Mentoring

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.

When We’re Bullied We’re All Children

stressed bullying victim
Have you noticed that when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of slights, snubs or outright attacks, we suddenly feel small and vulnerable? Our typical instinct is to go hide somewhere—like under the bed.  While that may be a child’s response, full grown women and men can come under attack from a bully at a moment’s notice. Why is that behavior so common and what makes people of any gender or age turn to bullying others?
Bullies aren’t evil, according to “5 Ways to Help Children Deal with Bullies Compassionately” from Fractus Learning. Bullies are unhappy. Bullying indicates inner turmoil. The author behind the info graphic, psychologist Chiu Lau, says that there are many reasons people behave badly. One reason is that they may feel bad about themselves, so by making others feel bad, they feel better. Some people learn that being mean to someone is a way to get what they want. Others bully because they have been bullied, so they try to protect themselves by scaring others. The list continues, but the point is there isn’t one simple answer. In general, the bully lacks something and perceives he or she will gain from acting badly. So how can children (and adults) deal effectively with bullies?
There’s a lot of advice about this. One is to understand that it may not be about you, unless you’re standing in the way of the bully’s pursuit of a coveted job, love interest, or other perceived desire. Even if the bully wants power over you, it’s still not about YOU; it’s about how it makes the bully feel. Some just want to win and feeling power over another person makes them feel powerful. But fighting back only adds fuel to the bully’s fire. Anger and aggression beget more anger and aggression. Running away also is not a positive option unless you’re in physical danger. Then it’s the best option.
Although it’s an unpleasant situation, maybe you should actually thank the workplace bully for giving you a chance to grow, suggests Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama.  She says it gives you an opportunity to examine your personal boundaries and figure out what you’re willing to accept from another person and also why you’re avoiding confrontation. Most important, Marlene recommends that you take this opportunity to reinvent and realign. If you see yourself as a weak victim, you definitely need to change your perspective and invent a new YOU who is a powerful creator. She advises changing your communication style starting with how you communicate to yourself.
However, if you feel personal danger, you should immediately seek help. Tell someone you trust, suggests Fractus Learning. In a child’s case, it could be a favorite teacher or parent. Whoever you tell, remember there is power in sharing your stories. If a bully is bearing down hard and you fear for your job, your safety or even your life, don’t try to handle it alone. Even if you don’t have a trusted person you think might help, explaining your situation to someone else will help you understand your own feelings so you can get some perspective on the situation. Leading Women co-author, Bridget Cook-Burch talks about how changing the story you tell yourself can transform your life. In the situation she describes in her chapter in the book, she feared for her loss of livelihood when a client began to harass her. Sometimes, the threat can seem so severe that we can’t see a way out and try to avoid or ignore it. But this kind of fear only compounds itself if it’s allowed to fester inside. Bridget’s powerful story tells how to overcome the fear to reinvent and realign your life, much as Marlene suggests.
Elaborate studies have been performed to determine if bullying is cultural or inherited. Bullying not only crosses cultures and time periods, it also crosses species, according to Hogan Sherro, who analyzed it for Scientific American. Therefore, he concluded that it must be a human trait––part of the human condition–– which is used to intimidate and control the balance of power in social situations. In fact, some companies develop an entire culture based on bullying, according to Bullying Statistics. This develops because management doesn’t admit to or deal with underlying problems. The same article lists the unproductive outcomes from bullying, including stress, high turnover, absenteeism, loss of motivation, etc., all of which can result in a costly impact on the bottom line. The author urges victims to document the bullying behavior and report it to management. “Companies with good anti-bullying policies usually hold meetings from time to time to remind employees what workplace bullying is, how to report it, and the consequences for bullying,” she writes.
Whatever the social situation, it’s important to name the behavior accurately. Identifying bullying, whether it’s on Facebook, in the classroom or at work, is the first step. Then, advises Fractus Learning, treat the bully with compassion. If you’re strong enough to come out from under the bed, invent your own story and become a powerful creator, this might indeed work. The bully is unhappy and feels powerless. When you’re sincerely kind to people, they feel valued. Being an example of kindness may be difficult in the face of someone telling you that you’re ugly, but that’s what Chiu Lau (and Mother Teresa) recommend.
If kindness was simple, then everyone would be kind and no one would experience meanness and bullying,” writes Susan Swearer, Co-Director of the Bullying Research Network. She challenges us to imagine a world where kindness is the norm and then create it by teaching, modeling and rewarding kindness. Punishing bullying behavior doesn’t work. Instead, she says, “it makes better sense to focus on teaching and modeling pro-social behavior, like teaching kindness.” Pro-social behaviors include being respectful, creating gratitude activities, volunteering and giving service, and fostering working together. She outlines this teaching plan with the intention of presenting it to children.
But imagine if we grownups did the same thing in our workplaces. Suppose we encourage each other to help out when one of our workmates seems stressed or overwhelmed. What if we hold employee meetings to brainstorm ways we can reward one another for good work, support each other’s ideas, and even-out the workload? Apply that same model to any social situation—committee, community event, city council, or foundation—kindness begets kindness and toxic relationships cannot thrive in its midst. It’s not easy to always be kind when you’re under pressure, and it may be impossible in a heated moment with a bully bearing down on your neck, but it feels a lot more satisfying and rewarding when you achieve it. And when you practice it on a daily basis, thrown in with a dose of gratitude every day, you diffuse the power of any potential bully by setting out the best example of the human condition. Yes, there are just as many studies that report kindness is also part of the human condition. And these random acts also span centuries and species, just as bullying does.
Kindness is actually intuitive, reports Melissa Dahl. It’s only when we think it over, that we become selfish.  She cites studies where college students’ first inclination is to share, not hoard, and heroic acts where people risk their own lives in a matter of seconds to save the life of a stranger. Overwhelming evidence of everyday heroes blazes across the front pages of every crisis. In each case, people reach out to help a neighbor they may never have met, possibly one who shook a fist at them in traffic. So kindness is a matter of choice. YOU can choose how to react to bullying behavior. You can focus on resenting the bully or YOU can try to help a powerless person to get beyond their feelings of loss. Even though it may take practice, remember that your first instinct as a human being is to be kind.

