The Sum Volume #4: Heat

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.

Word of the Week is: Heat

 I landed in Phoenix @ 120 degrees. Or 122, but who’s counting. Yes, it feels like putting your head in an oven even if it’s a dry heat.

There’s lots of heat everywhere.  They say if you can’t stand it, you should get out of the kitchen. I say this week gave us at least three more reasons why women need to stay in the leadership kitchen.

3 Reasons Women Need to Stay in the Kitchen

Sometimes the pot boils over and it’s a good thing.  Uber founder Travis Kalanick resignsafter the pot of his own making boiled so hot that he had to. It took the cool head of a woman on the board to force the change. Here’s Arianna Huffington’s speech to Uber’s employees. It’s been a rocky ride; she was quoted in Broadsheet saying, “Knowing how to deal with crises without being overwhelmed – keeping one’s head while people all around are losing theirs – is the most important leadership quality.”

Contrast Kalanick’s leadership style (power over) with that of China’s dominant rideshare CEO Jean Liu (#powerTO). Can’t help but apply a gender lens to this though the article did not do so.

Sometimes you need to fan the flames of Controversy.

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler stepped up and told the story no one else wanted to share about the experience of being sexually harassed at Uber.   Thank you Anita Hill for making sexual harassment a thing, giving us words with which to address a culturally learned scourge that was long considered just the way things are. We are far from eliminating it but the heat is on. From the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to Emily May’s app, Hollaback which allows anyone to share videos or text documenting instances of street harassment, to the sea of pink pussy hats coloring the Women’s March this January, attitudes toward women and harassment have moved from silence to a chorus.  Yet Bill Cosby’s mistrial verdict felt like a setback. Amanda Marcotte’s analysis “No justice in Cosby’s mistrial” is a must read to understand how deeply ingrained in our culture “the rape myth” is. Nevertheless I want to believe, as Rebecca Traister argues so brilliantly, the cultural verdict is still out on Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and their ilk and all the noise may well be a sign of a cultural behemoth rattling its last breath. Since sexual harassment and abuse of all kinds have always been more about power over others than about sex, banishing that monstrous creature is essential to going from “just the way things are” to a fundamental power shift that allows the movement for gender parity in leadership to succeed. So keep the heat on and keep telling your stories, courageous ladies. You might just be the real Wonder Women.

Sometimes You Have to Make Them Feel the Burn to Get Them to See the Light.

After the numerous criticisms after the Oscars, CAA, the talent agency did a study headed up by Christy Haubegger, leader of CAA’s multicultural development group and agency executive Talitha Watkins and found that surprise!  Movies that were more inclusive in all ways did better at the box office—three times better. This week they’re set to convene a conference on this called Amplify where they’ll bring together directors, actors, writers and more to talk about all of this.

So let’s keep marching, raising our voices, telling our stories, and moving forward–we have the numbers: from  the McKinsey study that showed that advancing women’s equality will add up to 12 trillion to global growth to the numerous studies and articles that show how women in the boardroom and women in management lead to stronger profits, create better teams within and better decisions.   And one company, Accenture, is leading by changing the percentages and hewing to the same parity date that we at Take The Lead have embraced as well: 2025.

Three Cool Things in the Sum of My Week:

  1. Take The Lead Arizona Leadership Council’s cool June Mingle made it worth flying into the aforementioned heat. Photo credit goes to executive coach and Take The Lead Leadership Ambassador Felicia Davis—you can see her hands in action in the bottom middle photo.
  2. It’s cool that I get to speak next week on what we can learn from suffrage history to the Long Island Association Women’s Collaborative, as they honor the 100thanniversary of suffrage in NY. My message will be about why you have to keep applying the heat until justice is done. And even then, you can’t relax with a frosty beverage. Alice Paul knew that, so she wrote the Equal Rights Amendment right after suffrage was won in 1920. It still hasn’t become part of the constitution because most of the activists thought winning the vote would solve everything and they could close up their activist shops. Come back to me next week and I’ll share more about that.
  3. And coolest of all, I had the chance to design my first full out Leadership Power Tools workshop for the many male executives who are warming up to the value of gender parity in leadership and are ready to work together to achieve it. Ping me if you want more info. This could be the game changer.

See you next week. Stay cool and keep the heat on where it’s needed!

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.


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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