Empowerment

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.
Blue Ribbons
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.

#BLUERIBBONCHALLENGE

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: sparky@blueribbons.org.
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.

Generosity, Gratitude and Grace

by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
For my gift to you this holiday season, I want to look closely at the three G’s: generosity, gratitude and grace. Let’s think about what those attributes mean to us and the people around us when we give these precious gifts to ourselves.

This time of year always brings out generosity in Holiday Lovepeople as we rush around trying to figure out the best gifts for family and friends, and I like to think of how giving to others really affects us. Every time I reach out with feelings of generosity to help another woman, I receive far more than I ever give. I never want to take that returned gift for granted. Beyond the rewards I feel for helping someone achieve her purpose or move closer to her dream, I am convinced that each little gesture of giving back gets passed on as that person helps someone else. And they always do—always.

“Pay it forward” has become popular in our society as we pass on the payment for the next cup of coffee to the person behind us. But it has much larger connotations when you think about the energy each gesture of kindness creates as it spreads from one person to the next, and beyond your reach to others in ways that you can’t even imagine. If we remind ourselves as we move through our days that we can affect each person we meet positively or negatively, it helps us choose to be generous with our kindness, our respect and appreciation for other people. When we intentionally choose that course every minute, even when someone pulls out in front of us or makes an unkind remark, we gain the power to over-ride a knee-jerk response and remain calm, forgiving, and even grateful for the challenges we receive.

Speaking of feeling grateful–In our culture, women have trouble simply saying “thank you” and expressing gratitude. For some reason, we don’t feel that we are worthy of receiving compliments or gifts. Why we think we have to be worthy to feel grateful is beyond my understanding, but we’re programmed that way by a lifetime of self-esteem challenges in our society. When someone gives us a compliment, women are too often ready with a, “yes, but…” We need to think of the disservice to the person honoring us when we negate their compliment and instead simply feel grateful. We have to let go of our self-limiting beliefs to do this and that takes practice. We have to compliment ourselves and feel our self-worth, look in the mirror and tell ourselves how good we are, pick out the positive aspects–that kindness you showed someone who needed it, how you finally established healthy boundaries with your family, how you pulled off that negotiation at work—and practice, practice, practice.

A gratitude journal is recommended by many professionals (including me) for working yourself out of a stuck frame of mind. When you’re at a low point, thinking about what you are grateful for and writing it down opens your eyes to the many blessings in your life. Do this every day and you will quickly begin to feel grateful and positive about the future. I have long recommended it in consultation and know from personal experience that it works. I have also worked in crisis response and think it’s interesting that the most resilient people always speak about what they still have when they’ve suffered devastating loss. There is a lot of loss around me right now with the California fires in my back yard, but people are saying, “We’re still alive. My family is safe.” Being grateful helps us to focus on what is important–the people we love–not the stuff that is replaceable. And acknowledgement of our gratitude for their survival makes us strong and affirms our values.

We think of grace as an adjective to describe the way someone moves, like a dancer, with poise and surety. But it’s a magical characteristic with the larger meaning of bestowing love and blessings. Grace defines how you live each day and along with gratitude and generosity helps you live your life’s purpose. This is the most important gift and powerfully shapes every relationship you develop. When you develop grace, you’re acting from your heart without judgment or requirements to earn your love. We accept what makes us different and honor those attributes that help us lift each other up in support of one another.

It’s exciting to spend time with like-minded women who share and support one another with generous kindness for their unique gifts. I recently attended Take the Lead Day in New York City. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch videos from the event here. At the end of the day, everyone was so excited and charged with energy that we didn’t want it to end. The feeling of so many women feeling positive about themselves, the message and their future of having the power to achieve parity and take their place as leaders in our businesses, communities, and to make a difference in the world is indescribable. But it brought home to me why we need to support one another and try to create that feeling each and every day.

I wish that feeling for you, not just through this holiday, but into next year and the many years ahead. Reach out to your sisters with generosity and feel grateful for all your gifts. Bestow gifts on yourself as you care and honor yourself. You matter and are a powerful woman who has the ability to share your gifts with others. Pass it on, so that we can all experience what it means to live in and with grace.

