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.

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.

CNN.com 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?



8 Ways to Erase the “Can Women Have It All?” Question

If it’s so darn hard to be a parent and a CEO, why doesn’t Indra Nooyi resign from PepsiCo?

Nooyi, who receives high marks as a CEO, fell several notches in my estimation as a leader who apparently doesn’t realize the impact her words will have on younger women’s aspirations. And don’t even talk to me about Anne-Marie Slaughter, who firestarted the debate with her incendiary article that got her a tidy book advance and left many women smoldering with guilt. I am so done with her whining about “not having it all” when the rest of us have a mighty hard time mustering sympathy for her life as a tenured professor married to another tenured professor.

I mean, really. All of life for everyone, men and women, is a series of choices. No one has it all, all the time. Everyone has to make decisions about what is important to him or her daily.

But men are never, ever asked whether they can be good parents and CEOs at the same time. I am boycotting The Atlantic, which keeps publishing this tired trope. Let’s not feed the beast.

Let’s have some positive advice for a change.

To be sure, Indra Nooya comes from a culture where she is grappling with traditional role expectations. And even women who grew up in the US and Europe face implicit bias in the workplace and often at home. Women have come far and fast. We are in an unfinished revolution, on an easily interrupted path toward gender parity in leadership. So how do we deal with it?

Instead of handwringing, let’s share with women and men how they can have a life and earn a living, including as fulfilling, high powered career as they want.

I decided to look for helpful advice from the likes of executive coach Kathy Caprino, who like me is sick and tired of stories that tell women they can’t have it all, and worries that these narratives place enormous and unnecessary emotional burdens on women who are already struggling to define their lives and careers.

Caprino gives four wise pointers:

  • Understand that your career – and your life – has seasons. It’s not just all about today—you can have multiple opportunities to fulfill what is most meaningful to you.
  • Be vigilant about how you talk about, your life and career – the lens you use to see it through, and the language you use to describe it—those words have consequences for yourself and others.
  • Third—and I think this one is really key–build a support network and get help when you need it.
  • And finally, stop comparing yourself with others. It’s your life after all. If it makes you happy, who cares what others are doing?
Anna Catalano
Anna Catalano

Anna Catalano, a businesswoman who blogs about leadership, tweeted me a link to her post with four more points of sage advice:

  • The household works on a partnership.  If a woman is holding an incredibly demanding job, then maybe she shouldn’t be made to feel like she has to pick up all the groceries on the way home.  Of course no one can “take the place” of a mother.  But the role of mother doesn’t mean she has to do 100% of everything at home.  Husbands and partners need to be willing to cook, clean, iron, run errands, give baths, and help with homework.
  • The kids need to understand the program.  Kids at a young age will realize that yours is not a “traditional” family.  It’s okay.  They turn out fine.  In fact, kids from these families develop a wonderful set of values that men and women are capable of doing all kinds of things.  What a novel idea.  Mom can work in a business just like dad can, and dad can cook dinner just like mom!  Boys and girls who grow up in this environment have a healthy outlook on gender issues, feel loved by both of their parents, and don’t get hung up on whether someone is there for every soccer game or school play.
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself.  Popular culture places incredible pressure on what a woman is supposed to do.  If we’re executives, we’re supposed to be a darling of Wall Street.  At the same time, we’re led to think we have to run a household like Mary Poppins, be a homemaker to rival Martha Stewart, while all the time, look like the cover of a fashion magazine.  Stop feeling guilty about not doing everything perfectly.
  • Ask for help when needed.  It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a privilege that you have earned!  Hire someone to do the things you’d rather not do.  It might be housecleaning, it might be yard work, it might be cooking.  Doing this does not make you a bad wife or mother.  And don’t let anyone make you feel that way.  You are doing amazing things, and you deserve some help.

What about you?

Tell us: What tips do you have for women AND men who love their work and love their families and intend to have satisfying lives with both?

