Award-winning journalist Michele Weldon used to ask her students at Northwestern University what the most powerful three words are. No, they are not I love you, as many would have guessed. They are “I don’t know.” This was how she taught the future reporters the importance of finding answers by asking questions. She contrasts it to women being reticent and fearful of seeming less-than when they don’t know the answer. Instead, Michele says that while saying “I don’t know” does communicate vulnerability, these three powerful words also present an opportunity to learn.
Stake Your Claim and Own Your Own Power
Women are too often reluctant to claim their own power. Michele noted she has met women who won big awards—for example sharing a Nobel Prize or winning a MacArthur Genius Grant Award ––yet didn’t mention it in their introductory bios because they feared being called a braggart or worse. In her work as Take the Lead’s editorial director, she regularly urges women to claim and use their own power. She said that it’s important for women to look at their inclinations, instincts and personal work-life experience to decide what strengths they can develop to achieve their goals, instead of focusing on what they need to apologize for.
Dr. Nancy noted that she often hears a woman say, “I’m sorry” (and talked about her response when she hears herself saying it). In her book In This Together she talks about our hidden biases, including how we’re stuck thinking of men as leaders and women as followers, when nothing can be further from the truth. Women lead their children and their husbands every day, but don’t define it as leadership. Women make the best leaders when they lead as women. She likes a quote from an unknown source, “Be the leader you want to be lead by.” You know who those people are, she says. “They inspire you; they support you; they protect you; they lift you up.” There is no better leader than an authentic role model.
Gloria Steinem—Michele’s Professional Role Model
This interview was recorded early in December, so Michele and Nancy talked about seeing one another at the upcoming play, “Gloria: A Life.” The performance was a fundraiser for Take the Lead and featured Gloria Steinem personally leading the after-play discussion. The play can be seen at the Daryl Roth Theater through March 31, 2019.
Michele said that Gloria Steinem was admirable for not just superficially performing as a feminist, but taking actions in support of feminism for 60 years ever since she was at Smith College. When Michele was a young journalism student, she followed Gloria’s career and found her to be a source of wisdom and inspiration with a graceful way of speaking about really profound ideas. She especially appreciates the way Gloria talks about the broader aspects of life beyond women’s rights and equality to include the necessity to honor humanity and her hard work against domestic abuse and child abuse globally. Both Michele and Dr. Nancy were excited to learn Gloria’s perspective about this moment in history and where we’re going.
Hear More Stories and Read Michele’s Blogs and Books
Listen to this interview for more stories and information about Michele’s upcoming new book, Act Like You’re Having a Good Time: Essays on Life, Work and Meaning, her Op Ed project that is giving a voice to people from disadvantaged groups around the world, and her editorial post at Take the Lead. And check out her website to find out more, order books or contact her for a keynote address.
Order Dr. Nancy’s new book or pick it up at your book store
Michele’s ideas and advice also appear in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality. Then remember to get your copy – and gifts for your friends.