The Heartfeldt Blog


Take The Lead Presented and Connected in 2014—and Wants Your Suggestions for 2015

IMG_6939-X3Understanding the Role Confidence Plays

Would workplaces become more balanced and society more equitable if women exhibited more confidence? Katty Kay and Claire Shipman created a stir with their book The Confidence Code and their article, “The Confidence Gap” in The Atlantic. To continue this important conversation, we were honored to have Shipman speak to the Take The Lead community in July about how personal confidence relates to women advancing in the workplace and in society. Yes, women face very real barriers, no matter how confident we are, but leading with confidence expands our possibilities in ways that change our lives and the lives of other women. (Like this quote? Tweet it!) Did you attend this event with Shipman? What did you learn? This confidence question will surely be an ongoing conversation, so we’d love to hear your thoughts!

TakeTheLead-80-X3The Solution to Feeling Stuck: Get a Coach!

At Take The Lead we teach women to define their lives and careers on their own terms. But history has also told us how crucial it is to seek help when we need it. That’s why we were so excited to gather some of the best coaches we know for an event in NYC sponsored by the fabulous ALEX AND ANI. Alisa Cohn, Robyn Hatcher, Bonnie Marcus, Dana Balicki, Audrey S. Lee, Maggie Castro Stevens, and Leslie Grossman joined us to share their wisdom and generously donate hours of coaching time to attendees. See photos from the event and learn more here.

15777710358_506c524d16_o-X3Circling Up!

One way we achieve leadership parity at Take The Lead is by working with women across all backgrounds, generations, and professional fields. And we’re proud to collaborate with a larger resurgent women’s movement. One way we create connections among women is through our online Take The Lead Community. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so to network and get honest, actionable advice from other accomplished women having valuable conversations. Soon we’ll be adding a mentoring component you won’t want to miss.

Gearing Up for 2015

Stay in touch with Take The Lead by signing up for our newsletter, and following us Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thanks again to everyone who joined us this year and stay tuned for exciting developments in 2015!

Remember! Please take a moment in the comments section to tell us what’s bugging you, highlight learning topics you want to see in our webcasts, courses, or blog, and suggest experts you admire. You can also tweet us at @takeleadwomen using the hashtag #takeleadwomen2015.

If you’re moved by the work Take The Lead does to give women and men true parity across all sectors, it’s not too late to donate to enable us to Teach, Connect, and Present to more people next year. Read more about our strategy for change, Take The Lead’s 4 keys to leadership parity, here.

Voting Power 2014

Shirley Chisholm

When Shirley Chisholm broke both racial and gender barriers to become the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and later the first Black woman to run for U. S. president, she leapfrogged over more barriers to power than any woman considering a run today can even imagine.

Was she conflicted in her relationship with power? Just the opposite as the quote above indicates. How did she get that way and what can we learn from her on Election Day 2014?

My systematic research into many women’s ambivalent relationship with power began during the 2008 election season, when I wrote an article for Elle magazine about why women do—or as I came to find out, more often don’t—run for office.

Though women constituted 53% of the voters in 2012, Congress is less than 20% female and state legislatures are not much better.

At the rate women are advancing in Congress, it will be 60 years before gender leadership parity is reached. But more astounding is what I found in 2008 that stopped me short: it’s no longer external, structural barriers, though some do still exist, but internal ones that hold women back from fully embracing their political power. And there are far more similarities than differences in how this dynamic plays itself out in the seemingly divergent realms of work, politics, and personal relationships.

Image via Rutgers
Image via Rutgers

The personal is, was, and always will be, political.

I wanted to learn more: to understand what internalized values, implicit biases, assumptions, and beliefs about ourselves we as women haul around, like worthless cargo, hindering the full attainment of our potential as leaders and doers—what intricate personal and cultural constructs of power, the silent sinews that bind not only our political intentions, but our work lives and even our love lives.

vote_todayParadoxically, I’ve spent most of my adult life working for justice and power for others—African Americans, poor kids, other women. Not, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I feel blessed to have been able to make my life’s passion for social justice into my life’s work. And my path is not so different from gendered behavior regarded (and rewarded) as laudable—being nice, putting the needs of others first.