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.

Take Control of Your Money

Financial Fitness Coach

Jen Turrell


Financial Fitness Coach Jen Turrell helps women entrepreneurs take control of their money, so it doesn’t control them. An accumulation of life experiences has made Jen passionate about helping women be financially independent, so money issues don’t keep them in abusive relationships or jobs they hate. Her primary goal is to help women align their values with their money, so they can do the things in life that make them happy.
Jen has run businesses as diverse as indie music, agriculture and personal finance. When her first daughter was born with autism, the crisis of suddenly needing to care for a child with special needs (and no insurance coverage because of the autism exclusion) forced her to leave her job and find help for financing her daughter’s care. She worked her way through the maze of expensive services seeking advice from many different professionals, and now she helps others with early financial intervention for autism.

Women Control More Wealth That We Ever Have.

Jen points out that women have only had power over money for the last 200 years. Prior to that, we were a commodity–bought and sold or married as alliances. In fact, she says it’s still this way in many parts of the world. Jen thinks that now women have a chance to make serious changes, not just for ourselves and our daughters, but for womankind overall, and  says, “I feel like those of us who live in countries where we have the ability to wield that power through money have a responsibility to uplift women in the whole world.”

Money Is The Vehicle to Get You Where You Want to Go.

Jen says that one size doesn’t need to fit everyone. With the internet, we have a lot of opportunities to pursue what makes us happy. She gives advice about how to start in small stress-free ways in this interview. You can plan your exit strategy from your day job and start part-time, and  she has a few other ideas that require little investment as you embark on your future.
Dr. Nancy agrees with Jen about how the Millennials have the right attitude. Nancy says they want careers that make them happy and quotes, “Work is my passion and my passion is my work.” Jen commented about how much she enjoys hanging out with them on her podcast. It took her years to develop a work-life balance, but the Millennials she has spoken with are seeking that balance before marriage and children. Jen says that’s the smart way to begin a career and she applauds them for it.
Listen to this interview for valuable financial advice and to hear Jen’s powerful personal story that made her passionate about helping women get their financial freedom. Check out her website, her blogs at Huffington Post and Daily Worth. Also, she has just launched a 6 week program to calculate, eliminate, negotiate and automate your personal finances. Click here to find out more and to contact her for personal prosperity management.

