Amazing Women Make A Difference

Black History Month – Celebrating Women Who Lead

Black_History_MoonthBlack History Month provides a time for celebrating and learning about the triumph and struggles of the Black women and men who came before us–those who have made a difference, and those who continue to lead and inspire. With the entire month focused on the contributions of Black Americans, February provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the Black women who have done – and continue to do – extraordinary things and highlight the inequities in the system we all must work to overcome.

Black women have historically not been valued for their work, but it’s their work that has shaped our country. If rampant systemic racism isn’t enough to contend with, the Center for American Progress reports that, “Black Women’s labor participation rate is higher than the rate for all other women, yet Black women remain less likely than their white counterparts to occupy higher-level jobs that offer better benefits, greater mobility, and economic stability. Collectively, the economic disparities facing Black women reveal a stark reality – too often, Black women’s work is devalued and does not reap the same rewards afforded other workers.”

Despite the odds stacked against them, Black women continue to lead and break barriers that benefit us all. Here are just some of the amazing women we need to celebrate this month and every month, and empower other women to follow their lead.

Vice President Kamala Harris – the first female vice president and the first woman of Black and South Asian descent to be vice president. She is a former San Francisco district attorney and was elected as the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general. When she was elected a United States senator in 2016, she became only the second Black woman in the chamber’s history.

Tarana Burke – is a civil rights activist who founded the #MeToo campaign in 2006 when she used the phrase to illustrate the pervasive nature of sexual violence. Eleven years later, it found global recognition after tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. She has been recognized as one of the “Silence Breakers” and was named as Time’s Person of the Year in 2017. She continues to fight for survivors and point out the rampant sexual violence that permeates all of society’s systems and structures.

Shirley Chisholm – the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968. She was also the major-party Black candidate to run for president in 1972. Throughout her career in politics and education, she fought for child welfare, black women’s reproductive rights, and more.

Coretta Scott King – one of the most important and influential civil rights activists of our time, she fought tirelessly for African-American equality. She did not slow down after her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, but instead continued to speak out on behalf of racial and economic justice, women’s and children’s rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full-employment, healthcare, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and environmental justice.

Flo Kennedy –  was an American lawyer, feminist, civil rights advocate, lecturer and activist. A founding member of the National Organization of Women and one of the first black female lawyers to graduate from Columbia Law School, she helped found the Feminist Party in 1971, which later nominated Representative Shirley Chisholm for president.

Mary McLeod Bethune – a leading educator and civil rights activist, she believed education was the key to racial advancement. A champion of racial and gender equality, she founded many organizations and led voter registration drives after women gained the vote in 1920. In 1924, she was elected president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, and in 1935, she became the founding president of the National Council of Negro Women. She also founded the college that is now known as Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.

The accomplishments of these women and so many more that have often been omitted from the history books should serve to inspire and ignite all of us to march forward toward equality lifting as we go. As Dr. Nancy says, “We will not move forward until we all move forward together.” That means we need to learn the stories of Black women, and all women of color; we need to celebrate their contributions, so that together we can create a world that is just,  and benefits us all equally.

Kamala Harris Makes History

Kamala_Harris_Makes_HistoryOn Saturday, November 7, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President of the United States. In a moving victory speech, she recognized the historic, glass-breaking moment and thanked the women who came before her – including her immigrant mother – who paved the path for her to serve in the White House alongside President-Elect Joe Biden.

“I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history, have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. Including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often proved they are the backbone of our democracy,” said the Vice President Elect. “All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard. Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders.”

Such powerful words and a very powerful reminder that when we celebrate moments of great advancement like this one, or smaller victories along the way, we need to honor the women who came before us and worked to make their voices heard. As we prepare to watch the first woman in our country’s history be sworn in as Vice President of the United States, it is only fitting to look back on a few of the historical moments that helped make this possible. History shows that progress is not made by one person but the collective as we draw together and pool our strengths to lift each other up.