How can we erase the limiting “Can You Have It All?” framing and turn the question into a celebration of the choices we have today as women and as leaders?

Grappling with a problem or have a work/life goal you want to achieve? Create your own personal action plan for your life and leadership. It’s not too late to register for 9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career. We have some great group rates for your organization—or create your own group and inquire here.

It’s not the mountain that trips you, it’s the pebble.

blue-footed boobieMy husband Alex and I just returned from a perfect vacation in the renowned Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. If you haven’t made this trip, put it on your bucket list.

We swam with the giant sea turtles and iguanas, cavorted with playful sea lions, and snapped photos of the famous blue-footed boobies—it was pure heaven. We also met fluffy white Nazca boobies and red-wattled magnificent frigatebirds in full mating season, penguins that adapted to the equatorial heat by becoming smaller and using their flippers to shield their feet from the hot sun, lumbering ancient land turtles, spotted eagle rays, orange-red crabs, and all kinds of other wonderful sea, land, and sky animals. I tend to get miserably seasick. The trip required us to live on a small ship for a week, and to island hop  each the day on the motorized rafts they call ”pangas.”

Worried seasickness would ruin my one opportunity to see the unique ecosystem where Darwin reputedly formulated his ideas about natural selection and evolution, I took six types of remedies with me. Miraculously, I became seasick only once, and the simplest cures of wristbands and candied ginger soon put me back in working order.

Lava hike

I was similarly over-cautious as we hiked different islands every day, sometimes on rugged lava rocks, sometimes up and down gravelly hills, clambering in and out of the pangas to traverse all kinds of terrain. Made it back from all these exotic adventures without a scratch.

Then, wouldn’t you know: On my first day back in the US, in the familiar surroundings of my neighborhood, I headed out for a routine morning walk. And I promptly I tripped right there on the sidewalk.

I fell SPLAT, skinning my knees and hands like a five year old. No broken bones, thank goodness, but painful contusions that left me lame for an as yet undetermined amount of time.

Sea lion and iguana

I wasn’t tripped up by a the hills or lava rocks, or other large impediments that I had so carefully prepared for, but rather by a small bump or pebble—I’m still not sure what because I didn’t see it.  I was paying less than careful attention to my all too usual surroundings as I multitasked on the phone to let family members know we had returned.

The same phenomenon happens to each and every one of us in other aspects of life.

It’s rarely the mountains or the big problems. It’s almost always the pebbles—those small unanticipated impediments–that surprise us and knock us off course.

Take a moment to think about it. What pebbles are tripping you up today? Not physically, but mentally, emotionally.

Your fear of taking a risk?

Your shame at not knowing an answer and being unwilling to ask?

Your lack of confidence to take on a leadership role for which you don’t feel 100% prepared?

Your tendency to hesitate for the split second that lets others set the agenda or get the credit for work you have done? Perhaps not seeing and embracing the power or resources you already have available to you to achieve your goals?


Your lack of focus or, like me, focusing on too many things at once so that you fail to pay attention to the environment around you and trip on that pebble you could have, should have, seen right in front of you?

I had a painful lesson. But you don’t have to. Be present. Pay attention so you can see the obstacle in the path, even if it is a tiny pebble. If you do that, not only can you avoid stumbling; you might just be able to turn that pebble into a stepping stone to new heights for your life and leadership.


 Want to increase your ability to climb those leadership mountains without tripping on the pebbles? Take The Lead’s next signature online course — 9 Practical Leadership Power Tools for Women to Accelerate Your Career — starts July 16. Early bird rate ends July 1 so enroll now in this “life changing” course.

Are Leadership Messes Women’s Opportunity?

BirdsFemale leadership firsts are trending. Especially when an organization is in big trouble, it seems. Often the choice of a woman appears to be an act of desperation. Fix us, clean up the mess and make it all work. Call mommy to doctor a skinned knee, soothe the troubled waters.