Lead Like a Girl

10 Ways to Put Your Feminine Strengths to Work at Work

As we move further into the 21st century, the face of leadership is becoming more and more feminine. Here, the coauthor of Leading Women shares 10 traditionally feminine strengths that make women ideally suited to take their place as leaders.


For decades, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads). Women have realized that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. And—here’s the best news—because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.
(As the powerful and popular campaign by Always proves, doing anything “like a girl” is something to be proud of—and that includes leading!)
“Women already have the raw material we need to become successful leaders,” says Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, who along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, www.drnancyoreilly.com). “We just need to shift our attitudes and master the best practices to put these natural skills and abilities to work.”
To be clear, this isn’t a contest between the sexes. As one of O’Reilly’s coauthors Lois P. Frankel, PhD, points out, women aren’t better leaders than men—just different leaders. And bonus: What followers expect from leaders in the first decades of the 21st century are behaviors and characteristics traditionally associated with women.
In her book O’Reilly has brought together 20 nationally acclaimed women authors to share their real-life advice for breaking free of women’s traditional limitations in work and community. Coauthors include New York Times and Amazon best-selling authors, corporate coaches, an Emmy Award-winning television host, and more.
Here, O’Reilly and some of her coauthors share 10 ways you can use your feminine strengths to lead like a girl:
Reframe your ideas about power.  If you think power necessarily means “command and control leadership,” think again. Women wield our own style of power and, frankly, it packs quite a punch. (Consider the fact that we influence 85 percent of all buying decisions and are thus pivotal to the success of many industries.) Often, just shifting the way we think about power can make women feel more comfortable with taking the lead.
O’Reilly’s coauthor Gloria Feldt explains that instead of seeking “power over,” women are more comfortable seeking the “power to.” Feminine power is the ability to accomplish our goals, provide for our families, and make the world a better place—and to help others do the same.
“Women understand that more for you doesn’t mean less for me, that power isn’t a finite resource,” O’Reilly comments. “The more girl power we use, the more of it there is.”
Don’t try to be the strong, silent type. Because women are seen as talkative and chatty (often non-productively so), many make a conscious effort to hold their tongues in professional settings. But research suggests that this is a misconception: Men actually talk more and hold the floor longer than women during meetings.
Claire Damken Brown, PhD (another coauthor), says that women’s reputation for wordiness might stem from the fact that our talk patterns are indirect and detail-driven, meaning that we usually provide more background information than men. But research has found that women talk to exchange information and establish cohesion.
“So as long as you stay focused on goals instead of gossip and practice the art of the brief response, it’s okay to use your words,” O’Reilly observes. “Odds are, your feminine communication is making you an effective leader.”
Ask for help. The traditional image of the “strong” leader is a man who is self-sufficient and capable. He’s the prototypical rugged individualist and never asks for help. Of course, this is an outdated stereotype, but for many leaders (male and female alike), the reluctance to ask for help persists. What we need to understand is that women have long realized the benefits of tapping into the resources and expertise of others—Will you watch the kids? What’s your advice? Can we work together on this?—and it’s an incredibly efficient—and effective—way to get things done.
“For millennia, women have actively built strong, supportive connections to help their ‘sisters’ live their very best lives,” points out O’Reilly. “Because women don’t mind admitting what we don’t know and are willing to share the credit, we are good at spotting problems and making sure they get fixed. When we don’t let our egos get in the way of asking for help, we’re far more likely to achieve progress and success.”
Take to the podium, woman-style. How many women do you know who’d rather do almost anything than speak in public? Anxiety about public speaking is common to both women and men, but it’s especially important that women overcome this fear. To advance in leadership roles, women will need to be seen and heard at the podium—and be remembered positively afterward.
Leading Women contributor Lois Phillips, PhD, says women have a natural affinity for public speaking. We tend to provide information to help listeners achieve their goals, rather than to establish dominance over the group or negotiate status. We also want to connect to our audience and have an innate ability to read and respond to their nonverbal cues.
Shift your perspective (and theirs, too). Women have a special brand of resilience. We are able not only to power through tough times, but are often able to creatively use obstacles as teachable moments and stepping stones. And a big part of this quality has to do with an ability to reframe who we think we are and what we think we deserve. (M. Bridget Cook-Burch tackles this subject in Leading Women.)
