Pass Your Power Forward

Regular guest columnist Anne Doyle wrote this post for International Women’s Day, but it applies every day. It reminds me about how important symbols are, and is a great example of what I call “Sister Courage”–be a sister, have courage, and work together like a movement with sister courage. Here’s the link to the original on Anne’s website if you want to connect with her there. I’m so proud of Anne for running for city council (and winning!), as well as admiring her leadership ideas.

Nearly two years ago, just before I was to give a speech before a group of Michigan businesspeople, I met a woman who was wearing a very unusual, intriguing pin.   I complimented her on it and she told me how much she loved it.

After my speech, the same woman came up to me, handed me the pin and told me she wanted me to have it.   “Oh no, I couldn’t take your pin.  I know it’s very special to you.”  She insisted, but told me there was a string attached to her gift.  “You must promise me that one day you will give this pin to another woman,” she said.  “I am giving it to you with the understanding that you will pass it forward.”  “How long can I keep it?” I asked her.  She simply said, “You will know when it’s time to pass the pin and its power forward.”

There is something almost magical about the pin, and I’ve loved it.  Every time I put it on, I felt empowered by the woman who gave it to me. But as much as I hated to give it up, I have known for weeks that the time had come.  I also knew exactly to whom the pin should go next.  I just hadn’t found the right moment to present it to her.

That moment came this past Friday at a breakfast gathering of the Michigan Women Officials Network.  WON, as we call ourselves, is a non-partisan group of women elected officials, judges, public commission appointees and people committed to increasing the number of women in elected office.    The woman I had in mind would be there.   Blanca Fauble is a very special friend who insisted on taking over as my Campaign Manager when I ran for my first political office last fall.   Originally from Peru, she is a bi-lingual, stunningly capable dynamo who gives and gives and gives to others. The fact that I won my election to the Auburn Hills City Council by a landslide is a tribute to her capabilities.   She is also going through one of those life and career transitions that most of us have experienced.  They are always tough and it is easy, particularly for women, to forget how strong our wings truly are and how high we are capable of soaring.

Before the breakfast began, I asked our president, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Joan Young, if I could take a few minutes to present the pin.  Judge Young and another officer, Troy City Councilwoman Mary Kerwin, urged me to also use the “pinning” to encourage every other woman in the room to find ways to pass her power forward, as well.  As you can see from the photo, the “pinning” turned out to be an emotional, memorable moment between “sisters.”

Sometimes it takes my breath away when I think about how far women have progressed in my lifetime.  At other moments, I stagger under the weight of how far we have to go to end the oppression and brutalization of girls and women throughout the world.  According to the Global Gender Gap Report, issued annually by the World Economic Forum, not a country in the world has achieved gender equity.  The Scandinavian countries are leading the way.  The U.S. has lost ground, slipping from 27th to 31st in the world on how well we divide our resources and opportunities between males and females.  What did they measure?   Economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and survival.

Monday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. I hope you’ll join your sisters from all over the world this week to do something special to remind yourself and the women in your life what a powerful tribe we are.   There is a Chinese proverb which says “Women hold up half the sky.”  Perhaps you’ve read Half the Sky, written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. It’s a spectacular book about courageous women from all over the world who are examples of how we can turn gender oppression into opportunity. If you haven’t read it yet, give it to yourself as an International Women’s Day gift.  And then, pass it on to someone else – a man or a woman – who understands that the world will be a better place when we tap the full power of our feminine strengths and stand side-by-side with men, holding up half the sky together.

The next step, which I dream of achieving in my lifetime, is for women throughout the world to come together into a powerful, collective feminine force field.  That transformation will begin when we learn how to share and combine our individual power.  We must be the wind beneath each others’ wings.  Otherwise, none of us will reach the heights we could achieve together.  You don’t need a magical pin to lift another woman.  Pass your power forward.

PHOTOS BY MARGENE SCOTT, Thanks Margene!

About Anne: Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more, check out her website — and blog.

Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more, check out her website — and blog.

Thanksgiving to Three Courageous Leaders

On Thanksgiving Eve, I’m grateful to three courageous leaders. First, Dana Kennedy, Executive Director of Emerge Arizona. Dana not only works every day to recruit, train, and support pro-choice Democratic women to run for office, she put her convictions into action by running for Phoenix City Council. Though she didn’t prevail this time, I hope she will run again until she joins the ranks of leadership consultant and occasional guest poster here, Anne Doyle and political blogger par excellence Jill Miller Zimon, both of whom mounted their first political races and won city counil seats in Auburn Hills, MI and Pepper Pike, OH respectively.

