Dr. Nancy

Reaching Out to Help Women Like Us

Linda Rendleman, Author, Speaker, Philanthropist

Linda Rendleman

Fueled by a heart that is definitely big enough to change the world, writer, speaker and philanthropist Linda Rendleman has always worked to lift women up. In 2012 when the Super Bowl came to Indianapolis, Linda learned that the epidemic of sexual trafficking was not a world away, but in her own backyard. That knowledge appalled her and drove her to act. This year, her foundation, Women Like Us, Inc. is raising $25,000 through crowdfunding to fight sexual trafficking where it lives—in your town and on the streets around  the world.
In this conversation, Linda reveals that the market for sex relies on supply and demand and crosses all socio-economic boundaries. Children (girls and boys) are taken at the ages of 10-15 and sold into slavery. Once there, they find themselves in a lifestyle where they are victimized three ways: by the pimps who own them, the customers who use them and the police who arrest them for breaking the law. But there is a way out and many organizations are working hard to help free the victims of this horrifying industry.

The Key is Awareness

Linda admits that she was clueless in thinking that sex trafficking was the problem of 3rd world countries and poverty and drugs. As she rode along with a woman working to rescue kids, she saw everything from a top-of-the-line Mercedes to older cars amid the traffic shopping for sex. The real problem is with the user. They pay more for younger bodies and that’s when the victims are the most vulnerable. One attorney Linda spoke with said that she had never met a prostitute who hadn’t been sexually abused as a child or trafficked. Linda’s goal now is to create awareness of the problem and develop volunteers and funds to fight it head on.
Her most recent book, WOMEN LIKE US Together Changing the World contains a section with stories written by women who have found their mission fighting sex trafficking in different ways. One of these women is Washington State Congresswoman Linda Smith. She created Shared Hope International when she visited Mumbai to see the human trafficking problem for herself.  When she became aware that the industry was the second most profitable in the world and stretched into her own back yard, she vowed to  fight the laws that makes criminals of victimized American children, and today  rates the states on her website. Linda was shocked to find that California gets a D on Shared Hope’s state grade card.

Rescue, Restore and Recover

The organizations work with the victims through a three-part process. First, they rescue them from the streets or houses where they work. They house them through mentoring, social work and psychiatric process, then finally help them into recovery. There are many success stories where women are getting degrees, working to retrieve their children from the foster system and moving on to have happy, healthy lives.
Linda’s organization supports many  organizations that  are working daily to lift other women up, one woman at a time. She produced a documentary to tell the story and show the viewer what it’s like to ride along with those who are reaching out to help. Check out her website for more. Add your own donation to help her reach her goal of transforming lives. And listen to this conversation for more of Linda’s story and how Dr. Nancy says we must all work together to end this crime against the most vulnerable of us. And we can end it—together.

Human Slavery Makes Me Angry

By Dr. Nancy O’Reilly

It’s time for all of us to wake up and come together to end the worst of our society’s crimes against human beings. I’m talking about sex trafficking. In my conversation with Linda Rendleman, founder of Women Like Us foundation and one of my amazing Leading Women Co-authors, I was shocked to find out the sheer numbers of children here in the United States and world-wide who become victims of this horrendous crime every single year.
1.2 million girls and boys are trafficked every year. Sex trafficking is the second most profitable business in the world, taking in over a billion dollars in business every year.
This problem is at the core of our society and needs ALL of us to step up to end it. This is not a woman’s issue; it’s a human issue. It’s estimated that 30% of the children who are trafficked are boys, but that figure is probably low. Approximately 99% of the users (those who pay to have sex with these children) are men. We must all be outraged and use that anger to really make a difference.
All of us can do something. Click here to access Women Like Us crowd funding page. This campaign is working to raise money to help the women’s organizations rescue children from the streets, house them in safe places and help them become valued members of society. Any small amount will help, especially if we all help. The organizations cannot be sustainable and continue their important work without help. The need us; they need YOU in whatever small way you can contribute.

Want to report sex traffficking? Need to call for help? National Hotline is 1-888-373-7888

Each generation of children who are stolen and sold in the streets creates a new generation of prostitutes. Our children believe what they are told. If they lack self-esteem because they are not empowered with positive language and told they are amazing and can do amazing things, they look for it in potentially harmful places—online in relationships that are false and manipulative, in older boys who profess romantic love to trap immature girls into doing what they want, and with others who only want to entrap and abuse them. We must reach out to protect them with positive environments and a belief in their own precious value as free, self-reliant young women and men.