“The stories we tell ourselves about events in our lives are every bit as powerful as the events themselves,” says O’Reilly. “For example, if your company is failing in one area, you might see that ‘failure’ as a springboard to move in a fresh new direction. Being able to shift your focus away from what you don’t want to the things you’d like to create will not only help you survive and grow; it can help your entire organization become more future-focused and productive.”
 Stop trying to network. Instead, connect. Women love to make satisfying, mutually fulfilling connections with each other. (And we’re good at it!) That’s why the mile-wide-inch-deep world of social media, insincere business card exchanges, and traditional “What can you do for me?” networking often leaves us feeling cold.
“The good news is, it’s easy to start asking instead, ‘What can we create together?’” O’Reilly comments. “This is Connecting 2.0—it’s the powerful force behind the women-helping-women movement that is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. It feels good and it works.
“There are so many ways to make authentic connections,” she adds. “You can gather successful women in your community and organize a round table discussion. You can collaborate with a different team at work. You can get involved with a philanthropic cause. The idea is to reach out to other women, offer to share resources, and see what happens.”
Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. Historically, female leaders have tried to compensate for being the “emotional,” “soft” sex by keeping it all business, all the time. But women’s ability to nurture relationships can actually be a huge asset in a business context. The quality of a leader’s relationships with peers and employees can have a major impact on company culture and morale, and thus productivity and growth.
“Feminine skills like showing empathy, being emotionally intelligent, being able to put others at ease, caring about their concerns, and more are now ‘must-have’ abilities for leaders,” notes O’Reilly. “And make no mistake, these are not ‘soft skills’; they are actually quite difficult to learn and develop. Case in point: As my coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, points out, no one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar.”
Extend a helping hand, especially to other women. Women are natural collaborators. We know the significance of a helping hand, mutual support, and mentorship, and we value the satisfaction and meaning that come from aiding others. In the workplace, this ability can mean the difference between being a “boss” and being a “leader”—a distinction that creates employee buy-in and engagement.
“Giving your time, knowledge, understanding, empathy, and support to other people can have a huge ROI,” observes O’Reilly. “Be especially vigilant for opportunities to help other women by being a sponsor or mentor. This can lead to improved opportunities for both of you via reciprocity. Plus, it sets a positive example and is good karma. Helping other women claim their power and passion is always a sound investment. When the hands that rock the cradle join together, they really can rule the world.”
 Use your collaboration skills to tap into “collective intelligence.” Successful collaboration is a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. As Birute Regine, EdD, notes, it requires participants to accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, to use empathy, to put ego aside, and to be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking. All of these are feminine skills. Without them, collaboration can easily devolve into group-think and follow-the-leader. With them, though, a group becomes capable of “evolved thinking.”
Furthermore, Regine says, research shows that groups are most likely to display a level of creativity that’s greater than the sum of its parts when at least half the chairs around the table are occupied by women.
“Women are adept at creating conditions of mutuality, equality, and trust—all of which are necessary for team members to feel comfortable enough to share ideas and take risks,” observes O’Reilly. “That’s why it’s so important for women in leadership positions to reach out to bring other women into the fold. When we join forces, the benefits have a powerful ripple effect that extends well beyond the original participants. No individual woman is as creative, skilled, or powerful as we are together.”
Trust yourself. From the way we dress to the jobs we do to the way we spend our time, society feels especially free to tell women how to live their lives. It’s very easy to internalize those voices and allow them to shape our choices, aspirations, and dreams—a path that leads to regret for too many women.
“Trust yourself and listen to your instincts,” O’Reilly urges. “They are usually right. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself by telling you what you ‘should’ think or feel. One of the best ways I’ve found to stay on track is to stay present and turn on your senses. When facing opposition or making a decision, tune in to how you’re feeling, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally too. If you’re headed in a good direction, you should feel alive and energized.”
“As women, it truly is our time to step up and take our place as leaders,” concludes O’Reilly. “When we focus and hone our feminine skills, we can make a positive impact on our companies, our communities, and our world.”