Which is the point. Fighting for others seemed worthy. Fighting for myself, or something I wanted, did not. And many younger women today tell me they experience similar reticence, even as they seek role models and mentors to teach them differently.

Yet all effective leadership is rooted in the language of power and the willingness to embrace the power one has. If women are ever to complete our staccato journey to equality, we must join the discourse and become deliberately fluent in power’s meanings and nuances.

While the men around us operate as though they own the world—because, for the most part, they do—women have to work consciously to assume that place of intentional power and agency. Women’s inner struggles parallel the pushme-pullyou history of our social and political advances.

It’s this relationship with power—almost a spiritual factor, rarely acknowledged by the metrics or even the philosophers, which I’ve witnessed in myself and countless other women—that fascinated me and propelled me to undertake writing my book, No Excuses, ultimately leading me to cofound Take The Lead. For until we redefine our relationship with power, we will stay stuck in our half-finished revolution.

And that matters for two reasons.

First, we will remain able to excuse and justify our lack of progress by pointing outward rather than owning our part of the responsibility to take the harder road of pushing forward courageously as Chisholm did.

Second, until we can stand confidently in our own power, we won’t be able to lead ourselves or others with intention. If we allow that to happen, both women and men will remain constrained within lives of limited gender stereotyped possibilities, lives that keep us all from achieving our full human potential.

The Right Honorable Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada (and the first head of that nation’s government), put it this way: “Look, power exists. Somebody is going to have it. If you would exercise it ethically, why not you? I love power. I’m power-hungry because when I have power I can make things happen, can serve my community, can influence decisions, I can accomplish things.”

Why not you, indeed? Why not any one of us?

And if a courageous woman like Shirley Chisholm could blast through seemingly impermeable barriers to run for president half a century ago, surely each and every one of us can at a minimum honor her memory by voting today and every Election Day.

Why Flex Time Is the #2 Most Important Employee Benefit

A big barrier to women’s leadership parity was overlooked in the recent brouhaha about Facebook and Apple covering employees’ insurance for egg freezing.

These companies are not, as headlines screamed “paying women to freeze eggs.” And I see nothing wrong with covering fertility treatments that though still far from fully effective, can give women childbearing options men naturally have, and often exercise with trophy wives.

But next to quality child care, flex time–much more than high tech fertility–is the most effective benefit companies could give women, and increasingly, men as well, to enhance opportunities to advance their careers while garnering better retention rates and job satisfaction without compromising productivity.

October 21, has been declared National Flex Day by for good reason. National_FlexDay_Badge

As negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon put it in her Linked In Pulse post, “You deserve a family-friendly workplace, not an egg-farm.”

Much has changed for the better

When I entered the paid employment world after my three children entered elementary school, neither egg freezing technology nor flex time were options.

One day during my first full year of work teaching Head Start kindergarten, my seven-year-old son, home from first grade with the flu, called to say he’d caught the toaster on fire and I’d better come home right away.

I raced home wild with fear that I would find him injured, that the house would burn down before I arrived, that most of all I was a BAD MOTHER.

This was before cell phones. So I couldn’t find out more till I arrived home. Acrid burnt toast odor met me the door. My eyes watered as much from relief as from the fumes, upon finding that my son was in need of hugs, but sustained no injuries, and there were no irreparable property damages.

His dad was due home from working his night shift shortly. I had taken a chance that I could safely leave my son for an hour while I rushed across town to fulfill my work obligation. I loved my job and the income was important to our family’s ability to pay our basic bills.flexday

These are the kinds of choices workers still face every day. True, some jobs are more amenable to flextime than others. In my case, twenty children arriving at school that morning had to be greeted by an adult. And certainly the children in my class were from homes where their parents were even less likely to have flexible jobs. So they needed a teacher to arrive on time as much as I needed to be able to go home to take care of my child.

Given that teachers are predominantly female, and women still are the predominant caregivers in most families, it would have made sense for my school to buck the budget pressures and hire a floating teacher or substitutes for such situations. Because they’re bound to happen to all human beings at some time or another.

Too much is still frozen in time

Things have not changed sufficiently, despite important progress and examples of creative flex time policies reported by the Wall Street Journal.