Insights on Breast Cancer You Should Know

Patricia Anstett

Patricia Anstett

Patricia Anstett, long time medical writer, embarked on a new mission in life when a close friend had breast cancer and Patricia’s eyes were opened to all of the difficulties and options involved. She was astonished to find out that fuller-figured women frequently have fewer choices and poorer results with reconstruction surgery and that nipples are so difficult to reproduce that many women never get them in the plastic surgery process. Patricia realized that if she didn’t know these things, after 40 years of reporting extensively about breast cancer, a lot of women probably didn’t know either. So, she assigned herself the important task of being a fly on the wall for all women–attending procedures, asking questions and sharing stories to help women make informed decisions about options for breast cancer treatment and reconstruction.

The Only Book with Real Personal Stories

Breast Cancer BookPatricia said that women are no longer content to simply ask the doctor, “What would you recommend for your sister?” They want to be part of a team addressing their diagnosis and treatment of cancer. To do that, women have to know what the latest techniques are and what facilities and practitioners offer them. She wrote the only book that provides real insights from women who have been there, Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction: What’s Right for You, and she has a website to share current information like: On 50% of the mammograms done, cancer doesn’t show up clearly because the women have “dense breasts.” But there are complementary imaging processes, molecular breast imaging and other ultrasound imaging that can clarify the diagnoses.
In fact detection and early treatment are a challenge with today’s medical system in which mammograms are not approved until after age 45, and networks, insurance and specialized treatment interfere with access to a full range of options. While breast cancer diagnosis and treatment has improved, Patricia points out that far too many black women still die from the disease and young women getting preventive breast removals face other issues. Knowledge is power when it comes to our  bodies and Patricia is determined to empower as many women as possible.

Our Bodies—Our Choice

Dr. Nancy tells her personal story about how it feels to get a questionable mammogram and both women discuss how we need to insist on being treated by our doctors as part of a team addressing the issue of our health. When a woman gets breast cancer, it affects her entire family. Dr. Nancy says, “It’s like they all have breast cancer.” So, women frequently cave to pressure from their families to get the most immediate prescribed treatment, rather than researching options for the best outcomes. Accepting a single referral for breast reconstruction is no longer the best course of action either. Frequently one surgeon only does one aspect of the procedure. Even though the reconstructed breasts are never the breasts a woman is born with, getting the best result in the fewest amount of surgeries should be the goal.
Listen to this interview for more interesting information, like the Facebook page that Patricia mentions for women who choose not to undergo reconstruction, called “Flat and Fabulous,” and learn how “The Pink Fund” helps people with money when they can’t work, and much more. Then check out Patricia’s website, bcsurgery-stories.com for free information and videos, and to learn more current news about breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and reconstruction techniques.

Is Your Story Holding You Back

Six Ways to Rewrite It and Supercharge Your Power

Often women allow circumstances, routines, and stereotypes to keep them from living their dreams. Here, a licensed psychologist offers insight into how you can rewrite your story, reconnect with your power, and create a fulfilling and purposeful life.

By Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD
Woman With Laptop
The stories we tell ourselves determine how we think we must behave. Change your story and you can transform your life in dramatic ways. Bridget Cook-Burch, one of my coauthors of Leading Women, says we may not even be conscious of the obstacles we create with our stories or of the limitless possibilities that exist when we rewrite them. When Bridget was a single mom, she worked from home and thought it was the only way she could support her children and be available to care for them when they needed her. Soon she found herself in an abusive relationship with a client. His advances became so intrusive she had to hide images and messages he sent from her children.
Like many women, Bridget feared that if she quit she would lose both income and the ability to provide a safe, emotionally secure place for her children. Still, she summoned her courage and fired her client. Without knowing how she would pay the rent or even feed her kids, she rejected the “victim story” she had believed to be true and embraced the realization that she had thousands of possibilities. In fact, in a few weeks she joined a friend in ownership of a large trucking company, where she began to train and manage many men and women.
What stories are you telling yourself? I hope you aren’t having to fend off an abusive client, but you may be limiting yourself in other ways. Are you accepting the stereotypes of our culture? Are you pursuing the path someone else wants you to take? Are you living by default? Or are you pursuing your passion with a firm belief that it is your time to do whatever you choose?
It’s time to take responsibility for your own “story,” your own life. You can stop seeing obstacles and start envisioning opportunities to claim and use your power to achieve your passion and purpose.
Of course, if you’re like most of us, you probably devote most of your time and energy to everyone around you. If that’s true, you may not even know what you care about most deeply. The only way to figure out what your passion is––and to learn how to direct it––is to purposefully rewrite your story and turn your power up a notch. Here are a few ways to get started:
Step out of your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable and make a difference. Every time someone says, “You can’t,” show them you can. Although it may feel painful for a moment, following your passion is a path filled with joy. Why wait? Choose to step out and do something you’re passionate about and you will discover your most gratifying and powerful life.
Start working out. When you feel physically fit and healthy, you naturally arm yourself to take on that next ambitious challenge. Exercise relieves stress, helps you relax, and produces the “happy hormones” that keep you strong and resilient. If you choose to do only one thing for yourself each day, give yourself a loving workout. The less you do, the less you can do. And you want your mind, body, and spirit to be more engaged and energized to claim your power.
Move to Connecting 2.0. Real connecting is not just about attending surface-level meet-and-greets and collecting hundreds of Facebook friends. It requires you to stop wondering, What can I get from you? and start thinking, What can we accomplish together? My most satisfying accomplishments were done with the help of my sisters. Women are hardwired to support and collaborate, and we are much more creative and successful together than any one of us is alone.
Ask your friends where to channel your power. Many women have been doing what others wanted for so long, they simply don’t know what their strengths and skills are. Ask your women friends for advice. In many ways, they know you better than you know yourself. They notice what makes you smile and what you inherently do well. Ask them for guidance in finding a path that fits your talents and inclination.
Stay present for instant power. When you worry about the future and fret about the past, you waste your energy. It’s ironic that so many of us struggle to stay present because it really is the simplest, most natural thing in the world. It happens through the senses—all we need to do is tune in to what we’re seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting right now. Allow yourself to feel grateful for it. Gratitude awakens us, and when we’re awake, we can see our opportunities and rise to our challenges instead of obsessing about our barriers and failures.
This year, do one thing to change the world. When you are able to observe a positive difference in the world because of something you did, you’ll tap into a powerful well of motivation. You don’t have to solve world hunger or found an orphanage. Start small. Volunteer for something you care about or chip in with others to fix something in your community.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama. He impressed me when he said that the future of the world rests in the hands of Western women, if only we would wake up. I believe this and know that changing your corner of the world for the better requires paying attention to the reality around you. It’s an amazing way to access your power.
Once you stop living on automatic pilot and take those first few halting steps forward, it gets steadily easier to connect to your purpose. You’ll begin to notice other women and men around you who are moving in a similar direction. You’ll feel the joy and satisfaction of doing something deeply meaningful. And you’ll want to do more. Together, we can change the world.

Gifts to Heal and Transform Your Life

Kim Coles

Kim Coles

Actress and Comedian Kim Coles has reached beyond the TV screen and the stage to share how she turned  her life around when she discovered that life doesn’t happen to you, but for you. When her five-year successful TV show, “Living Single,” came to an end, she not only lost her TV family, she lost her way. Now, she says that of course her life was more than a TV show, but the loss was so great, it was difficult to see that at the time. In the process of emerging from a deep depression, she found her gifts and reached out to help others through speaking, writing and sharing empowering stories.

Stories Inform, Engage, Educate and Can Heal the World

Her book, Open Your GIFTS: 22 Lessons on Finding and Embracing Your Personal Power, became an Amazon best seller and charts the way to empowerment with stories to show how others have turned their lives around by welcoming their gifts.
Open Your Gifts Book
GIFTS is an acronym:
G = Gratitude – Kim says she wrote a gratitude journal before GIFTS . The  most difficult thing is to be grateful for the “yucky stuff” life dishes out. But those can be the most rewarding gifts because they offer the best opportunity for learning.
I = Intention – Kim advises being intentional with your spiritual to-do list and whatever you want to be in the world.
F = Forgiveness – Forgiveness opens up your heart for so much more. When you can forgive and release past hurts from events, other people or yourself, you can use those lessons to transform your life.
T = Triumph – Kim says it’s very important to celebrate your success. Take time to be triumphant about the gains you’ve made. It builds self-confidence and helps you face future obstacles with the courage of past victories.
S = Self Love – This final letter is the essence of the book. You must love yourself and take care of yourself no matter what. Kim shares this book to help women arrive at that final step so they can live their passion and purpose.

More of Kim’s Story and Free Gift

Listen to this interview for more of Kim’s personal story  and more about her free gift—a seven-day workbook for your gratitude list, intentions, triumphs and expressions of self love. She’s offering an audio book too, absolutely free. The code is near the end of the interview.   Also check out her website and realkimcoles on Facebook to keep up to date on her events and appearances.

Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly To Receive Take The Lead’s First Leading Woman Award

Gloria Feldt and Nancy OReillyDr. Nancy D. O’Reilly will be recognized in New York City on Tuesday, November 14, at Take The Lead Day, an event sponsored by Take The Lead, and celebrated around the world in a series of skill-based workshops, interactive panels, livestream watch parties and webinars in an additional 89 cities and 10 countries. In an evening featuring music, poetry, theater and a speech by former US Treasurer Rosie Rios, Dr. Nancy will receive the first Leading Woman Award in recognition of her many contributions to the advancement and empowerment of women.
“Nancy’s generosity is exceeded only by her wisdom as a board member and her indomitable optimism about our ability to achieve our mission of gender parity in leadership,” said Take The Lead’s cofounder and president, and Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt. “Creating an award that derives from the title of her book seems perfect as a way to honor her on the first Take The Lead Day and by extension each time we give the award in the future.”
“Take The Lead Day is the perfect way for women to come together to discover solutions and employ specific strategies to achieve gender equity in leadership by 2025,” Dr. Nancy added. “If you can’t be in New York, that’s okay.  Sign up for some of the free and virtual events and live streaming.”
Advancing Women to Leadership ParityTake The Lead prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity. To sign up for the live, virtual, and streaming events, go to TakeTheLeadDay.com.
Dr. Nancy and the Women Connect4Good foundation share Take The Lead’s mission of advancing women to leadership parity by 2025.

Ways to Enhance Your Leadership by Making Your Voice Heard

Women LeadershipTo really change the status quo, women need to make their voices heard. Across the country, women are tackling that goal on a large scale (say by running for office), or by voicing their opinions in the workplace and in community organizations. Whatever the venue, speaking out is key, especially if you want to advance. Interestingly, a new study has found it isn’t just what you say that helps you get ahead, but how you say it.
Research has found that speaking up with information intended to help your group has a ton of benefits. It can improve performance, help come up with creative solutions, and address (and even avoid) issues that might hold your group back. And by speaking up, research suggests that not only will you help your group get ahead, it can help you emerge as a leader.
In efforts to better understand the power of using your voice, researchers Elizabeth McClean, Kyle Emich, Sean R. Martin, and Todd Woodruff found themselves wondering which matters more: who speaks up, or how they do it? In a search for those answers, the group recently undertook two separate studies, and their results were eye-opening.
Sean R. Martin writes in Harvard Business Review that they found those who speak up can gain the respect and esteem of their peers, and this increase in status made people more likely to emerge as leaders of their groups. However, these effects happened only for some people and only when they spoke up in certain ways.
“Specifically, speaking up with promotive voice (providing ideas for improving the group) was significantly related to gaining status among one’s peers and emerging as a leader. However, speaking up with prohibitive voice (pointing out problems or issues that may be harming the team and should be stopped) was not,” Martin writes. “We further found that the gender of the person speaking up was an important consideration: The status bump and leader emergence that resulted from speaking up with ideas only happened for men, not for women.”
Their findings echo research that shows that people respond differently when men and women engage in similar behaviors, which suggests that women who speak up and share ideas may not see the same benefits as men. Proving yet again that there is a definite strategy behind effectively making your voice heard.
“This research is not intended to suggest that people — men or women — should speak up only with [promotive] ideas and avoid bringing up problems,” Martin writes. “After all, for teams to function, innovate, and learn, it is critically important to … to spot the things that be might holding a team back from even better outcomes.”
This research highlights the need for us to understand the different ways men and women speak. Men are very direct, use and expect one-word responses, women want the story behind the answer. Relationship building and collaboration lie behind women’s communication, while men communicate to get the job done.
My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt cites the work of Simon Sinek, who points out the benefit of explaining why before making a suggestion. For example, by first stating, “I have an idea for improving our overall productivity as a group,” before making their proposal, both women and men found their audiences responded better to their ideas.

My co-author Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D. is a gender communication expert and urges women to make their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders. If they do it correctly, the results can be beneficial, but it can be difficult to the get credit.  Our ideas are our intellectual capital, and in Leading Women, she relates how she felt when someone “stole” her idea in a meeting. She actually thought this just happened in textbooks, so she was stunned when it happened to her. To address the issue, she recommends that you:

  • Bring attention back to yourself
  • Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
  • Seek help from the meeting facilitator.

Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.