Waiting For You To Notice from Shared Hope on Vimeo.

Our judicial system makes these vulnerable victims criminals and punishes them rather than the men who pay to use them and the pimps who stole them away in the first place. We must work from both ends of the problem. Linda Smith founded Shared Hope International after being introduced to sex trafficking in India, then finding out that it was so prevalent in the United States. Most shocking is that the primary victims in our country are middle-class middle school kids. And the younger the children, the more the men will pay.  Linda’s organization is working on the judicial system in every state and recruiting men to come forward in the fight and recruit others to get everyone involved in, not only legislating for and rescuing victims, but eradicating the unhealthy demand for sex with children.
I am convinced that every person we help, helps three more people. Imagine if each of us helps just one of these victims, how that will spread to make a difference in the world. Every person only wants to be loved. Reach out with your love to help end this cycle of modern-day slavery today. It is at the heart of social justice in our world and will do more for raising us all up than any other single action you can take. Help Women Like Us exceed their funding goal and support these organizations working every day to free a new generation of children.

You Can Be the Woman Who Is Helped Today

Keynote Speaker, Author, Leadership Coach

Judy Hoberman


After a successful 30-year career in sales and writing numerous books on gender differences in business, Judy Hoberman has found her true purpose and has focused on her newest goal, “to help one woman a day.” When she announced this goal to different groups of women, she was always surprised when a woman in the audience would raise her hand and ask, “Can I be the woman you help today?”
This is why Judy has expanded her reach in two ways: she wrote her new book, Walking on the Glass Floor: Seven Essential Qualities of Women Who Lead, and launched her new foundation at the same time. Judy knew that her purpose was to give women the tools they need to succeed in their careers, provide for their families, and have time to do what they truly desire. She already did this through the business she founded, Selling In A SKIRT, which is an acronym for:

  • Standing Out
  • Keys to Success
  • Inspiring Others
  • Results Oriented
  • Time Management
  • All while having Fun!!

Through coaching, consulting, sales training, speeches and a weekly radio show, Judy gives women important tools to help them succeed at their purpose.

Women Who Are Mentored Become Amazing Role Models for Other Women.

Walking on the Glass Floor is different than anything Judy has ever done. She began with the idea that if you have cracked through the glass ceiling, you are now walking on the glass floor. If you’re there, you have a responsibility to help other women get there too. Her purpose turned the corner of feminine leadership, to help women realize that we are phenomenal leaders and many of the skills that we don’t think of as being leadership skills are in fact the best tools for effective leadership.
Growing up and being told that she couldn’t do certain things because she was a girl created an obstacle for Judy that she felt she must overcome. In the process, she discovered her gifts, one being the way that she coped with being told that she couldn’t do something. It fueled her fire and she became all she wanted to become and in turn, was determined to help others do the same.

Create Relationships Before You Need Them.

Although her career was in sales, Judy doesn’t think of what she did as selling. She saw it as a form of communication and creating relationships. She helped people and worked with them to achieve what they needed. She advises her clients now to make relationships. It doesn’t matter who you are speaking to, there is always an opportunity for a wonderful relationship.

Help Another Woman Today

This conversation is full of helpful information for women leaders. Judy comments on women’s lack of self confidence. Even women who are at the top of their field have told her that the most difficult thing for them is having the courage to show their self-confidence. Dr. Nancy adds that it’s also fear of failure that holds many women back and comments on how much she likes Judy’s chapter on taking risks. Judy says she knows how important this information is for women and that is why she formed the foundation, to get the book into the hands of the women who need it and to help women in more ways than she could otherwise. The mission is to support women and women’s initiatives through writing, workshops and publications.
Underneath it all is Judy’s desire to help women know what incredible leadership skills they already possess. It only requires a shift of perspective to see how passion, a sense of purpose, a talent for creating relationships and working in collaboration can be essential tools in the hands and heart of a gifted leader.  Check out Judy’s website, Sellinginaskirt.com, for more information and listen to this conversation for more of Judy’s personal story and why she and Dr. Nancy say we desperately need more women leaders.