~

Originally appeared in Working Mother, March 3, 2015. Working Mother is a women’s interest publication offering ideas, solutions and support for all aspects of working mothers’ lives, including work and family conflicts, balancing roles as a mother and employer/employee and child care

Five Ways to Create an Environment Where Women Can Lead

new report takes a look at why women hesitate when it comes to competing for top jobs. The researchers found that a woman’s desire to reach the top ranks has less to do with family responsibilities and more to do with her working environment.
The data shows that existing gender diversity had a big impact on how workers felt about pursuing more senior roles. In environments where men and women believed that progress was being made towards gender diversity, women were more likely to aspire to a leadership position. At such companies, 85 percent of women were seeking top spots. At companies that weren’t seen as making progress in gender diversity, just 66 percent of women reported such ambitions.
The stereotypical explanation says that while many women begin their careers eager to climb the corporate ladder, this ambition diminishes due to family obligations or feeling that they’re unfairly held to higher standards. A more nuanced view notes those issues can definitely be a factor, but the researchers argue ambitious women are also rational and respond to the realities of their work environments. This environmental effect can stall women in our communities too.
Why is it so important to get closer to a 50-50 blend of women and men in leadership? Research has proven repeatedly that having more women leaders actually creates better results. In one of the most recent and comprehensive of these studies, companies in the top 20 percent of financial performance have nearly 30 percent female leaders, while the poorest financial performers have under 20 percent women in leadership roles.
We need more women in leadership for so many reasons. The question is, how do we create an environment in which they want to pursue those positions. Here are five ways that we can create a culture that fosters equality and make leadership more appealing to women in the workplace and community.
Make me a mentor. A good mentor provides career advice, counsel during stressful times, and unwavering support. And you don’t have to be a member of the C-suite already to provide guidance to another woman. We can all build strong support systems, encourage and mentor one another every day. The benefits of mentoring flow both ways and both mentor and mentoree learn from each other. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and sharing their experiences. Mentoring relationships can provide the boost to propel mid-career into top management positions.
Actively sponsor other women. Women with senior positions should keep an eye out for promising younger female talent and actively seek to cultivate them as protégés. It can be hard for younger female employees to break into a company, so senior women should make the workplace friendlier for advancement and help mentorees find a place. Younger females may hope to get noticed for doing good work, but they also need to find opportunities to network with women at the top, asking them to lunch or for a meeting to seek career advice.
Flourish with feedback.  Feedback is critical for improving performance, but despite asking for informal feedback as often as men do, a 2015 study found women receive it less frequently. In fact, women are 20% less likely than men to receive critical feedback that improves their performance. Following established criteria and clearly identifying key issues and potential for growth will lead women to invest more fully in the workplace and move forward.
Opt for diversity and inclusion. Recruiting and retaining a diverse, inclusive group of employees makes an organization reflect the outer world. It also enables a team to develop fresh ideas and solutions to meet customer and  community needs. True gender and cultural diversity requires promoting as many diverse, smart, talented, passionate women as possible.
Cultivate powerful confidence.  When something goes wrong professionally, women blame themselves. When things go right, they credit others. Women are also more likely to be perfectionists who wait until they’re 100% sure of their desired outcome. This limiting self-programming, along with a lack of confidence, makes it unlikely women will apply or re-apply for an executive job or other leadership position. Being passed over doesn’t have to be a defining negative event in your life. See it for what it is – a moment in time. Rejection and success go hand in hand, and all successful women have received their share of rejections.  How they handle that rejection is what defines them.
If you’re in a workplace or community situation that doesn’t feel female friendly, it’s not your fault. Just recognize it for what it is and keep moving forward. We achieve parity one woman at a time, so whether you have to work on your confidence or find a woman to mentor, remember that working together is the only way we will accomplish gender equality in leadership.
When women don’t try for promotions, they move us further away from parity and reinforce the idea that women don’t belong in leadership roles. Women must rise into top positions in order to achieve career goals and advance gender equality. It’s the only way to create leadership environments that support both women and men.

