The Sum Volume #3: Don’t Shhhh Me!

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis. Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt.

The Sum of this week is voice.

To put a positive spin on it, we’ve had many examples of the power of a woman’s voice.

It started last Sunday during the Tony Awards, when best actress in a musical, Bette Midler, kept speaking her piece long after the escalating music signaled she should get off the stage. She took her time, thanked the women who came before her, and imperiously waved the orchestra off, declaring she had the floor. The way she took her time and space to make her voice heard felt outrageous and liberating at the same time. Her assertive presence must have made Amy Cuddy proud.

We’re accustomed to seeing women engage not by such screeching vehicular feats of daring, but equally intense though too often silent tests of their personal agency. Cultural norms die hard. May this one rest in peace.

Turbulence at Uber, Nervousness in Politics

The pot at Uber bubbled over so much that the board hired former US attorney General Eric Holder to assess the damage done by the company’s bro culture. Rounds of executive firings followed, and embattled CEO Travis Kalanick is taking a leave to “work on himself.” The board held a company- wide meeting to address their problem issues ranging from rampant sexual harassment to other inappropriate behavior. Board member Arianna Huffington (Arianna Huffington!) was dissed when she brought up the benefits of having more women on the board. In a throwback to 1955; one male board member interrupted her to say “jokingly” that having more women just led to more talking.  More good news: he resigned soon afterwards.

In politics, we learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions gets nervous when questioned by a woman (Senator Kamala Harris) with the same intensity when as senator he grilled women like Sylvia Burwell.  Senator John McCain rode to Sessions’ rescue by attempting to silence Harris. Apparently Sigmund Freud’s ghost remains influential, for Harris was then labeled hysterical by a commentator on CNN.  She, you’ll recall, came to Congress as the first ever female and woman of color Attorney General of California, much admired as a smart and tough prosecutor; I suspect anyone trying to avoid interrogation will meet his or her match while she is in office.

See, it’s all good news if for no other reason than that overriding, ignoring, or trying to silence women is now called out, and there are consequences for such behavior.

 Don’t Shhhh Me!

Women are increasingly using their voices literally and figuratively to make a difference, as Kathleen Turner, who advised us in her iconic voice a Take The Lead event.

Susan Chira wrote in The New York Times unmasks The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women.  Michele Weldon, Take The Lead’s editorial director also took this on with a headline that has my vote for best of the week:  Don’t Shhhh Me! 6 Ways To Let Women Leaders Have Their Say.

On Take The Lead’s monthly Virtual Happy Hour this week, I spoke to women who are doing just that in the powerful Paradigm for Parity initiative to accelerate women’s leadership in corporations.  Jewelle Bickford, co-chair of Paradigm for ParityTrish Gyorey, Partner at McKinsey & CompanyNina McLemore, CEO & Owner of Nina McLemore LLC,and Beatrice Opoku-Asare, Global Director of Inclusion and Diversity at Newmont Mining Corporation joined me for a rousing discussion.

A new rallying cry?  “Femaleness is not a design flaw”:  Harry Potter’s creator J.K. Rowling has never been one to back off so when she embarked on an epic tweet storm this week taking on a man for his insulting language of Theresa May, she reminded us all that women are called a lot of things just at that critical moment when they are DOING – leading, deciding, acting.

Maybe we’re all becoming like the Amazons gathered to film Wonder Women.

Let me shout out to three more women whose voices are making a difference:

Agnes Gund sold a Lichtenstein painting for a record sum and put it towards creating a justice fund and is encouraging other collectors to join her by selling artwork to work towards social justice.

Tracy K Smith is an award-winning poet named Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress. She’s vowed to bring “the good news” of poetry to the places in the country where literary festivals don’t always go.

Max with his grandson (my son
David Bosse, who is a world class
father to Michael and Nick —
Happy Fathers Day, David!)

And in the category of it is never too early to Take The Lead, here’s an interview of 12 year old Marley Dias the social activist behind #1000BlackGirlBooks, a movement to collect and donate children’s books that feature black girls as the lead character.

Here’s to Fathers

For me as a girl, it made a huge difference that my father talked to me like a person whose ideas mattered, and gave me an almost endless supply of wise and sometimes wacky “Maxisms” as I called them in this tribute to him last year.

With Fathers Day approaching, I raise my virtual voice to share it again and to wish all fathers a Happy Fathers Day. Know that your influence on your daughters’ confidence in her voice is inestimable.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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