The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are much needed, but how can they lead to systemic lasting change? Here’s how to get there.
This article is slightly edited from an interview I did with the Omega Institute.
Omega: These past months have shown the power women have, with the #MeToo movement, with Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein being held accountable for their actions, and with so many women coming together. What do you think about this, and how do you think we can move forward?
Gloria: This is an incredibly opportune moment. The worry I have is that righteous indignation feels really good. It’s so important for women to get in touch with the power they have inside of themselves, and use it intentionally to create change. Writing #MeToo is cathartic. Saying #TimesUp and suing perpetrators is necessary. Talking about it openly is incredibly important, but it’s just the first step.
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To make real systemic change, we have a long road ahead. It’s not going to be easy. We’re up against a few millennia of culture. We need to gird our loins and be ready to use “power to,” in a positive way. We need to transform power to make the world better, to claim our space and not let anybody push us back.
It’s good to march. It’s good to picket. It’s good to write stinging blog posts, and it’s good to use the power of our voices to raise these issues. But, again, it’s a momentary feel good. It’s something that we need to do because it lets us know we’re in solidarity with others. We have to take that solidarity moment and turn it into real action, and that’s the slogging hard work of real movement building. That’s what we have the opportunity to do right now.
This is hard work but it’s also joyous work. It’s energizing work. Often people don’t know where to begin, so they default to doing one small thing. It certainly does take an accumulation of small things to make big systemic change—there’s no doubt of that. But it must be strategic and aimed at a collective goal.
Omega: What is the first action that women can strategically take to contribute to that deeper societal change?
Gloria: The first thing people need to do is to spend some time working on themselves and getting in touch with their internal locus of power. You have to start with a deep understanding of yourself: what your most deeply held values are and what you’ll walk away from if you violate those values. What your unique value is to the world, and the power of your voice. Once you get to that place, then you can stake out what piece of this work you want to do.
Not everybody has to start a new nonprofit organization or become CEO of a business. Not everybody has to run for office—but those are options. Some people will want to do that. If you’re not somebody who wants to do that, then you can support someone else who does. You can proactively support someone who is running for office and shares your values. You can proactively support an organization that is working to accomplish the change you think needs to happen in the world.
Omega: How does your work help women identify how they can contribute to this moment?
Gloria: In my upcoming online course, Power to Lead, starting February 4, we’re going to deconstruct power and look at how it’s been defined over the ages. It’s mostly been through a male lens, which has been largely defined through conflict and war and power over people, things, and resources. Then we’re going to peel it back and see that power actually has no inherent characteristics.
Power is like a hammer. You can build something with it or you can break something apart. That gives us the freedom to define power in a positive way.
When I act from “power to,” I can operate from knowing that there are plenty of pies, or I can bake more pies. There’s no limit to resources like innovation, creativity, intelligence, and love. I can always make things happen because I have access to unlimited supplies of that kind of power. Power enables me to do good things for my family, myself, my community, the world. We shift how we’re thinking about it.
Once we’ve done that, we look at a definition of leadership that is really very simple. For me, a leader is somebody who gets stuff done. And that frees people. You don’t have to have that Ivy League degree. You don’t necessarily have to come from wealth. From wherever you are in your life or your organization, you can be a leader because you have the capability to get stuff done.
Omega: What is something that people can do right now to deepen their own leadership and “get stuff done?”
Gloria: I believe in making an intention journal. This is amusing: my intention is to do my intention journal every day. I don’t always hit that mark. But the idea is before I get out of bed in the morning I go to the notes function in my phone and I keep a running list of my daily intentions. I look to see what I did on previous days and I focus on what’s the most important thing I can do today that will further that big intention that I have.
When I look at it cumulatively, I begin to see the pattern of what impact I can have simply by stating those daily intentions. It doesn’t require you to leave your day job. It may be as simple as writing a letter to the editor once a month. For women who work in organizations, there are so many things you can do. You can go into a meeting prepared in advance to support your female colleagues in a proposal. Or you can ask them to support you. The cumulative effect ultimately changes the power balance in the room. And we know this is about power.
Omega: What is in your own intention journal?
Gloria: I’ll tell you, this is my ugly secret. The thing I hate the most to do is make those really important phone calls. I hate the telephone. I hate to call someone for work and ask, “Can you give me a million dollars?” I procrastinate on making those calls. But if I put it in my intention journal, I get sick and tired of seeing it popping up every day until I do it and so I finally do it. I cover the 3 Powers of Intention in depth in Power to Lead.
The intention journal helps you do the thing you hate to do. And usually the thing you hate to do is most important.
Acting on intentions individually and with others is the only thing that changes the world. Miraculously, it’s the one power we all have in our hands.
TAKE THE LEAD prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity. Join us online, sign up for our newsletter and have insightful news and advice delivered weekly, and check out our Virtual Happy Hour, our leadership programs and other offerings including our new online course set up to be done on your schedule, in your own time: Here’s how to register: Power to Lead: 9 Leadership Power Tool to Advance your Career for a life-changing 2018.
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.