Do What Gives You Joy

Holly Dowling

Global Keynote Speaker and Women’s Leadership Expert Holly Dowling chooses every day to do what gives her joy and uses her driving passion to inspire other women to do the same. A crooked path led her from pre-law at K-State, through a career as a cruise director, life as a single mom and a VP of an international financial firm. What saw her through were her three words to live by: tenacious, fortuitous and perseverance. Now she tells women around the world to shed anything that dims their light and say yes to everything and every person who supports their passion and purpose. When Holly is brought into corporations for leadership programs, she finds that instead of professional development, women most need to focus on who they are and rekindle the power and the light within to truly make a difference in the world.

You Are Not Alone!

No matter what culture they live in around the world, women want to know, most of all, that they are not alone. Holly’s mission is to share that message and why and how they can be true to themselves and live their passion. Universally, women look outside of themselves for permission to be who they are and go after their dreams. Holly sees many women break down in tears when they realize that they have been allowing the lack of permission to hold them back. They are liberated by the understanding and the epiphany that comes with knowing they have the power to choose. Holly urges women to see every day as the gift it is. When Holly considers her day, she asks, will this client give me joy?
On the flip-side, she tells women to stay away from emotional vampires. When you feel emotionally drained, look at who you spent your time with and what you were doing. Look for like-minded people who will support you, energize you and help you live your passion. “Quit shoulding yourself” and stay true to your character. There are more inspirational quotes in her book, Hollyisms: Let Your Life Shine, which is part meditations, part journal.

Celebrate You!

Listen to more inspirations from this engaging and fun conversation and check out Holly’s website, hollydowling.com. Her free special gift for people connecting with this interview is a button on her home page to listen to one of her all-time favorite podcasts that she broadcasts, Celebrate You!

Reach Out to Help Another Woman Lead

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly
Women keep saying to me, “This is our time. There has never been a better time to be a woman.” It’s true. We have more degrees and opportunities than ever before and, even though we lag behind men in earnings, more women are achieving independent means than ever before. My Leading Women coauthor, Joanna Krotz, tracks women’s progress toward wealth in her chapter, “Redefining Sex and Power: How Women Can Bankroll Change and Fund Their Future.” Joanna says, “Women alive today belong to the most affluent, educated, and longest-lived generations in history.”

It’s no wonder many of us who promote women empowerment are impatient to see women take their seats at the tables of policy and power. It’s time for each of us to step up and speak out to create a better world for all of us. It’s proven in study after study that when women lead, their policies benefit the lives of the people they serve. It’s not rocket science then to conclude that having more women leaders will make the world a better place.
I’ve been on this soap box for quite awhile now, encouraging women to reach out and help each other. Leading Women: 20 Influential Women ShareTheir Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life was created by 20 skilled leaders who did just that. They reached out with expertise and wisdom to share actionable tools women can use to accomplish their passion and purpose. With the influx of women signing up in recent months to learn how to run for public office, its messages are especially relevant today. The expertise in this book comes from a broad range of ages, races and countries. Women everywhere are looking for ways to continue — and accelerate –the momentum of the world-wide women’s march. That’s one reason why women are reaching out to share their time, talent and treasure.
And women do give, and at higher rates than men. Women give at all levels and by all means. Many establish foundations like my own WomenConnect4Good, Inc.
Leading Women co-author Linda Rendleman established her Women Like Us foundation to support other organizations working to benefit women and children. Her chapter, “Poise, the Final Ingredient,” tells how she developed the perspective to define herself in ways that would help her create social change. She chose Audrey Hepburn for her role model, because of her “poise” and quoted the actress as saying that her ambassadorship for UNICEF was the most difficult role she ever played.
If you read history closely, you’ll find women throughout the centuries who stepped up to care for those forgotten by society. They founded schools, charities, hospitals and agencies to fill countless social needs.
My co-author Shirley Osborne tells the story about one such school in her chapter, “Information: The Best Philanthropy.” A simple school that began to help female immigrant factory workers learn English became Simmons College, which instituted the first MBA designed specifically for women’s career and leadership success. That’s where Shirley, originally from a tiny Caribbean Island, received her MBA and gained the tools to realize her personal and professional vision.  With that inspiration and the stories of the women she met there, including one from China who hid her studies from her husband, Shirley noted the improvements in the lives of women and girls brought about by women philanthropists. In fact, Shirley Osborn has gone on to become the recently elected Speaker of Montserrat’s Legislative Assembly and Executive Director of The Women’s Resource Center.
There are literally thousands of such stories, in which one woman reaches out to another, in turn empowering them to do the same for still others, as did all 20 of the Leading Women co-authors. The single message here is that now we have an opportunity to engage women like no other time in history. Women are stepping forward to say, “I care. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights. I want to be respected. I want to make a difference. Feminine leadership is powerful leadership.” As my co-author Gloria Feldt says, “It is not power over; it is the power to” join with others to create a world that supports a culture of respect for all of humanity.
We have a responsibility as citizens of a free world to protect and exercise our civil rights. This is the way to protect ourselves and our families and create more women leaders. Most women already function as leaders in their families and communities; we just need to believe in ourselves and gain the self-confidence to go forward. Read the stories in Leading Women to find out how others overcame their fears, stepped into their “power to,” and achieved their purpose while helping others achieve theirs. The stories in Leading Women will inspire you to step up and make a difference in the world.