Reward and Indulge Yourself at an Elite Retreat

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
Group of women developing trust in a retreatFor three days and two nights, I was recently privileged to be part of a hand-picked group of women at the Fairmont Princess Resort in Fairmont, Arizona. Holly Dowling, who had recently been my podcast guest on “Conversations with Smart Amazing Women,” is an award-winning keynote speaker and women’s advocate. This was her second such event, where she chose participants who are successful, well-positioned women who are still struggling to fit in time for themselves. I truly felt that the theme for the weekend was “Indulge Yourself.” But it was more than that. Holly put eight women together and gave us a safe, sacred place where we could develop trusting relationships and bonds that would extend well beyond our time at the retreat.
Although Holly had designed all-inclusive mind, body, and soul experiences with conversations and thought-provoking activities for self-reflection and growth, the remarkable thing about the experience was watching trust develop among us. Women need that trusted space. We actually opened up and became close very quickly, yet we discussed trust over and over again. And it took three days for many of us to feel comfortable enough to share our most personal truths.
Women on retreat dinner founded a trusted space opened up and became close quicklyIt still amazes me that professional, successful, well-positioned women so often  don’t recognize their own self-worth. I admire their fearless compassionate adventuresome natures. Yet, when they describe their accomplishments, they do so in an offhand way, dismissing as nothing the achievements most others only dream of accomplishing. Like many other women, these powerhouses often put themselves last and don’t take time to reward themselves or care for their own well-being.
Sunset behind a cactus from Elite RetreatI hope you can recognize and acknowledge your worth and encourage you to indulge yourself. Take the opportunity to participate in a retreat of your own, even if it’s only an afternoon in a peaceful place, taking time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read, getting a massage, or slipping away for a weekend (without your phone). You are uniquely wonderful. Each of us is special, so toot your own horn and celebrate the successes in your life.
By all means, if you have an opportunity to gather with like-minded women in an event such as the Elite Retreat, please take that opportunity. I’m still talking about it more than a month later with the awe that comes from having experienced something precious with my sisters that I will cherish for many years. In fact, the most important part of the retreat for me is remembering who each woman is for herself and the connection we created in just a few days.
To find out about the next Elite Retreat hosted by Holly Dowling, click HollyDowling/Elite-Retreat.

One Way to Achieve Gender Diversity in The Workplace

Women in the WorkforceIt’s no surprise that Women in the Workplace 2017, a report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org., found that women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for 30 years and counting. There is definitely a need to do more, and most organizations realize this, which accounts for the fact that company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row.
Women in the Workplace researchers write that, “One of the most powerful reasons for the lack of progress is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t understand clearly. Many employees think women are well represented in leadership when they see only a few. And because they’ve become comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change. Further, many men don’t fully grasp the barriers that hold women back at work. As a result, they are less committed to gender diversity, and we can’t get there without them.”
While the workforce may be waking up to the fact that talented women can contribute at least as much as men in the organization, progress is still slow. In fact, Women in Workplace researchers even speculate that progress has stalled.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that despite companies’ growing commitment to gender diversity, “It’s hard to solve a problem we don’t fully see or understand—and when it comes to gender in the workplace, too often we miss the scope and scale of the issue.”
Sandberg concludes that businesses can’t “afford to leave talent on the sidelines,” but that we “won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.”
Rather than focusing on who, and who isn’t, in the C-suite, Women in the Workplace researchers first examined the corporate pipeline, starting from entry-level professional positions. Their findings show that fewer women than men are hired at the entry level, despite women representing 57 percent of recent college graduates. Researchers also found that inequality starts with the very first round of promotions. In fact, the biggest gender gap occurs at the first step up to manager. From the very beginning of their careers, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. This entry-level gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the pipeline as a whole. If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double
This is where we can start to raise awareness and focus our energies. Why are women underrepresented? Look at a company’s hiring practices and first round of promotions. To make advancement available to more women we actually need to get more women in the pipeline, and not just seeking the jobs, but looking for advancement opportunities from the very beginning. We need to make the workplace welcoming for both genders in order to make this happen. As Kelly Stickel, CEO & Founder of Remondista writes at GirlTalk HQ, “The companies that identify the value of the female workforce will win. The ones that cultivate an environment that is inclusive of the female leader, will win bigger. Why is it important to make everyone feel welcome? When people feel welcome they perform better, more ideas come to the surface, leaving you with more options for solutions.”
We need to do more than simply nod at inclusivity and representation; we need to actually change hiring practices and look closely at the workplace culture. The ability to collaborate and welcome every individual, male and female, is crucial for success in the global economy. We need women from all walks of life to apply for the jobs, put in for the promotions, and take the lead to engage this untapped resource of feminine leadership.