Here are a few milestones that paved the way for Senator Harris’ rise to Vice President:

1851 – Sojourner Truth delivers “I Ain’t a Woman” speech

1869 – Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association

1917 – Jeannette Rankin, suffrage activist, is first woman elected to Congress

1920 – Ratification of the 19th Amendment

1963 – Equal Pay Act signed into law

1965 – The Voting Rights Act – designed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented Black Americans from exercising their right to vote – is passed

1971 – Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan form the National Women’s Political Caucus

1972 – Title IX signed into law

1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor is first woman appointed to U.S. Supreme Court

1997 – Madeline Albright is sworn in as first female Secretary of State

2007 – Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi becomes first female Speaker of the House

History will be made again on January 20 when Senator Harris is sworn in. We will – at last – have a woman in the second highest office in the land who knows what it’s like to juggle the demands of a career with the needs of a family, a woman who knows that you deserve equal pay, who values affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections, and a woman who is empowered and who can help you make your voice heard. As she said on November 7, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and to the children of our country regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

Senator Harris’ election shows girls around the world that they CAN do whatever they set their minds to and proves that together we are stronger, and together we can change the world.

 

 

 

How to Help Women To Be More Powerful

Linda Rendleman

Linda Rendleman

ENCORE from December 2018

Linda Rendleman is the ultimate supporter of women’s work and lives and breathes her daily mantra, “Be the miracle in your own life.” She has won numerous awards for her writing and speaking, including, “The Torchbearer Award,” the highest award is given to a woman by her home state of Indiana for making a significant difference in the lives of women everywhere. Her reach stretches to Kenya, where her Women Like Us Foundation launched The Women’s Micro-Enterprise Program, which helps women survivors of sex trafficking or domestic abuse gain a sense of community through which they can help each other acquire new skills and tools to earn their livings. In Los Angeles, Rendleman’s foundation has established a similar mentoring program for women survivors of sex trafficking, homelessness or domestic violence, called Women Like Us Achieve, which she hopes to expand throughout the U.S.

Tend and Befriend Is Linda’s In This Together FAV

Linda stressed how excited she is about the ideas she read in Dr. Nancy’s new book In This Together. She and Dr. Nancy have walked similar paths in their advocacy for women (since the days when women couldn’t get credit cards in their own name or birth control if they weren’t married) and she feels a tremendous reward at the momentum that is building for women. In reading about how women’s natural inclination in times of crisis is to “tend and befriend” instead of fight or flight, Linda said it expresses perfectly how she feels about women supporting other women. The mission of her Women Like Us Foundation is to support other women’s leadership, which forms the core of all her efforts and is the reason she co-produced the powerful documentary “Women Like Us. Three Journeys. One Mission. To Change the World.”  The film chronicles three women’s journeys facing adversity, growth, and evolution, and offers inspiration from powerful role models around the world.

Mothers and Daughters Support Women’s Empowerment Together

Linda’s daughter Catt Sadler recently quit her high-profile celebrity job at E-Entertainment when they refused to pay her a salary equivalent to that of her male co-host who was doing half the work at twice the pay. Besides writing a book about her own journey, Catt has joined Linda to speak to groups within the Time’s Up movement in support of women’s equality. Linda talked about how thrilling it is to work together with her daughter on the same initiative. Dr. Nancy told of her own pleasure speaking with her daughter Ragan in programs for women. It takes “in this together” to a new level when women from different generations share their own perspectives and work to increase women’s leadership.

Creating Solutions Through Women Like Us

Linda’s three books in the Women Like Us series tell stories and provide advice to help women recognize their leadership potential, learn why it is important for them to lead, and to become more powerful.

In her upcoming salon in Los Angeles early in 2019, a panel will discuss sex trafficking. Linda said her ambassadors have dubbed it a “hackathon,” which means the roundtable discussion will focus on finding solutions that communities can realistically enact to solve their sex trafficking problem. Linda has found that there is no community that is immune to the problem. It literally is everywhere.  Initiatives work to fix both sides of the problem: the high demand from sex customers and those who profit by enslaving others.

Find out more about how WomenLikeUs.org is raising funds for women’s gender equality and social justice initiatives, including opportunities to help in your own community. Listen to this podcast for more inspiring ideas from two women who have been working for decades on behalf of women and whose collaboration is the essence of being “in this together.”