According to “Mom’s Manifesto”,

From the highly paid to those making minimum wage, far too few women in America have flexible work options—almost three-fourths of working adults state they don’t control their work schedules…The lack of flexible work options often leads women to quit needed jobs.

This is a problem because most families need two working parents to support their family, many women want and need to continue their careers, and when women take time out of the workforce they face huge wage hits, or pay cuts, when they later return (as 74 percent do within two years). These wage hits take a life-long toll: On average, women take an 18 percent cut in their pay, a significant wage hit, for an average of 2.2 years out of the labor force—with women in business sectors taking an increased hit of 28 percent. For those women who stay out of the labor force for three or more years, the news is even bleaker: A 37 percent loss of earning power.

Designating a day to promote flextime is a step forward. But let’s not rely on Karma to make the real deal happen, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella advised women regarding their pay raises. No, it’s time to campaign hard for policies that allow flex time, where the work delivered is more important than time spent behind a desk.

How “Play Like a Girl” Went From Epithet to Compliment

I’ve never been to a professional hockey game nor wanted to. I stay far away from sports bars.

But I do resonate with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky whose pithy leadership advice is, “Don’t skate to where the hockey puck is. Skate to where the hockey puck is going.”

I love the direction the hockey puck is going for women in sports.

That’s why why I’m excited about Take The Lead’s upcoming “Play Hockey Like a Girl” panel in Phoenix, AZ on November 11. More later on that.

My own sports story begins in elementary school. I was often humiliated by being the last person chosen for the softball team.  Probably today to make all children feel equally worthy, they draw lots or number off. But when I was a girl, I was the epitome of the dreaded epithet, “Play (whatever) Like a Girl.”

Except for the spelling bee. Everybody wanted me on their team for that. How “like a girl.” Another story for another day.

The more I failed to perform well at sports, the less I played, and the klutzier I therefore became.

I lived with three loving but busy adults for the formative first six years of my life and was rewarded for being quiet. Oh, they enrolled me in ballet and tap, in stereotypical girl child fashion. I was cute in my pink ballet tutu. But I was also the slightly chunky one on the end who was never quite on point. In tap, I was a total disaster, the top-hatted, foot-clicking version of Wrong Way Corrigan.

It was expected that my boy cousins and playmates on the block would be active and boisterous. I envied them. Tried to run after them, and have the scars to prove it.

My Turnaround

It wasn’t until years later, after I had children and was starting to thicken around the waist, that I was motivated to engage in any significant physical activity.

It started slowly with 10 or 15 minutes of exercises I learned from a women’s magazine. Periodically I would run laps around the nearby football practice field. (We lived a block from the real Friday Night Lights.)

Thank You, Jane Fonda

But I lacked the tenacity or lung power to stick with running. About when I hit 40, though, Jane Fonda released her exercise videos. I did one almost every morning until I got hooked on exercise endorphins and couldn’t start the day without feeling the burn.

Thank you Jane, for changing the lives of many women by showing us how to exercise like a girl and love it.

Here a shout out to Bernice Sandler is overdue–the “godmother” of Title IX, the 1972 legislation that had brought equity to girls in various aspects of education, but is best known for requiring schools to provide boys and girls equal access sports.

The value of participation in sports for girls and women is profound: learning leadership skills, physical discipline, teamwork, and how to compete in a positive way understanding that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and you come back to play again another day.

I wanted to continue to improve rather than go downhill physically at middle age. So I hired a trainer and began to build upper body strength for the first time. Wow. What a difference it made. I began to feel a mastery over my body and my physical prowess that I’m guessing male children learn by the time they are five years old.

The definition of “play like a girl” was clearly changing. When my husband and I were visiting friends around the 30th anniversary of Title IX, their nine-year-old daughter Sarah came racing home breathless and sweaty from her soccer practice. My husband said to her in his old-fashioned “like a boy” way, “You must be a tomboy.”

Sarah looked at him like he had two heads and replied, “What’s a tomboy?”

That was when I knew a true shift had taken place. And the trajectory has continued. Parity in funding and public attention to women’s sports has not been reached–far from it. But the days when Billie Jean King had to play a man to get attention are long gone. Over a third of high school and college women participate in sports. Women’s college basketball teams often play to sellout stadiums, and women are making a living in every sport from rock climbing to car racing , as well as in other professions that support sports, such as media announcers, team administrators, sports medicine, and much more.