Marissa Mayer at Yahoo for instance, was brought in to stop the bleeding at Yahoo and set it back on a path to profits — when she was pregnant no less.

Chaotic moments can be enormous opportunities for women to move into leadership positions at organizations that have been impervious to women’s advancement due to what Secretary General of the Council of World Leaders Laura Liswood dubs a “thick layer of men” rather than a glass ceiling.

But the ugly underside occurs when women are called in as a Hail Mary pass after previous leaders have so messed up the system that the opportunity can be a set up for failure:

  • When the old systems, or leadership thereof, are corrupt as General Motors. Mary Barra didn’t have much time to celebrate her ascension to the first woman CEO of a major automobile company before she was faced with righting egregious safety wrongs, a moral bankruptcy more likely than economic bankruptcy to do the company in.
  • When an institution is shrinking like the vaunted Riverside a Church in New York which recently appointed its first woman senior minister, Dr. Amy K. Butler.
  • When scandal catapults a woman to a leadership role and being dubbed by Forbes the fifth most powerful woman in the world as it did Christine Lagarde, who became head of the International Monetary Fund in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrogant sexual behavior.
  • When a tanking economy causes companies to shed higher paid men and take on or retain women who still earn comparatively 25% less than male counterparts.

That’s why women going into these situations need a special set of tools to help them succeed. 

I started writing this post from the ship Isabela II in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. While observing first hand natural selection and evolutionary adaptation at work, I’m also reading The Beak of the Finch, a beautifully written narrative of how Charles Darwin and other less known researchers developed their scientific theories of change in the natural world. The tale is told through the work of professors Rosemary and Peter Grant who studied the finches extensively a century after the nondescript little brown birds first prompted Darwin’s idea of evolution of species.

Upon careful observation, the finches turned out to have at least thirteen different beak adaptations, each an exquisitely evolved tool enabling the birds to access the various seeds available in order to survive the harshest island environments.

Similarly, anyone going into an organization in dire need of change will benefit from having specialized tools to clean up the mess while righting the culture and creating a new strategy.

Stepping up to such challenges first requires courage. The courage to embrace power in ways few women have historically done. I’m heartened when pop culture celebs like Kerry Washington encourage women to take more risks. Her “badass” message applies regardless of sector.

Being courageous in an intentional way requires employing practical leadership tools to leverage the opportunity–to “carpe the chaos”—one of the power tools I’ll teach in my
9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career certificate course. It’s a four-week course, entirely online so you can do the work at your convenience, starting July 16. I’d love to see you there. (You can still get the early bird price for a few more days.)

The course is packed with helpful specific tools and tips. Plus the big bonus is the support and insights you get from and give to other women. We make the online platform surprisingly human.

Let’s face it, if women are ever to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors as Take The Lead’s mission Intends, we must step up, even if the opportunity is rooted in chaos and the risk of failure is high.

If you have taken on a leadership challenge during a time of crisis and chaos, or are considering doing so, please tell us about it. Your story will inspire someone else. For each act of courage makes the path easier for the next woman.

Mary Barra, First Female GM CEO, Takes The Lead

GM Mary Barra

Does it seem odd for Mary Barra, the newly appointed CEO of General Motors—the first woman to hold that top position in the male-dominated automobile industry–to be profiled as a “woman like you” by the nonprofit organization Take The Lead I cofounded in late 2012?

According to reports chronicling Barra’s career path, she fits the earthy description quite well. The daughter of a die-maker who worked for GM 39 years and who herself entered the company’s technical school at age 18 to become an engineer, Barra’s step-by-step journey up through the ranks might speak of authenticity, hard work, and focus.

In the midst of the media flurry about Barra’s new role, my friend Leslie Grossman tweeted: “Experience Trumps Gender!”

But what I gleaned from colleagues who know both Mary Barra and the auto industry, it took way more than experience for her to land this position. And her 30-year trajectory could be a textbook for women like you and me.