Pre-Order Dr. Nancy’s new book

Linda’s ideas also appear in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs, and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality? Then remember to pre-order your copy – and gifts for your friends.

In Honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – A Champion of Equality

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There aren’t words to describe the enormity of my feelings for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the depth of my sadness with her passing. Thanks to her courage and commitment to justice our daughters can open a checking account, or buy a house without a male co-signer. They can have a job and not be discriminated against because of their gender. With her dissent (and call to action) in the pay discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., she helped women make strides toward equal pay. Ultimately, Justice Ginsburg taught our daughters to fight for what they believe in, and demonstrated – with every decision – to little girls everywhere that women can and do belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Justice Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972, and built her legacy by chipping away at inequalities – large and small. She understood constitutional equality was an ongoing project, and later in her life said she did not fight for “women’s rights,” but for “the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”

Just hours after her death, Barack Obama aptly described that legacy, calling Ginsburg a champion of women’s rights in her battle to achieve equality and fulfill America’s potential as a nation. “For nearly three decades, as the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single American.”

While she opened a number of doors for women, her work is not done. In fact, she clearly spelled out the current situation and her hope for the future, “One must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose ‘We, the people,’ will continue.”

Our responsibility, as we mourn her passing, is to follow her lead, continue her optimism, honor her memory, and continue the fight. As my friend Trudy Bourgeois said to me earlier this week, “We all need to lead from where we are.” That means today we need to look to one another, and work together to right wrongs. True gender equity still does not exist, and as we work towards it, we must be advocates for each other. We must raise our voices to speak up for the women whose voices may otherwise go unheard. We the people have work to do, and we’ll be the most effective if we do it together.

 

Women Connect4Good Challenges Young Women to Succeed

Women Connect4Good Challenges Young Women to SucceedEach year young women around the world take their first college classes and build the foundation for their careers and future earnings. According to the Department of Education since 1982 women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, more master’s degrees since 1987, and more doctoral degrees since 2006. That’s why Dr. Nancy O’Reilly has put her foundation, Women Connect4Good, Inc., to work to help these young women move forward and succeed.

A college education has become increasingly important for a woman’s success (45% of all jobs currently require a degree) but increasing costs and inadequate financial aid can present significant barriers for many. At Drury University, a private liberal arts university located in Springfield, Missouri, Dr. Nancy O’Reilly and other female leaders are working to change that and make a difference for a number of women who otherwise may not be able to attend the private college.

Dr. Nancy O'Reilly and Judy Thompson

Dr. Nancy O’Reilly and Judy Thompson

In the Fall of 2019 Judy Thompson, Drury’s Executive Vice President of Development and Campaign Director, approached Dr. Nancy, a Drury alumnus, and asked her for a donation of $25,000 to challenge women in leadership to provide a new or increased gift for scholarships for women. Those who were challenged stepped up.

“We sent the challenge to Drury alumnae who were in leadership roles, and raised over $27,000 from women in leadership positions, including an international scientist and an Ambassador.” Judy said. “We now have over $52,000 in financial aid to support women students at Drury.”

Drury University breaks the mold of single majors and rigid formulas most often associated with traditional education. Students receive a blend of life and career credentials, which allows them to pursue their intellectual passions while giving them the tools they need to be technically proficient and career-ready. Through this combination of professional and non-professional studies, and with the generosity of Dr. Nancy and other alumnae, a number of young women will learn to be flexible, innovative and creative problem solvers with their equally innovative degree program at Drury. They will go beyond traditional education and thinking by blending career, calling, life, community, self and service.

“Dr. Nancy O’Reilly has once again provided an avenue to bring women together to support young women and provide an opportunity for many to choose to study at Drury who might otherwise not have had that choice,” Judy concluded. “It is exciting to think what these women might accomplish in their lives. Thank you, Dr. Nancy, for providing this wonderful challenge!”