Women in sports is a big deal now. As the much touted Always advertisement illustrates, “Play like a girl” is no longer an epithet but quickly becoming the best compliment we can give.

If you’re in Arizona, come join Take The Lead and a panel of distinguished women in sports, sponsored by the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

Ticket purchase details are here.

Sponsorship opportunities are here.



Women and the 3 C-Words (Not What You think)

Journalist Sheila Weller triggered the gossip machine with her new book The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News, when she reported on C-word #1: competition between the three female newsmedia icons.

NewsSororityCouric’s flippant comment that Sawyer must have traded sexual favors to land a coveted interview was THE sentence in the triple biography that hit multi-media headlines. In truth, the book is full of fascinating social history with well-rounded profiles of three women whose breakthroughs changed the media’s face forever.

Predictably, C-word #2: catfight raised its back and hissed at all womankind. Weller asked my opinion on the paradox that when women compete it’s a catfight as contrasted with men, for whom competition brings applause, promotions, and serious money. Here’s what I replied.

The very compound word “catfight” buys into two timeworn stereotypes.

First, that women are felines in the sense of being stealthy or treacherous (with not-so-oblique reference to slang for the female body parts to which women have historically been reduced as a primary way of diminishing us).

Second, that women inherently don’t support other women. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just look at the prevalence of women’s political collaboratives like Emily’s List or women’s funding networks such as Women Moving Millions in philanthropy (at whose annul conference I will be privileged to speak this week) and Golden Seeds in the entrepreneurial space.

Yet, both men and women persistently say, “Women are their own worst enemies,” and the media Mean Girls trope reinforces those time-honored stereotypes. We ingest these images and they affect our self-perceptions and therefore our behaviors. This is reinforced by the male model finite pie definition of “power over” others rather than the limitless “power to” do good things in the world.

We’re all socialized in the same culture, have similar implicit biases or blind spots. That’s why both men and women tend to think “man” when they think “leader.” This in spite of the fact that women are clearly not the problem but the solution to a variety of woes in business, politics and even saving the environment.

Which brings us to the third C-word: the C-Suite and what it takes to get there.

Women’s ambivalence about embracing power is linked to that traditional definition of power from which spring our culturally accepted female roles as nurturers and supporters rather than leaders. Break your gender stereotype and you will be punished by being dismissed, disparaged, and, by the way, less likely to get that promotion. This is called “stereotype threat.”

So not only do women risk losing treasured relationships when they compete as fiercely and directly as men do, they risk being punished for the very thing men are rewarded for. As a recent study by University of British Columbia researchers found, when women compete in the workplace, they are judged much more negatively than men who compete.

Why can’t we call different opinions among women “principled disagreements?” And why can’t we call vigorous workplace competition among women “striving to reach personal excellence?” Really that’s what they are. Positive use of conflict, controversy, and competition have become three of this “nice girl’s” favorite things because I learned the hard what that’s how you get people to pay attention to your ideas, create better products, and make sustainable social and organizational change.

Studying dozens of organizations that help women run for office (and that for decades have hardly moved the dial toward parity) made me notice that the same lack of progress was happening in the business world, and in personal relationships. That in turn motivated me to write No Excuses and then start Take The Lead.

I found that despite doors being open, women were reluctant to walk through them because they resist embracing the power embodied in head-on competition owing to the cultural punishment that comes with breaking their gender stereotype. Cracking that code is the next necessary step on long the road to full equality, and what Take The Lead’s programs such as our upcoming online certificate course in women’s leadership will accomplish by 2025.

Weller also asked me whether women agonize about the burdens of competing with other women when collaboration is historically our survival mechanism. I think we do. Often we agonize largely because we so want to be liked, to be seen as “nice” which our mothers told us to be and for which we were rewarded as girls. Guess what—it turns out that women leaders’ ability to balance competition with collaboration is a huge plus in today’s world.

This is our opportunity to create a #4 C-word narrative: strategic collaboration. In life and leadership, I suggest it’s the secret sauce behind those glowing, female driven, leadership outcomes, and why the world is crying out for more gender balanced leadership.