Your Voice Matters


Celebrated writer, speaker and women’s leadership coach, Tabby Biddle is on a mission to help women realize that they own something more precious than they ever realized living in a male-dominated culture – a Feminine voice that needs to be heard. In the process of her own journey to make her voice heard, she discovered a little-known fact. According to June Cohen, TEDx Producer, only about 20 percent of the short-listed TEDx Talks that came to her for consideration on TED.com were by women. Worse than this, only 15 percent of the recommendations that came in for the main stage TED were women. That led June to ask  an important question, “Where are the women’s voices?”
Tabby’s response was to assemble as many women for TEDx and TED Talks as she possibly can. After delivering her own TEDx Talk at St. Marks, Tabby began a coaching workshop where she not only prepares women to take the TED stage, but helps them find a TED venue where they can be accepted and successfully use their voice.
If you’ve never thought you could be a TED speaker, think again. Speaking on the TED or TEDx stage can be the highlight of your career. As a female leader or an emerging leader, delivering a TED talk is an incredible vehicle for you to spread your message, build your brand and share what matters to you most. So what’s holding you back? If you’re not convinced that your message is really important, consider that according to the latest studies, when more women are leaders, communities and organizations are more productive, profitable, innovative and successful. When more women are leaders, we also change society’s view of what leaders look like, how they operate, and how they respond to social, economic and political needs.  When more women are leaders, we raise the aspirations of women and girls around the world.
You are important. Your brand of leadership is important. By stepping on the TED stage  and using your voice, you can potentially change, not only your own path, but the path of thousands of other women and girls. More women like you need to share their stories and change the cultural conversation. It’s time to shed the fear and self-doubt and accept the responsibility to make your voice heard.
Tabby urges women to make the dream of speaking on the TED or TEDx stage a reality. She provides the practical support and guidance necessary to take your rightful place on the stage and step into your legacy as a change-making feminine leader. The next course takes place in January, 2018. Early registration is October 1. You can participate from any location in the world. Now is the time to share your idea and story. Imagine transforming your life by sharing your message with thousands of other people and making the impact you’ve always dreamed of making. October 1 is fast approaching. Share your story and become the feminine leader you are destined to be. Your voice matters more now than ever before.  Click here to find out more about how to touch the lives of the people who are waiting for you, and become the thought leader that you know you are meant to be.

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.

Empowering Girls Creates Empowered Women

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly
My mission of empowering women began with my own daughters. I embarked on a college career while my girls were still young to provide them with a role model of infinite possibilities for their own futures. I had wonderful role models in my mother and both of my grandmothers, so I know how important this is to growing up strong, self-reliant and having the skills to live the life you want and deserve. Unfortunately, too many girls don’t have these benefits resulting in our juvenile justice system being overrun by girls. In fact, the fastest growing population in our juvenile detention centers is girls.
Girls Inc. is working hard to stop this trend and to equip and inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold. I recently had the opportunity to participate in this mission at Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara. Their summer program built on the Wonder Woman theme and invited women to share their stories with the girls involved with Girls Inc. The initiative continues in their after school program, so it’s not too late to get involved. If you’re not in that area, Girls Inc. is national organization, which has supported girls for 150 years. Recently it was ranked among the top high-impact youth service social profits!
“If you can see it, you can be it!” Those words inspired Geena Davis to found the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in the Media, SeeJane.org. I firmly believe this is true. I try to show up every day as an example of what feminine leadership can achieve. Sharing my story with the girls at Girls Inc. was tremendously rewarding. Their enthusiasm and warmth was contagious and I want to encourage you to share your story, too. If you don’t have a Girls Inc. chapter near you, please seek out other girls clubs. They need our support and inspiring examples. We’re all Wonder Women under the skin.
Here’s a shortcut you can use for your proposal to speak to a girls’ group near you. It’s the invitation Leah Tabas, Center Director for Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara put together for her Wonder Woman program.

Are you someone who is passionate about life and would like to inspire girls to be STRONG, SMART, and BOLD?  If so, please consider participating in our Wonder Woman project. This volunteer opportunity involves preparing a five to ten minute presentation about yourself – What YOU love about your life, your job, your hobbies, and how YOU got to where you are today.

Your story can create a spark and help motivate girls to see how much opportunity there is for them.  Your enthusiasm and experiences will encourage girls and help them see they CAN achieve their goals and even their wildest dreams.

WHO:  You and a group of fourteen 5th–6th grade girls (+ one of our staff to help with behavior management and participation).