10 Life Lessons from Leading Women

Excerpted from Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, www.drnancyoreilly.com), by Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD
Business Meeting
To become part of the “women-helping-women” movement that’s sweeping the nation, and indeed the world, we first must access our personal power. This means we need to master our external environment (often, the workplace), tackle our own internal barriers, and learn how best to connect with other women. Here, excerpted from Leading Women, are 10 actions you can take right now. (Chapter title and the author of each chapter are listed below each tip.)
Learn how to manage interruptions. Men tend to interrupt women more than women interrupt men. As a result, women often don’t get their thoughts, ideas, and opinions heard. This can harm impact and credibility in the workplace. Develop a phrase, such as, “I’m not quite done yet,” or, “Hold that thought,” to help you manage these interruptions.

—“Power Up! Three Ways to Build Credibility and Make Yourself Heard” by Claire Damken Brown, PhD

 Leverage your feminine skills. As the world grows ever more complex and connected, there is a growing need for “feminine” skills, such as relational intelligence, emotional intelligence, inclusion, and empathy. Be clear about the skills you have to offer. Embrace them. They define a new kind of leadership, a more collaborative, interactive leadership.

“Soft Is the New Hard: The Hidden Power of Feminine Skills” by Birute Regine, EdD

Practice self-compassion. Ask yourself daily, What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself right now? Sometimes it means forgiving yourself for mistakes or simply lightening up on yourself; other times it means taking a walk or a hot bath or calling a good friend. When you love and take care of yourself, you will find it inevitably serves everyone.

—“Do You Need a Reason to Love?” by Marci Shimoff

 Strive to carry yourself with poise. Poise is usually defined as dignity, ease of manner, or composure. It also reflects wisdom, an acceptance that things do not happen overnight and that there are certain things we cannot transform. The knowledge that life is not always fair and it’s nobody’s fault. Poise is an understanding that putting one foot in front of the other is part of the power we have as human beings, as women.

—“Poise, The Final Ingredient” by Linda Rendleman

 Realize that who you are is different from what you can accomplish. Many of today’s women feel we must do something “amazing” before we die, but “amazing” is never defined. As a result, we are in constant pursuit, wandering from job to job, goal to goal, and relationship to relationship. Ask yourself: Who am I beyond my skills and knowledge? If I did not have to be great, what path would I take? What is my highest potential?

—“The Burden of Greatness” by Marcia Reynolds, PsyD

Find a healthy balance between feminism and narcissism. True beauty is a combination of what’s inside and what’s outside. We need to connect the two. Don’t waste time trying to stop the inevitable. Our clocks tick on no matter what we do—or do not do—to our faces and bodies. Finally, stop judging yourself regarding your appearance. Look in the mirror and talk to yourself like you would a good friend.

—“The New Beauty Paradox” by Vivian Diller, PhD, with Michele Willens

Brand your daughter with words of strength. Do you want to brand your daughter as a princess waiting to be rescued or do you want to brand her as a hard worker, or good problem solver, or smart, or willing to try new things? Take every opportunity you can to notice, to praise, and to strengthen those genuine skills and talents you want to foster. She will believe you and these traits will grow.

—“Seven Keys to Unlocking Female Leadership” by Janet Rose Wojtalik, EdD

Don’t let the divisive label of “feminism” stop you from supporting women’s equality. There are steps we can take to create a world where women have equal opportunities and rights and live in a world free from violence and oppression. Here are three ideas: 1. Become more aware of legislation and how it affects women. 2. Champion women and girls in your company, profession, and community. 3. Think globally. Stand up for women who have few rights and live under oppressive conditions in other parts of the world.

—“You Don’t Have to Be a Feminist to Support Women’s Rights” by Cheryl Benton

Avoid philanthropy based on handouts. Instead, support efforts that give women information and teach them how to use it. This is the approach taken by women like Wallis Annenberg, who helps fund community education and innovative projects; Melinda Gates, cofounder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which facilitates people’s access to information; and Oprah Winfrey, a vocal and active supporter of education and teachers.

—“Information: The Best Form of Philanthropy” by Shirley Osborne

 Cherish the hard times. Often, they, not the good times, lead to your purpose, passion, and life’s work. Part of this is learning how to see obstacles as stepping stones. Go over them, under them, or through them, but don’t let them knock you down. They are an important part of your legacy and help you become not just a survivor but a sur-thriver.

—“Live Your Legacy: Leadership, Philanthropy, and Transformation” by Aurea McGarry

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Originally published in Imperial Valley News, an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area. http://www.imperialvalleynews.com/index.php/news/living-and-lifestyle/1260-10-life-lessons-from-leading-women.html

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