What are your thoughts? I’d love for you to share your observations and experiences about this intriguing topic with me.

How to Keep Women from Leadership Parity

I led a women’s executive leadership workshop on “Women, Power, and Authentic Leadership” recently. A business school professor presented just before me, so I arrived early to observe her segment.

ladders wcf avisShe’s a highly skilled communicator who presented terrific content. Her elegant attire and direct but modulated self-presentation perfectly mirror how women are advised to look and speak to succeed in the business world. I know she’s passionate about advancing women in leadership and I was eager to garner some tips from her.

During the Q and A, Sarah, I’ll call her, was asked how to handle male colleagues’ informal gatherings—golfing, going out for drinks or afternoon coffee.  Sarah acknowledged that these groupings are where relationships are formed and business decisions often made, and that when women are excluded, it can mean they also lose out on promotions. At a minimum, it keeps them from being recognized as full partners on the work team.

She gave the example of several men in her department who go for coffee every afternoon and never invite her, despite officing in the same hallway. She rolled her eyes and said, “Whatever. I don’t let it bother me. Occasionally, if I have something I want to discuss, I’ll invite myself along. They never reject me—they just don’t think about including me. I don’t think they have ill will. It’s more like they don’t quite know what to do with me.”

I cringed, wishing she had let it bother her and had done something to change the dynamic. Because the first way to keep women from leadership parity is to keep them excluded from the informal relationship web.  

I made a mental note to share with participants my friend Nathalie Molina Nino’s technique.  She worked globally almost exclusively with men senior to herself in age and position.  When she was excluded from the men’s golf games, she didn’t learn to play golf as many women are counseled to do. (Not that there is anything wrong with golf; some women play for business relationship building because they like the game. I myself would have failed golf in college had there not been a written test.)

if yu don't know your own valueInstead, Nathalie staked her position on the team by doing something she enjoyed and inviting the others in. Before business travel, she researched restaurants, cuisine, and wines of the area. She planned a memorable dinner and invited all the men.  This positioned her as a leader, not a follower begging to be let into the cool kids’ circle. She became the cool kid everyone wanted to be with. Sharing meals, and a little excellent wine, opened lines of communication; the men then felt more comfortable working with her as an equal in other settings as well.

The second burning question from a participant was whether she should join the women’s workplace affinity group at her company. Sarah advised against it, saying it pigeonholes you as a “woman professional” instead of merely a “professional.”

No one countered that advice, whether from intentional complicity, that pesky niceness that women are socialized to exhibit, or lack of awareness that she had implied women are less valuable than men.

And here, Sarah had just excused the men in her department for going off together as an all-male group for coffee! Men have been doing this forever and been applauded for it.  This is in fact how most business gets done.

Again I cringed. During the break I told Sarah that I would be giving a different point of view because I didn’t want her to be surprised. She was most gracious about it and I intend to continue the conversation with her since as a professor in the business school her influence can be widespread. The second way to keep women from leadership parity is to avoid joining with other women in order to advance us all. 

I asked the participants to think through why employee affinity groups were formed in and what their purpose is—mutual support and to make up for the disadvantage of being a member of a group that has been traditionally less privileged or discriminated against. No one says LGBTQ people shouldn’t join affinity groups  — and look at the progress they’ve made in bringing equal treatment to their colleagues in the workplace in a relatively short time.

I shared Valerie Brown’s story of using her role as chair of the African American affinity group in her company to differentiate herself and get the promotion she sought. She set the group’s agenda around how demonstrating their value to the company by bringing in business and making sure they got credit for it.

We are what we are, and we are at our best when we can be authentically ourselves. Declining to join a women’s network out of fear of being pigeonholed as a women is as ludicrous as men declining to wear pants because it might pigeonhole them as men.

Why would women so undervalue themselves that they would decline to join with their sisters to help each other, and themselves, out? Because the third and most effective way to keep women from leadership parity is to undervalue ourselves even though the rest of the world recognizes their leadership value, not raise our hands, not stand out as women to leverage the unassailable data that women in leadership are good for the business bottom line.