Why We Need More Women in Government and How to Get Them to Run

Why We Need More Women in Government and How to Get Them to Run

Luz Reyes-Martin

Luz Reyes-Martin works hard getting more women in government and showing them how to run for elected offices. She is serving her first year as President of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, a non-partisan organization that works to expand our democracy and include more women and feminist policies at every level. In fact, she credits the committee with getting three of the four women trustees elected to the Goleta School Board, on which she also serves. It’s important to note that these are Luz’s extra-curricular commitments, in addition to her day job as Executive Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Santa Barbara City College and a mother of two children under the age of four.

The daughter of hardworking immigrants, she witnessed her classmates’ fear of being separated from their parents when California passed Proposition 187, which criminalized undocumented immigrants. She felt their fear and learned early on the impact government has on everyone’s lives even though she was documented. She says that it is really tragic to see this playing out again at a national level.

Having studied public policy and history, Luz became an advocate in high school and as a student senator at Stanford. And she says that she has seen first-hand how critical it is for people to be involved in the political process and hold legislators and government officials accountable. She pointed out that when women come to the table, questions are asked that wouldn’t otherwise be asked. A woman’s decision-making process is also more analytical, and Luz says they make the best budget decisions. Her message to women is that we need you. “The community needs you. Your voice is important, and it is valued.”

Opportunities for Women to Serve

Of course, Luz is excited at what we saw in 2018 at the congressional level and there has been a ripple effect from having so many women elected. She admits that while that is inspiring, there are a lot of opportunities for women to have an even greater impact at the state and local level. Everyday life is more affected by school boards, water boards, city councils and county supervisors. That is a great place for a woman to get started. They can also be a way to make a long-term difference as often council positions go uncontested for years and people don’t even notice.

She adds that there are many women scientists and water boards or city councils make the decisions that need their expertise. Another benefit is that this is the place to get executive experience for higher office and to be put in a position to appoint women to other boards. Board appointments are still largely made by men, so having more women in those decision-making positions can increase women on boards, and bring even more women to the table. She says that another benefit of having more women in office is that she has a community of peers to consult with if there is a particularly difficult school board meeting or if she needs advice about how to handle a particular issue.

Critical to Have a Strong and Equal Partner at Home

Luz notes that these are frequently volunteer positions, and often women can’t take on a position that is full time and not paid. In fact, it’s impossible without a strong and equal partner at home. Luz says, “You need to have honest conversations with your partner about the commitment that you’re making and why it’s important for children to see moms and to see women in these leadership positions. You have to model it for your children. The old adage ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is absolutely true. I take my children with me to meetings, so both my little girl and my son can see me and other women in leadership roles.”

Pros and Cons Affecting Women Who Seek Office

Luz says that often it’s a matter of timing. To serve on the school board, she had to make sure the board understood that she needed early notice of meetings, so she could plan to attend. Other women may have different conflicts. She says that it helps them to see how they can get around their obstacles if she explains how they could work it into their lives. The same goes for other difficulties women face when running for office and facing the commitments of community service.

Listen to this interview for more tips, like how to address fundraising—another hurdle that women find difficult—and which Luz faced herself. Check out these links for more information about why women in leadership benefits us all and how you can advocate for getting more women into government, perhaps even yourself.

Tiffany Shlain on the Power of Unplugging

24/6 Book CoverDo you consume your media or does your media consume you? Women (men, boys and girls), it’s time to claim your power, and internet pioneer and renowned filmmaker Tiffany Shlain has plenty to say about the power of stepping away from the screens and unplugging. On September 24, Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books will release her first book, 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week. Tiffany takes readers on a provocative and entertaining journey through time and technology, introducing a strategy for living in our 24/7 world, starting with turning off all screens for twenty-four hours each week. This practice, which she’s done for nearly a decade with her husband and kids (ages 16 and 10), has completely changed their lives, giving them more time, productivity, connection, and presence. She and her family call it “Technology Shabbat.”