As then-AZ Governor Janet Napolitano, now Secretary of Homeland Security, once told me, “You can’t win if you don’t run.” That’s a great leadership lesson, whether we’re talking politics or profession, civic engagement or choosing life goals.

Nervous about taking the plunge? Help is a Google away. In the political realm, check out this report featuring Emerge Arizona.

Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more, check out her website — and blog.

The Meaning of Michelle, Sonia, Ursula and Anne

This is what’s on Anne Doyle’s mind these days as she contemplates the recent rise of women in disparate worlds of politics and business. She’s “tired of tokens and trailblazers”, and looking for real, sustained leadership by women. Thanks, Anne, for sharing this thoughtful post.

What a month it’s been.

First it was an historic, stockholders meeting for Xerox. CEO Anne Mulcahy officially confirmed she will be retiring July 1st and introduced her personally selected and groomed successor, Ursula Burns. Not only will Burns be the first Black woman to head a Fortune 500 company, she and Mulcahy have also charted the path of another milestone: the first woman-to-woman CEO handoff in Fortune 500 history.

Then, my Time Magazine arrived with Michelle Obama’s strong and focused face on the cover. The featured article, entitled The Meaning of Michelle, probed the significance of the journey our national psyche has made as we’ve watched a trailblazing First Lady evolve from “the caricatured Angry Black Woman of last spring to her exalted status as a New American Icon . . . “

Will Sotomayor take Souter’s place and double the number of women on the Court?And when Judge Sonia Sotomayorwas introduced as President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, we witnessed another subtle shift of our leadership paradigm. Regardless of the gender bashing that Sotomayoris now enduring, this legal heavyweight, who was raised by a single mother working two jobs yet went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude from Princeton and edit the Yale Law Review, is modeling another national brand of fresh possibilities.

Three sterling examples. Each in the stratosphere of influential public arenas: global business,the political spotlight and the judiciary. They are fresh, sparkling evidence of why I am convinced that our nation of women Achievers is moving into an unprecedented era of women Leaders.

What does it all mean? It means women are on the move again.

Several years ago, I was discouraged about our progress. For all of our individual accomplishments, we seemed to be idling in place –stalled just below all those nearly impenetrable glass ceilings in every arena. There was even growing evidence that women were slipping.

Now, I sense the wind is changing. And it feels so good.

I believe the next phase of women’s evolution in the U.S. is about power. Not individual power, but collective power. Throughout all of history there have always been stunningly brilliant, courageous women who slipped their gender chains, bucked cultural pressure and pushed the edges of feminine possibility. Cleopatra, Madame Curie, Golda Meir, Sojouner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Coretta Scott King, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The list goes on and on. But cultural change requires collective power.

That’s what is still missing for women: a broad understanding that every woman for herself is a losing strategy. It’s time to cultivate Sisterhood, with a capital S. It’s time for women to begin actively reaching across racial, cultural, economic and generational lines to lift and lead one another into leadership positions – in big numbers. I’m tired of tokens and trailblazers. It’s time for women’s leadership –in numbers appropriate for 51% of the population and the most educated, skilled and savvy critical mass of women in the history of the world.

And there’s one other piece that’s essential for humanity to make the next significant leap forward. It’s the mindset of men. I’ve been disgusted by the depths to which some male commentators have sunk recently in their drive to derail Judge Sotomayor’s nomination. For example, national radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy recently opined to his listeners,“Let’s hope that they key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would be really bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”

How pathetic!

Men who are threatened by the ascent of women are making a critical mistake. For centuries, women and minority men have had to learn to play the games invented and controlled by white men. While everyone else was adjusting and hustling to make the grade according to white, male standards, those born to that homo-social group had little adjusting to do. Yet the rules of the game are changing and the players rapidly diversifying. There are some uncomfortable days ahead for the likes of G. Gordon Liddy. Fantastic,evolved men, who are eager to shed their own gender chains, understand that we will all rise together. Dan Mulhern, Michigan’s “First Gentlemen” and husband of our Governor, Jennifer Granholm, just wrote a terrific piece on this topic called, Father Leaders. His insight is more evidence of how the winds are changing.

What does it all mean? It means our culture is on the rise again. And it feels so good.

About Anne:

Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more: her website — and blog.

Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more, check out her website — and blog.