To learn practical leadership Power Tools that help you overcome these three ways to keep women from leadership parity, and to advance your own career while improving your company’s business results, enroll now in my next signature online certificate course, “9 Practical Women’s Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career .”  Early bird rate through Sept. 16; corporate and group discounts are available for two or more from one organization.

PS. Next week I’ll tackle how to overcome the implicit bias that infects how both men and women think about gender and leadership and is the cause of these three ways to hold women back.


4 Ways You Can Push for Parity This Women’s Equality Day

I was savoring my grilled salmon salad recently when my lunch partner’s casual comment made me drop my fork and get serious.

“They’ve asked me to be board chair at the Brooklyn Museum, I’d be the first woman in their 100-year history. But I don’t know if I can do it,” Elizabeth Sackler said. “What do you think I should do?”

Without flipping a lettuce leaf, I hopped right onto my soapbox. “You must do it. Think of what it will mean for the next woman with leadership abilities in the arts who needs a path to walk, a role model to enable her to see the possibilities. You have to ‘sit in the high seat,’ Elizabeth,” I said, quoting former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins when President Franklin Roosevelt tapped women's suffrage in cartoonher to be the first woman cabinet member.

Women’s Equality Day 2014 Finds Many Female Firsts

On this year’s Women’s Equality Day, the 94th anniversary of American women’s right to vote, women are taking high seats at an astonishing cadence, even in unexpected professions.

So it would be easy to treat Women’s Equality Day as a charming historical artifact and assume women’s advancement to leadership parity is unstoppable, perhaps even nearing a full table of high seats.

But one thing we’ve learned from history or should have by now, is that it rarely goes in a straight line. And indeed, these recent female firsts remind us both how far we have come and that we have a long way to go before such milestones warrant no more headline attention than if men were to achieve them.

Few professions have broken the 20% barrier in their leadership gender balance.

As Denver University Women’s College “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership” 2013 study states: “[W]omen are outperforming men, but they are not earning salaries or obtaining leadership roles commensurate with their higher levels of performance.” And most people know the dismal 23 cent pay gap and the Fortune 1000 leadership pyramid that shows women at the tip top CEO level constitute a paltry 4.8%.

So how can we capture the momentum and use it to propel women to parity–our fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors, as Take The Lead’s mission envisions?

Parity Push Time

I’m a fan of my own Power Tool #1, Know your history and you can create the future of your choice, and it seems appropriate  Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 10.06.16 AMto focus on for Women’s Equality Day. (Shameless but sincere promotion here–you can learn all 9 Power Tools in my upcoming online certificate course that starts September 30.)

You don’t have to be a “first.” Each of us can play a part, large or small, to push that momentum toward true equality and parity. Even a very small pebble thrown into the pool makes a ripple that undulates outward indefinitely.

Four ways to celebrate this Women’s Equality Day:

1. Go out and learn. Learn your own family’s history. How did your mother, aunts, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers fare in the past? How can what they lived through serve as an inspiration for you and your life? Study the status of women in society and policies that affect women and girls too.

2. Go out and teach. The day is full of teachable moments, mentoring, and role modeling opportunities. By sharing our own history, we also illustrate how the world can change and how we can contribute to making that change happen. Social media can be a powerful tool to supplement direct conversation. Shelby Knox, a young activist, has used her Facebook as a forum to share short vignettes of notable moments in women’s history with her more than 2,500-strong Facebook network.

3. Go out and raise hell. Start a campaign to require women’s representation in history courses to be half the content, or to include women’s history in every school history curriculum. Join Moms Rising to learn what you can do to make the workplace more flexible, the National Women’s Law Center, or any of dozens of women’s groups that advocate for women to learn how you can get involved in policy issues. Contribute to organizations you like, or join funding collaboratives like Women Moving Millions, Women Donor’s Network, to leverage your philanthropic impact.

4. Go out and just do it. Have you ever considered running for office but felt you weren’t qualified yet? Found out after the fact that a man with the same qualifications holding the same job as you started at a higher salary or got a promotion because he asked for it and you didn’t? Been asked to take a leadership position and hesitated to say yes? No more of that! Take The Lead. Just do it.

For more ways you can create the future of your choice, check out Kaitlin Rattigan’s post on Women’s Equality Day.