The book interweaves the story of Tiffany’s family with a deep dive into the neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, history, and benefits of both having technology and having a day of rest — turning the screens off, one day every week (living 24/6). Tiffany also looks at the bigger picture of the past, present, and future of technology and humanity, from her hopes for the Web in its early days and creating the Webby Awards, to where we are now and what we need to change, as individuals, and as a society. In addition, she provides a blueprint for readers to bring the practice of unplugging into their own lives (and get their partner, children, friends, and boss on board, too) and shares how what you give up is far less than what you get back: connection, focus, productivity, creativity, reflection, happiness and balance.

If you think this doesn’t apply to you, check out these statistics. According to Nielsen, adults spend over 11 hours per day interacting with media. That’s up from 9 hours and 32 minutes just four years ago. Of that 11 hours, 4 hours and 46 minutes are spent watching TV every day. Another study by Common Sense Media reports that teens spend an average of 9 hours per day interacting with media, and that doesn’t count the time for school or doing homework. Younger kids are also clocking some serious hours and kids ages 8-12 spend 6 hours per day interacting with media. Kids ages 2-5 are also spending almost a full workweek (32 hours per week) watching TV, videos, and gaming.

“We are living in the results of everyone being distracted, available 24/7, and the problems this has created for our society, our children, our communities, our democracy, and ourselves are only growing,” Tiffany writes. “24/6 is not a detox. It’s a way of co-existing in a more healthy way with technology, and it draws upon centuries of wisdom — specifically the ancient Jewish wisdom of Shabbat — backed by the latest research, made accessible to everyone, as a way forward.”

50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present & Future of Women + Power filmmaker

Tiffany Shlain

Immediately following the book’s September 24 release, Tiffany will be exploring ideas about the relationship between technology, screen use, and character as the theme of her film studio, Let It Ripple’s sixth annual Character Day, an event that unites millions of people in schools, companies, and homes to develop and deepen their character: strengths like empathy, grit, gratitude, self-control, social responsibility, and leadership. Character Day is a major focus for Let It Ripple because character development leads not only to school and career success, but also to stronger, more engaged individuals and a more just world. Last year, over 4 million people across 200,000 groups in 125 countries and all 50 states participated in Character Day.

24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day A Week is available for pre-sale now. To learn more about the book, or Tiffany’s upcoming book tour speaking and events, go to https://www.24sixlife.com/.

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Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and founder of The Webby Awards. Tiffany’s films and work have received over eighty awards and distinctions including being selected for the Albert Einstein Foundation’s Genius: 100 Visions of the Future. NPR named her UC Berkeley address as one of its best commencement speeches and her films have premiered at top festivals including Sundance. She lectures worldwide on the relationship between technology and humanity.

Working Together In A United Team Creates Extraordinary Power

Dr. Sheila Robinson

Dr. Sheila Robinson

Dr. Sheila Robinson says her experience working together with a united team of women inspired her to found and publish Diversity Woman Magazine and create the Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference. That team united women from Asia, South America, and North America  to create the Lycra® brand for DuPont, and brought together a sisterhood of diverse races, cultures and backgrounds. She said working together like that in one location generates a synergy and extraordinary power that is indescribable.

Dr. Sheila’s purpose is to educate women that it’s okay for us to look different and come from different places.  We all want many of the same things. We want a healthy happy family, opportunities and to be safe and successful. None of us will get anywhere if we undermine each other. When we put aside our differences and unite, we are amazed at what we can accomplish together.

Never Give Up on Your Dream

Dr. Nancy mentioned how much she enjoyed seeing the young women and men who attended the Diversity Women’s Leadership Conference for the first time. She learned so much about what inclusion and sisterhood really mean. Dr. Sheila said that she was grateful for the praise and that feedback from newcomers makes the work worthwhile. She stressed that it is not easy work to do, but this time, she was able to bring more female CEO-level professionals from major corporations than ever before. It has always been her dream to bring the c-suite women together with those just starting out to show them what is possible and that they can be leaders too.

She recounted a story from a CFO speaker at this year’s conference, who said, “This is part of my ministry. I have things on my desk that have to be done, but I have to do this.” It’s that kind of dedication to helping other women that will escalate the equality needed in women’s leadership.  Dr. Nancy described a chart she saw at this year’s conference: 65% of female CEOs said they achieved their success because someone told them they could do it. These relationships between women supporting and mentoring other women give both the mentor and mentoree the drive and spirit to accomplish their goals. Sheila said her own mother pushed her to do new things and women like Dr. Johnetta Cole and Dr. Maya Angelou, said, “Don’t stop the work.” These women told her she was on the right journey.

