she interviews women leaders with executive coach Carrie Galant at “Alpha Mare Leadership.
Be sure to listen to this interview for more comparisons and contrasts from Dr. Nancy and Evelyn between horses and humans. Learn how very much they have to teach us about creating relationships that work.

The Historic Women’s March Is Over. What’s Next?

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
“Women Marched; Now What?” was the theme for a recent discussion of Women and Power at the famed National Press Club in Washington, D.C. An amazing group of people met to discuss how women can advocate for gender equality in leadership, which I believe will make this world a better place for all of us to live in. Being at the National Press Club felt like being on hallowed ground. The pictures on the wall reflected so many historical greats who had spoken at the Press Club, including Gloria Steinem, Chris Everett and our own Gloria Feldt (who joined me in facilitating this discussion) pictured during her term as national CEO of Planned Parenthood.
Take The Lead and Women Connect4Good developed the program to introduce the concepts in Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life to the Washington D.C., community. Interest in the topic has escalated since the recent general election. Whether people were happy or disappointed by the election results, the example set by Leading Women, namely a collaboration among 20 women leaders in various fields of expertise reaching out to help other women, demonstrates the most productive path into the future. The need has never been greater for women to step forward and take their seats at every table where decisions are made. We must collaborate and support one another to protect our women’s rights as human rights and to work to protect our basic freedoms and the well-being of our communities in the future.
The most important aspect of the evening was bringing people together to talk. The March demonstrated the enormous energy generated by the 2016 general election, but a hundred or more causes were represented in the demonstrations. In order for that energy to create positive change, individuals and groups need to create a focused agenda for moving forward.
Many answers were offered to the questions: What will I do now? What can I do now? Some are looking at running for an elected office. Others are talking about how they can communicate their activism and invite others to join. Suggestions came in many forms, including one woman who described how her grandson’s Facebook group in Virginia formed to stay abreast of political issues. Another suggested supporting other women in workplace meetings, keeping the recognition honest as to who was contributing good ideas and helping each other’s voices be heard.
These may seem like small actions, but the March itself began as a small action–a grassroots dynamic that grew organically and by January 21 had attracted millions of participants all over the world. Every day small actions we make change the world in unforeseen ways. It’s important to have these conversations that dig into the culture and how we allow it to shape us with regard to gender, especially if we want to change that culture into one that supports us equally. For gender parity in leadership to happen across all sectors, men and women must work together to achieve results that will benefit all of us.
We need to recognize how much stronger we are together than when we are polarized around divisive issues. The more we choose sides made up only of people who think exactly like ourselves, the more we limit our outcomes and the possibilities for future generations. We must release feeling that it’s “us-against-them” and focus on us, We The People, to fulfill our promise as a nation that offers a light of hope to the entire world.
Our discussion followed the positive flow of women united in wanting to engage and move forward in making a difference. Words like hope and inclusion, and actions like mentoring each other set the tone. The need for women to trust and support one another must form the foundation if our actions are to succeed. To get to trust, we must continue to talk, even if it’s about things that make us uncomfortable. That became a mantra for the evening. “Get comfortable talking about the things that make you uncomfortable.” This is how women can Take The Lead and join together, engaging at a meaningful level to transform our country and our world into a place where gender equality and human rights are available to all.
I am grateful for the organizations who supported this event and deserve your generous support:
Convoy of Hope Women’s Empowerment Program gives women the opportunity to generate income, which not only impacts their families, but positively impacts their country’s economic standing as well. Their goal is to empower women in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Tanzania to make strategic, independent life choices through community-based training in peer-oriented cooperative savings groups and non-traditional micro-enterprise development. Convoy of Hope helps to facilitate sustainable income-generating activities and entrepreneurial thinking that equips women to make positive choices for themselves and their families in the area of health, education and economic welfare.
To find out more about how to help make a difference through Convoy of Hope Women’s Empowerment program, click here:
Take the Lead is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that thinks like an entrepreneurial start up. Because we have set the ambitious intention of gender parity in leadership by #25not95, our scaling up strategy is collaboration. We believe that just as power is an infinite resource, when it comes to accelerating women’s leadership, the more there is, the more there is.
We partner with a wide variety of nonprofit, academic, and for-profit organizations and generous funders. To find out more about participating in our programs or supporting our goal of gender parity, check out our website,
Women Connect 4 GoodThe Mission of Women Connect4Good, Inc. foundation is to educate people to develop women-helping-women networks to raise the status of women and change the world.
“We should celebrate women’s accomplishments in this male-dominated culture, even though we still earn less than men, the ERA is still not law, and millions of our sisters around the world suffer violence at staggering rates. We must follow in the steps of our fore-sisters, who founded The Red Cross, The United Way, and won the right to vote. We must connect with our sisters and create a new women’s movement of women helping women.”~ Dr. Nancy
To find out how you connect with WC4G, click here

Share Your Story and Move On

Michele Weldon

Award-winning storyteller, Michele Weldon seemingly had it all, the perfect marriage with a handsome, charismatic man, three sons, and a successful career in journalism, but the truth was very different. She told the stories of other people while working as a journalist for major newspapers and magazines, but when she decided to tell her own truth after her divorce, her peers warned her that she was committing professional suicide. Michele ignored their warnings and courageously wrote I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman.
Heralded for its authenticity and riveting story-telling, her book was more than a good read. Michele’s messages helped other women to see how hiding keeps you trapped in the unhealthy, destructive victim role. Her personal story showed women how they could move on and liberate themselves to create a new truth..
Michele’s own life broke open after the book was published. She began to teach journalism at Northwestern, and wrote more stories and books, five non-fiction books to date.
Her most recent memoir, Escape Points, follows her life after I Closed My Eyes, about being a single mom, diagnosed with cancer and trying to raise three boys in the wake of an absent father. It won several awards including Editor’s Choice from Booklist.

The Good News and Bad News Is That Truth Is Contagious.

Dr. Nancy and Michele relate accounts of how people reacted after their divorces. Women shunned them. Michele said that it’s difficult to be around someone who is telling the truth if you’re being inauthentic yourself. Nancy agreed that she felt like people thought she was a leper and she wanted to tell them that they didn’t have to follow her lead. They could stay in less than rewarding marriages. But she chose to move on. And both women agreed also that when they did, it was empowering.
Michele said that since her first memoir, she has felt invigorated by her work. She is a prolific writer herself, but she also works hard to help other writers. Her work with the OpEd Project helps develop new voices across gender, economic, racial and political lines to narrate the world’s stories. Through workshops and scholarships, the project seeks to provide guidance and opportunities for writers to get their voices heard at a high level and make a difference in the world.

Reach Beyond Your Own Circle

The biggest problem women have is reaching out to ask for help. Staying in a truth that you can’t own keeps you stuck in an unproductive place. Developing communities where you can share your truth empowers you to get unstuck and live a more rewarding, happier life. Nancy repeated her mantra, “When we form communities of like-minded women and share our truths, anything is possible.” Michele encourages women to reach out beyond the circle of people they know. In Take the Lead Women, where Michele serves as editorial director, a large group of women work to create gender parity by 2025. It’s thrilling to work with women who are so energized by a cause and doing such amazing, life-changing work.
Listen to more of the advice and stories in this interview and check out Michele’s website for more about her and her intriguing stories. As editor of Take the Lead’s website, Michele is always looking for possible contributors. And she also says that the best thing about having written her memoirs is the women who contact her to share their stories and tell how her book helped them move on from their own stuck situation.

Scroll to top