If I’m lucky, there is at least one magic moment during a speech when I see people nodding in unison. Sometimes they smile knowingly; sometimes they look pensive, even pained, as though a raw nerve has been exposed. It’s not necessarily that they are agreeing with my brilliantly persuasive arguments, but rather that something resonates at a deep emotional level.
For example, I recently spoke to the women’s leadership council of a major corporation that was going through major upheavals in their business, and therefore in their personnel. Because women even today tend to be among the later hired, they are still more vulnerable to the layoffs and changes swirling about them. The energy in the room was high nevertheless, and people were clearly looking for ways they could create a positive atmosphere for their staffs to accomplish their goals despite diminished resources.
So we talked about how they could take the lead to be like sisters to mentor and support one another, have the courage to make needed changes, and strategize together like a movement to leverage their individual resources and capacities. And everybody was coming along with me pretty well.
Then it got very quiet.
I could see those heads nodding practically in unison, like a waving grainfield, when I observed that women tend to isolate themselves and feel like they have to solve their problems alone. This is what I said:
Do you notice that women are more likely than men to feel isolated in their workplaces? First of all, they try to struggle with their problems of work-life balance individually. And they’re more likely to burrow in, work hard, and hope that hard work will inherently be recognized. I have news for them—it probably won’t.
Speaking up and being one’s own best pr person is essential. No one ever assumes you have more power than you assume yourself. Have you read Debra Condren’s book, AmBITCHous? I commend it to you. She tells you how to get over that internal resistance to seeking after money and power that so many of us women are socialized to have even today.
Whew, it was powerful, that head-nodding moment, almost like a release of some kind of unspoken barrier they could now talk about and get past.
GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead. People has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”
As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.