The Sum – Meaning of the Week: Crossroads

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

Word of the week is CROSSROADS.

As in a junction where two or more roads meet, offering the traveler multiple paths.

As in an intersection, a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far reaching consequences (yep, I googled this one – small clue about my inspiration).

As in the moral crossroads of leadership. Where Google CEO Sundar Pichai stands at this moment.

I’ve spent days now obsessed with Google’s current crossroads. Engineer James Damore’s manifesto challenging the value of efforts to achieve diversity and inclusion, gender inclusion in particular, has inflamed an already tense environment. Read it closely and you’ll see that Damore’s “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” is a classic reactionary justification of the socially constructed status quo framed as biological determinism. Sort of like those who used to claim women were not emotionally suited to vote, and shouldn’t play full court basketball because their reproductive organs might fall out.

As someone who eats and sleeps research on the topic in order to teach women how to embrace their power to set higher intentions for themselves and successfully reach them, I found the screed (yes, I read every word and reviewed the largely undocumented graphs) rife with implicit and explicit biases, torqued logic, and factual errors declared with the arrogant certainty of privilege.

I have three conclusions: 

  1. James Damore is a loner and perhaps a fabricator of truth, who might have been acting alone but quickly became the darling of the reactionary altRight. If his memo was written in the solitude he apparently treasures, he is now surrounded with sycophants who can supply a battery of smart lawyers and media managers.
  2. Google CEO Sundar Pichai did the right thing though some think in the wrong way and without organizing his own battery of supporting voices sufficiently at the getgo. He can fix that fast if he leads decisively and courageously.
  3. And finally, the women of Google and the high tech culture overall, owe thanks to both of these men for cracking open a controversy that if turned into a meaningful conversation can lead to positive change. This is where Pichai’s leadership at the moral crossroads can turn a mess into a message that pushes the fulcrum toward gender parity in a big way.

Let me back up and give some context in case you haven’t been as obsessed as I am with the story.

And for sure this week’s news out of Google was a story, long waiting to happen. Not because Google is a bad company but because it is one of the best.  Google is about average among tech companies: 75% of its leadership (with an unusually high 46% of its executive team female) and 69% of overall workforce are male and largely pale. “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone,” Sundar Pichai declares on their website’s diversity page, where the company pledges to do better.

Clearly what constitutes “better” is disputed by Damore and his disaffected ilk; those in power – let’s face it – do not relinquish their privilege easily. On the other side, women and many men—eloquently represented by former Googler Yonatan Zunger and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki— too see males like Damore as woefully ignorant of basic cognitive research on gender, not to mention the unassailable business case that more women generally correlate with higher profits for companies.

And while we all treasure our freedom of speech and belief, women can’t help but wonder: how many others think the same way as Damore? Are they sitting at the next desk?  Do they weigh in on our evaluations? Are they judging my ever word and move through that biased lens? Concerns such as these squelch creativity and contribute to a toxic workplace.

This puts Pichai squarely at that moral crossroads of leadership. where he must choose from among imperfect paths, usually with too little time and too little information for certainty. He had to return from vacation out of the country, and soon issued a statementexplaining why he had fired Damore.  No, he said, it wasn’t that Google doesn’t want its employees to express their thoughts, but that the memo violated the Code of Conduct at Google. The old example of “yes you have free speech but that doesn’t extend to the freedom to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” applies here. When your speech hurts the company and its other employees, there are limits.

Lawsuits will decide exactly what those limits are in this case. Those lawsuits have chilled Google’s ability to make public statements and my guess is why they abruptly cancelled the all-call town hall scheduled for last night.

Geekwire lays out the specific cultural challenges for Google.  I believe we are witnessing something much larger:  the devolution of the brocosystem, the hipper scion of the old boy’s club.  And that will ultimately be a good thing. Which brings me to my third conclusion: women can thank both Damore and Pichai for the controversy that opens up a sorely needed conversation.

The clash of controversy, if used well, can create new social realities. Learning to walk into the wave of controversy and ride it where we want to go rather than backing away from it is an important lesson I learned in my four decades on the leadership frontlines. Not just to manage or dodge but embrace controversy.

Think of controversy as a theory of change with 7 “C’s”:

Controversy is the

Courage to risk putting your

Convictions out to the world, because it gets people’s attention. It gives you a platform to present your

Case.  To teach, engage people, define, persuade. Often this causes

Conflicts—the clash of uncertainties—which forces people to

Clarify their values and beliefs, and that leads to sustainable

Change.

Google owes it to its future, its customers, and its employees, to commit intentionally to not just continue but to elevate its commitment to diversity and inclusion. If they play their cards right, they can emerge from this controversy as the model company, one where both women and men will want to work there above all because of its commitment to each of them as human beings with unique skillsets and gifts to contribute to the whole.

So we are back to the word of the week: Crossroads: As in a central meeting place.

As in when the proverbial s**t hits the fan, you hit it head on, be steadfast with your values, and embrace the controversy as an amazing opportunity for change and growth.

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.

The Sum – Meaning of the Week: #SisterCourage

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

Word of the week is #SisterCourage.