Be Courageous and Don’t Let People in Power Derail You from Your Goals

Dr. Sheila incorporated two themes at this year’s Diversity Women’s Conference. The first one was to be courageous, no matter what. The second was a saying that she has been repeating to herself for years. What people say to you is a reflection of who they are and what you say to others is a reflection of who you are. If they say something harmful to you, it’s up to you to remember that it’s only their opinion and does not really reflect you, unless you let it. She told a story about a supervisor at one company she worked for who told her she would never be anything but an administrative assistant in that company. She immediately thought, “This is not the company for me.” She would never have become Dr. Sheila Robinson, named one of the “50 Top Women in Magazine Publishing” if she had accepted that supervisor’s limited assessment of her.

Define Yourself as a Leader First — And Other Wonderful Advice

Listen to this interview to find out why Dr. Sheila says all women are leaders, and how she says to change your perspective about who you think you are. First, identify yourself as a leader, then as a woman, then as a woman of color or ethnicity, and so on. That way you keep any limiting biases from distracting you from your course. Check out her website and save the dates, Nov. 13 & 14, 2019, to attend next year’s Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference to find out in person how truly powerful coming together with like minded women and men can be.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book or pick it up at your book store

In This Together Book CoverSheila’s stories and guidance also appear in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality. Then remember to get your copy – and gifts for your friends.

Are You Guilty of the Credibility Challenge?

American FlagShortly after a number of newly-elected US Congresswomen were sworn in, a video hit social media that showed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recreating a dance scene from The Breakfast Club while she was a student at Boston University. The video’s release, meant to undermine her newly elected status, had the opposite effect and the attempts to humiliate her instead prompted an outpouring of support. Instead of reducing her credibility, the video seems to have bolstered her popularity.

Observers know, this attempt to undermine the suitability of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is nothing new. During her campaign, critics were quick to critique her words and question whether she should have a voice in the public debate at all. Vox reported a tweet about her by the often-quoted voice of the Washington establishment Norm Ornstein: “This is a person not ready for prime time, certainly not ready for Congress. She should stop campaigning & do a crash course on basics, including economics and foreign policy. Otherwise, she will stumble badly out of the blocks and do major damage. Early impressions hard to erase.”

Criticism of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t only come from men, or Republicans. Even former Senator Claire McCaskill weighed in, describing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez as, ““a bright and shiny new object who came out of nowhere and surprised people when she beat a very experienced congressman.”

In fact, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has pulled off an incredible political achievement: she waged an effective campaign and won a seat in the House. But that’s not good enough. All women in the public eye draw criticism and commentary, not just for their politics and policies, but also for their appearance – as is the case with Senator Krysten Sinema, who was called out by a prominent Arizona Republican who took exception to what she wore when she was sworn into office.

Bruce Ash, a national GOP committeeman resorted to name-calling and said that “dumb ass people” helped get Sen. Sinema elected, she looked more looked more like “Senator Madonna” than the “Senator Barbie Doll” of her campaign.

Call me crazy but I can’t recall reading a single news story questioning a newly elected man’s attire. And as for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez being “not ready for prime time,” what about Rep. Paul Ryan, who was 28 when first elected in 1998 and has failed fact-checks for years. PolitiFact Wisconsin has collected some of his “pants on fire” claims on a special web page. Yet, he is considered an idea man, and no one has said he is unfit to serve in Congress or that he isn’t ready for prime time.

Everyone has biases and some of the issues that these women are facing are a direct result of those biases (the rest is just flat out sexism, but that’s a topic for another day). As we explain in In This Together: “It’s hard to see and talk about the stereotypes that create gender bias because we have absorbed them with every breath since birth. Some of these are internal and limit the aspirations and expectations we have for ourselves as women. Our culture has for a long time assigned men to every power position, so it’s no surprise that we automatically attribute authority to males of any species and see women’s helping roles as normal. Men certainly still run the worlds of business and politics, but many women are in denial about this because they just can’t believe that gender bias is still so widespread.”