Women Gain Power Through Our Stories

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly

When I tell my story, I find a connection with other women that is so close I feel like something magical occurs. We connect through our shared truth, and the hardships and traumatic events of life that made us grow and push past the barriers that held us back. Once we dissolve these barriers we stop being victims of our circumstances and become empowered through knowing and engaging our own truths. I’ve always felt that it’s very important for women to reach out and support one another in this process of sharing stories without worrying about how they will be perceived. The more we do this, the bigger our community will become to help us make the greatest positive impact on the world.

2017 is a year of new beginnings. The interviews I’ve conducted for my podcast so far this year seem to be focused on women who have had such beginnings. One of these, Michele Weldon, wrote three books about her journey from shedding an abusive marriage and raising her children as a single mom. Michele admits that while she experienced some very challenging times,  it was important to share the story. Especially  now she has moved on to something greater. Releasing the hidden truth of being a battered woman liberated her to live the life she deserved.

My Leading Women co-author Bridget Cook-Burch shares her story in her essay, “Transforming the Stories We Tell Ourselves as Women.” Strong women like Bridget are often surprised to find themselves in situations they thought impossible. In a decisive moment, Bridget looked her truth in the eye, took a stand, and shut down the circumstance that made her a victim. Having transformed her own story, she embarked on a successful career in business and as a best-selling author telling other people’s transformational and inspiring stories.

Another amazing woman I interviewed, Nancy Michaels, told of how her life was perfect on the outside while it crumbled on the inside. She suddenly became critically ill in the midst of a failing marriage. She survived it all to become a spokesperson for patient advocacy and tell her story about the mistakes women make trying to make our lives on the outside seem perfect while dismissing the very foundation needed to live a fulfilling life.

Nancy’s story is more common than you might think among women. When I went through my own divorce, people shied away from me for not staying in the marriage. I was shocked at the number of people who didn’t support me through that very difficult time. If they did support me, they would have to admit their own truth and the imperfections in their own lives. When I shared that fact with Michele, she laughed and said, “Yes, it’s like they think they can catch it if they get too close.” But once I found my own truth, and how I needed to transform my own story, I began to soar. When I was ready to share my truth, my very best friends were there to support and help me find my way to truly pursue my passion and purpose.

Women end up being victims because they don’t reach out for help. The purpose of WomenConnect4Good is to provide a venue for women to reach out, tell their stories, read and hear the stories of others, and support other women on all levels. And we are not alone. Stiletto networks are forming all over the country. Through these networks, women leaders hear the good and the bad and that helps us to problem solve and learn how others overcame difficulties we are facing. The issues we deal with in our lives are not unique. These communities of women where we can share our truths are so empowering that the possibilities are endless.

If that sounds too optimistic, look around you at what women are doing. When others try to put them down and make them feel less than they are, women are standing up and following their passion. They are starting their own companies , creating their own futures, and reaching out to other women to help them do the same. Although our numbers lag behind in the executive suites of corporations or seats of government, women are stepping up to change that. Feminine leadership is a natural fit for today’s successful social profit initiatives. When women find their truth and build a solid foundation, they can and do become leaders. If you’re already a leader, reach out to another woman, create a network for sharing stories and support. And if you’re still hiding your truth and unsure of how to find your path, reach out to other women, listen and share your story. It will liberate you in unimaginable ways.

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