As in be a sister. Have the courage to raise the issues that need to be tackled even if they are hard. Put sister and courage together with a strategic plan and act on it and you can create a movement that will change the world.

My Power Tool #7 is in fact “Create a movement.” But my love of movement building is not what prompted my decision to choose #SisterCourage as my word of the week.

What sent me off into the stratospheric level of aggravation that made me want to scream out that hashtagged #SisterCourage concept was this article in The Atlantic entitled “Why Do Women Bully Each Other at Work?”

Continue reading “The Sum – Meaning of the Week: #SisterCourage”


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.

The Sum Volume #9: Stop

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

Word of the week is STOP.

I know, I know!  I’m usually telling you to GO. To set your intentions higher and embrace your power TO achieve them, and to go full bore to lead your dreams, not follow them.

How do you like my new beach hat?

But as essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

So today, I’m thinking about the value of taking a break and urging you to stop. If not this week, then sometime during the summer months, whether you have a staycation or go to an exotic location, or get no vacation at all in the traditional sense, please STOP for a while. And trust me, I am writing this as much for me as for you, because stopping is really hard for me.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #9: Stop”


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.

The Sum Volume #8: Connect

“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

My word of the week is CONNECT.

Actor Caileigh Scott and Wonder
Woman, um, me. Tell us
your superpower and we’ll
tell you how you can get
involved with Take The Lead
to reach gender parity in
leadership by 2025!

As in the world turns on human connections.

I must have said this tens of thousands of times over the course of my personal and professional life. It is without any doubt the most important leadership lesson I’ve learned over several decades as a CEO.

And I don’t mean it in a cynical “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” transactional way. Nor am I referring to the person with tens of thousands of superficial LinkedIn connections and time-sucking social media discussions (read this from Women@Forbesfor tips on how to stanch the flow), though somewhere within those 10,000 digital souls in your network there are bound to be a few meaningful links.

In fact, I am often pleasantly surprised at how valuable social media can be to forming professional relationships, especially where there is already a mutual connection or network of some sort. Continue reading “The Sum Volume #8: Connect”


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.

The Sum Volume #7: Code

“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

My word of the week is CODE: As in Cracking the code, Learning to code, and Rewriting the code

Ada Lovelace, coding pioneer

 Cracking the Code

How much do we love this news of the week? The #WonderWoman movie is doing better at the box office over the longer haul—not just opening week–than any superhero movie in 15 years. The world is truly ready for her/us. That’s what cracking the code is all about.

Aside from the pop culture value of the movie, what really interests me is the role model value to crack the code of cultural gender stereotypes that have for so long defined women in limiting and self-limiting ways. Wonder Woman isn’t perfect on that score but certainly comes close enough that girls and women around the world are embracing the character as never before. And men and boys too, as it turns out. I saw a kindergarten teacher’s list of things that happened in her class during the week after the film’s release.  They included a previously Iron Man obsessed boy asking his mother for a Wonder Woman lunchbox,  and seven girls deciding that that since they all wanted to be Wonder Woman they would be Amazons at recess and not fight each other but work together to fight evil.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #7: Code”


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.

The Sum Volume #6: Diverging from Freedom

“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.

Word of the week is, as you would guess, freedom.

And it’s also divergence. As in how the country often diverges from the principles of freedom that we celebrate on July 4th.

I’m a sappy patriot. All four of my grandparents immigrated to this country to escape persecution and enjoy the blessings of a free society. I tear up at the sight of the Statue of Liberty even though I’ve seen it thousands of times, and I grew up believing in the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem at its base: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

So I was especially moved by this commentary by Maria Harper-Marinick, Chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges. She sees the US from the perspective of an immigrant who grew up in a dictatorship. “I have a profound appreciation for what the Fourth of July represents. It is a reminder of how an open and inclusive society can thrive when it embraces the diversity of its people and promotes respect and responsibility.”

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #6: Diverging from Freedom”


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.

The Sum Volume #5: Move

“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 word of the week is MOVE.

As in a movement has to move to be successful. (Grab your iced tea or mint julep—this Sum will be longer than usual.)

From Suffrage to Full Equality: What’s Next for Women’s Rights?

Barbara Williams, Executive Director,
NY State Women’s Suffrage Commission

Have you seen the new Wonder Woman movie? If so, you probably noticed the reference to suffragists. William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, was inspired by the suffragists.  So on this weekend leading up to the long July 4th weekend celebrating all that America aspires to be, let’s raise our glasses to celebrate the women who fought for our being part of that vision.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #5: Move”


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.

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.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #4: Heat”


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.

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.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #3: Don’t Shhhh Me!”


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.

The Sum Volume #2

“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.

It’s about power this week.

Of course with me, every day of every week I’m obsessed with women’s relationship with power.  That’s because it’s so central to the decisions women make to aim for those higher salaries and leadership positions, elective offices, and grander entrepreneurial ventures – or not. The relationship is so profound, it’s almost spiritual, and often fraught with ambivalence.

The news of the week reveals the two kinds of power I talk and teach about as the basis for changing the power paradigm: power over versus power TO.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #2”


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.