WHAT:  A 5-10 minute INTERACTIVE presentation or activity that discusses and introduces your professional and life experiences, how you’ve gotten to where you are and ways that your story and passion can relate to these girls all while encouraging them to pursue their dreams whether it be in a similar field or something completely different.

WHERE:  Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara – 531 E. Ortega St. Santa Barbara, CA 93102

WHY:  There is nothing like a positive, encouraging and successful role-model who is able to relate to young girls and spark their interest in a variety of careers as well as open their eyes to the possibilities that lie before them.  At Girls Inc. we encourage our girls to actively explore the world around them, find their own voices and strive to be responsible, confident and independent young women and would love your help in doing the same!

DO:  Talk about what you LOVE, your hobbies and your job.  Ask the girls about their interests and try to find ways to relate these interests to specific skill sets within your hobby or profession.  Share what you loved doing as a kid and if it influenced your career choice.

WHERE TO BEGIN:  Please contact Leah Tabas, Center Director at ltabas@girlsincsb.org

Whether you contact Leah, another Girls Inc. director, or some other group near you, please do reach out to share your story. There is nothing more empowering than telling girls how you grew into the person you are today. Every day that offers us a challenge also offers an opportunity for growth. Telling others how this happened to yourself may say something special that you cannot imagine. I especially want to encourage you to reach out to girls. They are the women leaders of tomorrow and they need our help today. Check out the good works of Girls Inc. and the many ways a little support can transform lives when they need it most.

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.

Friend-Raiser for Gender Parity

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly

A Few of the Take the Lead Board Members: Gloria Feldt, Loretta McCarthy, Amy Litzenberger, Dr. Nancy O’Reilly! and Shelly Esque


Last week, I was pleased to join in a celebration with other empowered women and men, founders and directors, leaders, students and authors from different fields and many young women future- leaders for a Friend-Raiser at Anika Rahman’s home in New York City. We were there to celebrate Take the Lead co-founder and Leading Women co-author, Gloria Feldt’s birthday and to engage the participants in the planning and coordination of Take the Lead Day to promote “Powertopia, A World Where Gender Parity Is Achieved,” which will take place in November.
It is so inspiring when powerful women come together to do something important. Nothing is more crucial to our future success than gender parity. The statistics differ among countries, states, careers and races, but the fact remains that women are still significantly underpaid and under-represented in top leadership in both the private and public sectors. We continue to be paid less for the same work and remain undervalued in the halls of power where we can make the most positive difference in the world today. Take the Lead’s mission to reach gender parity by 2025 is central to achieving the 50/50 balance of women and men that we need to create a world that supports and sustains healthy and fulfilling human life.
Our hostess for the event, Anika Rahman, is an attorney, the founding director of the International Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights and has served as President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women among many other accomplishments. Amy Litzenberger, co-founder and board chair of Take the Lead and a former investment banker, who lends her expertise in funding and strategic planning to start-up companies and social profits, introduced the evening and the topic of Powertopia.  Gloria led the discussion about women’s ambivalence to power and how our culture has taught us to shun power as a force people use to make others do what you want. Instead, Gloria has embarked on educating women to embrace their power as a means to accomplish their goals, concepts first expressed in her book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, and later in her chapter in Leading Women.

Photos courtesy of Alexis Buryk for City Love Photography
or @citylovephotog for Instagram or Twitter


 
Coming together as we did at Anika’s home shows how we can shift the conversation if we work together. We are uniquely designed to do that very thing. Women naturally collaborate to share the load and integrate one another’s talents for the best outcomes. But as I spoke to young women in attendance and listened to their questions, it was clear how much work we have yet to do. Their concerns were mostly how they could get along with other women at work. On a personal and professional level, their daily concerns are still centered on problems of working together. Women must reach out and support other women. We must not hold one-another back, but urge each other forward. Be a mentor to another woman and seek out a mentor for yourself. Together we can do anything. We have proved it over and over again. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go far, go together; if you want to go fast, go alone.”

Actor, Caileigh Scott and Gloria Feldt


Let this Friend-Raiser and gathering be an example of what happens when we collaborate to advance women and men everywhere. When one succeeds, we all succeed. As we change our relationship with power, we can write a new chapter in human history that truly supports the common good of all, not just a few. Stay tuned for more about the Take the Lead Day in November and trainings and events to promote Powertopia, a world where women are totally equal and gender parity is achieved.

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.

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