“For a people is only as great, as free, as lofty, as advanced, as its women are free, noble, and progressive,” said Susan B. Anthony, 19th-century suffragist leader who did not live to see the suffrage amendment to the U. S. Constitution that we celebrate today ratified. It was up to the next generations to complete the job.

By knowing our past, we can overcome overt and covert cultural barriers and implicit biases that remain even after laws are changed and doors opened. We can break old patterns within ourselves that hold us back. We can step forward and keep on stepping yet further forward, taking other women with us as we go. We can refuse to allow our power to be dissipated by victory or diminished by defeat. We can create the future of our choice.

Oh, and Elizabeth did say yes to chairing the museum board, and she’s incredibly happy about her decision. Women like her are my cause for celebration today.

The World Turns on Human Connections

After a whirlwind year of creating an organization, hosting an amazing launch, and being overwhelmed with gratitude for the scores of organizations and individuals who have supported our cause, donated to it, and who want to align with Take The Lead’s mission and programs, we’ve been taking stock. Asking ourselves what works and what not so much. What are the highest leverage activities that will move us with most alacrity toward our vision of leadership parity? How in the world will we ever get the resources we need to implement this vision fully?

9580068088_2fcd61419e_zAnd over and over, as we embarked on the questions, the answers come back to our human connections. As you will see by other articles in this newsletter, it comes back to our circles where we network with link minded colleagues, to the relationships we build in courses and webchats and the #SisterCourage campaign.

And here is what I know from being a leader and working to advance women in society as well as the workplace:  Women need each other. We need to learn the stories about how other women succeeded, the barriers they faced and how they overcame them. We need to know the barriers that our sisters and friends didn’t overcome, or didn’t overcome the first time, or the second, or the tenth, but finally on the eleventh attempt, succeeded.

Or how someone found a different path when the barriers were too great on the first path she started traveling. And if there were days that she was distraught and depressed and angry and ready to throw in the towel.  We need to share stories of worst moments as well as the best. We need to learn our problems are not unique and we are not alone.

This is why Take The Lead places such a high value on collaboration. Because #SisterCourage extends to organizations as well as individuals, to Brother Partners who share our mission as well as sisters.

Perhaps you know the story of the mother who had five daughters. She gave each daughter a stick and said, “Break it.”  They easily snapped the sticks. Then she had the daughters gather five more sticks, which she bound into one bundle. Each sister in turn tried to break the bundle, but none could do so. “You see, my daughters,” said the mother, “Together, you are unbreakable.  Together, you can do anything.”

The world turns on human connections.

You are not alone in your concerns.

Reach out. Be a sister. Ask for help when you need it.

Have courage. The courage of convictions, the courage to take action.

Put the two together with a strategy and you have a movement to make the change you want to see or be in the world.

Thank you for your support that enabled Take The Lead to get such a meaningful start. Please stay connected, whether by joining our circle, taking a course or funding someone else to take one, inviting us to speak or train personnel at your organization, attending an event, contributing to the cause financially or with your talents, or simply subscribing to this newsletter to stay on top of our progress.  Tell us what you think—help us get better at what we do.

And please stay engaged so we go can forward together to turn the vision into reality.

You can do it at the beach, on a boat, or by the pool

I was on vacation the last few weeks.

And judging from the number of vacation messages from people on this newsletter list, so were many of you. Hope you had a restorative experience if you have already taken time off, (See below for who I met on my vacation.) And if yours is still to come, I hope you are planning to get away for a vacation or maybe a stress free staycation.

With summer location changes,  it’s only fair to extend the early bird rate for my 9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Accelerate Your Career online certificate course. And the great thing is you can do this anywhere, any time, any time zone.Sometimes you have to slow down to accelerate. Yes, paradox is at the heart of leadership.

Register by end of the day July 1 and you’ll still get $100 off the full price.

What better time than the lazy(er) days of summer to get the benefit of learning  new concepts, tools, and tips that will refresh you, inspire you, and accelerate your career? I’ll share secrets I’ve learned from a lifetime of organizational leadership along with the latest thinking and research. And you’ll connect with other women in a supportive circle.