The rush to criticize the women who were just elected shows how widespread gender bias is in the politics. If we are to create equality for all women, we have to call out the comments that seek to undermine women, name them as biases and talk about them. And if we want to see more women step into leadership roles, we need to encourage them and counteract the public ridicule they often face. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Sinema, and all of the newly elected women need our support beyond the ballot box. We need to defend their credibility and together change our perception of leadership. In my new book, we provide scripts and strategies for counteracting behaviors that undermine and denigrate women.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

In This Together Book CoverElisa Parker, who has co-founded several organizations to support women, including the award-winning multimedia program “See Jane Do,” has called Dr. Nancy’s new book “a game changer,” and Gloria Steinem has said it will “help us create community, success, and well-being.” Find out why and order your copy (and gifts for your friends) of In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life–thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the bonds of gender inequality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Are The Three Most Powerful Words?

Award-Winning Journalist

Michele Weldon

Award-winning journalist Michele Weldon used to ask her students at Northwestern University what the most powerful three words are. No, they are not I love you, as many would have guessed. They are “I don’t know.” This was how she taught the future reporters the importance of finding answers by asking questions. She contrasts it to women being reticent and fearful of seeming less-than when they don’t know the answer. Instead, Michele says that while saying “I don’t know” does communicate vulnerability, these three powerful words also present an opportunity to learn.

Stake Your Claim and Own Your Own Power

Women are too often reluctant to claim their own power. Michele noted she has met women who won big awards—for example sharing a Nobel Prize or winning a MacArthur Genius Grant Award ––yet didn’t mention it in their introductory bios because they feared being called a braggart or worse. In her work as Take the Lead’s editorial director, she regularly urges women to claim and use their own power. She said that it’s important for women to look at their inclinations, instincts and personal work-life experience to decide what strengths they can develop to achieve their goals, instead of focusing on what they need to apologize for.

Dr. Nancy noted that she often hears a woman say, “I’m sorry” (and talked about her response when she hears herself saying it). In her book In This Together she talks about our hidden biases, including how we’re stuck thinking of men as leaders and women as followers, when nothing can be further from the truth. Women lead their children and their husbands every day, but don’t define it as leadership. Women make the best leaders when they lead as women. She likes a quote from an unknown source, “Be the leader you want to be lead by.” You know who those people are, she says. “They inspire you; they support you; they protect you; they lift you up.” There is no better leader than an authentic role model.

Gloria Steinem—Michele’s Professional Role Model

This interview was recorded early in December, so Michele and Nancy talked about seeing one another at the upcoming play, “Gloria: A Life.” The performance was a fundraiser for Take the Lead and featured Gloria Steinem personally leading the after-play discussion. The play can be seen at the Daryl Roth Theater through March 31, 2019.

Michele said that Gloria Steinem was admirable for not just superficially performing as a feminist, but taking actions in support of feminism for 60 years ever since she was at Smith College. When Michele was a young journalism student, she followed Gloria’s career and found her to be a source of wisdom and inspiration with a graceful way of speaking about really profound ideas. She especially appreciates the way Gloria talks about the broader aspects of life beyond women’s rights and equality to include the necessity to honor humanity and her hard work against domestic abuse and child abuse globally. Both Michele and Dr. Nancy were excited to learn Gloria’s perspective about this moment in history and where we’re going.

Hear More Stories and Read Michele’s Blogs and Books

Listen to this interview for more stories and information about Michele’s upcoming new book, Act Like You’re Having a Good Time: Essays on Life, Work and Meaning, her Op Ed project that is giving a voice to people from disadvantaged groups around the world, and her editorial post at Take the Lead. And check out her website to find out more, order books or contact her for a keynote address.

 

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book or pick it up at your book store

In This Together Book CoverMichele’s ideas and advice also appear in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality. Then remember to get your copy – and gifts for your friends.

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