If you’ve been considering signing up but were afraid to make the time commitment, check out the benefits:

  • APPLY new power and leadership definitions to your own work
  • EMBRACE your power with intention, take challenges confidently, and lead authentically
  • UNDERSTAND the game — what keeps women from parity in leadership in order to accelerate your own career
  • APPLY the 9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to your goals
  • DEVELOP a powerful Personal Leadership Action Plan
  • NETWORK with purpose
  • NEGOTIATE with confidence
  • EARN a Leadership Certificate to advance your resume

Questions? Contact me.

Recap9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Accelerate Your Career

When: Four weeks, July 16–August 13

Where: Online, asynchronous, meaning you don’t have to be online at any particular time (remember, you can do it on the beach)

Why: Because you are worth it

Bonus: Get the exclusive Take The Lead Close The Gap Appfree– the tool you need to close your own pay and leadership gap

Hurry: Early bird offer expires at midnight pacific time July 1.


Warmest Regards—and Power to You,

Gloria Feldt and the Take The Lead Team

Can a Tampon Ad Really Empower You?

Consumer products ads have jumped on the girls and women’s empowerment bandwagon. Is this commercialization of women’s equality a good thing?

On the positive side, when a company like Pantene bases an entire shampoo ad campaign on exposing sexism and starts a hashtag telling women to #ShineStrong, you know something big has shifted in the culture.

Pantene’s wildly successful first commercial in the series exposing gender stereotypes–along with the bounciest, shiniest hair I’ve ever seen–spread so fast virally that clearly integrating a women’s empowerment social message into a sales pitch must be the wave (sorry, pun) of the future.

Oops, I didn’t mean to apologize. Pantene’s second ad, “Not Sorry”,

Illustrates how often women apologize for—everything. And how uncalled for that is. reporter Kelly Wallace asked me why women apologize so much for an article she wrote. She cited a study that found men don’t think women apologize excessively. Yet the research is clear that we do. The reason for this disconnect in perception is simple. When you have the power and the privilege, you also have blind spots. You don’t need to empathize with what is going on with others.  You can afford to be clueless because you already own the world.  A clever ad that illustrates those dynamics can only help both men and women recognize their patterns and perhaps even modify sexist behavior.

Soon after the “Not Sorry” ad, a Procter and Gamble Always sanitary pads ad soon began its viral climb to popularity with a positive #LikeAGirl message.

The gendered language examples in all three ads are starkly about power. Who has more, who has less, and how men and women position themselves as a result.  The group with less power (in this case women) will always exhibit language, including body language, consistent with lesser power. Sort of a form of curtseying or kissing the ring.  Women also use less direct language, more nuanced adjectives; this drives men who want simple declarative sentences mad.

I’ve started teaching what I call gender bilingual communication skills in my women’s leadership courses because I’ve realized how important these nuanced narratives are to reinforcing culturally learned implicit biases that influence our behavior from the boardroom to the bedroom.

The good news is that once we are aware of behavior, we can change it. These are learnable skills. Pop culture like these ads can help illustrate our foibles and model more equitable actions. And it is precisely the nuanced skills in reading people that make women executives so effective and companies with more of them more profitable.  Let’s not be sorry about that.

Yet, I confess to mixed feelings about the commercialization of women’s empowerment messages. It’s great that teaching girls and women to embrace their gender as a positive has become so mainstream that consumer products companies are promoting it. Those companies have much more advertising money than women’s advocacy groups. So props to them for spending it on a positive message.

The downside of course is identical—women’s advocacy groups typically have little money to spend on public messages. And, more importantly, let’s face it: consumer product companies rarely jump onto a message bandwagon until the rest of us are already there anyway. For in the end their mission is, after all, to sell products that might or might not be healthy for women.

As gender scholar and Mama w/Pen writer Deborah Siegel put it,

Thinking like a girl over here, I say it’s high time empowerment causes, and not just empowerment products, had a PSA as powerful as this tampon ad. Causes for the betterment of women and girls’ lives deserve our most creative thinking, our savviest makers of all sorts.

I’ll take commercial ads that boost the confidence of girls and women and raise them one with this challenge: how about committing an equal amount of money to women’s leadership development, engaging more girls and women in STEM fields, and investing in women entrepreneurs, for starters?