First, the published reports of Barra’s leadership style read like McKinsey studies of the characteristics of women’s leadership that result in higher return on investment for companies that have greater numbers of women in upper management and on their boards. She’s described as a hard worker, a consensus builder, a team player whose people skills are lauded as much as her intense competitiveness. That’s authenticity—not trying to be other than who you are.

Second, her colleagues observe with admiration that this female steel ceiling-breaker, as my friend and former Ford executive Anne Doyle calls it adeptly, walks the politically delicate line between using her advantageous timing as a talented woman in traditionally testosterone driven industry to propel herself forward while not pushing the gender stereotype envelope too far.

As one person said to me, “Mary is definitely one of those ‘Influential Insider’ (I’m no feminist but….) women.” Still, say others, Barra has helped women move up in the company: “She is playing the game quite well – her way!”

Third, Barra aligned with a powerful male sponsor. Her timing was right with that too, since her sponsor, who happened to be her predecessor, Daniel Akerson, left sooner than anticipated due to his wife’s illness. Thus Barra avoided the dangerous shoals of mentor/sponsor conflicts that have wrecked many a relationship when the mentor feels his position threatened, or the ambitious mentee chafes waiting for the sponsor to leave.

While it chills my hot feminist blood to hear her peers say she won’t discuss gender parity, Mary Barra’s personal story and humble beginnings give me hope that as she gains confidence from success as CEO, she will continue to grow in her commitment to advancing other women. That’s important to leadership parity because as Anne Doyle observed, having female role models boosts the talent pool of women who might not have previously seen themselves in the picture. It’s incumbent on women like all of us to support her and reward her for every step she takes in that direction.


How Women Lead: Not A Hero, Everyone as Hero

 L-R: Lauren Sandground, Rhoda Hassan, Cheryl Swain meet to plan Take The Lead Challenge Feb. 19 launch
L-R: Lauren Sandground, Rhoda Hassan, Cheryl Swain meet to plan Take The Lead Challenge Feb. 19 launch

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Arizona State University student Lauren Sandground at a meeting to plan the Take The Lead Challenge Launch event (happening February 19 at ASU—check it out here and plan to be there live or by livestream). Lauren, a senior, started an organization named Woman as Hero in 2009 after being surprised to encounter gender biases in her own life even today, when young women are told they can do or be anything.

The mission of Woman as Hero is to advocate, enlighten, and inspire both women and men globally and locally to empower girls and women through education and entrepreneurship. They believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to support women in their times of struggle and to help create an environment of unity, respect and dignity.

The hierarchical mindset of top-down, command-and-control single-person leadership has remained largely unchanged since the mid-nineteenth century when organization structures as we know them today were invented by men for men who had women at home doing the housework and minding the children.

This model places impossible pressures on the man—almost always a man–at the top to be THE hero, have all the answers, and take 100% of the responsibility for decisions made. Focus on a single heroic leader stems from the “power over” model of leadership that is no longer functional in our fast moving, complex, brains-not-brawn driven world today.

Indeed, as Gayle Peterson, an associate fellow of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and co-director of its Women Transforming Leadership program says, “We don’t need a hero, we just need more women at the top.” 

Key words and phrases that resonate from Woman as Hero’s mission are “both women and men” and “everyone’s responsibility.” This is true whether we are talking about changing the gender and diversity ratios in leadership roles or aiming to improve the quality of organizational leadership overall.

Leadership parity is not easily achieved for many reasons—inertia, co-option, and the resistance of those in power to share it being just a few. Less obvious is the struggle within women ourselves to embrace our “power to” be the leaders of our own lives and in our careers. Changing that paradigm must be fostered by collaboration and deliberate intention.

Woman as Hero observes on its website: “Educating women allows them to help themselves, their families and their communities by giving them the tools to become leaders, otherwise known as the ‘girl effect.’ Their well-being is tied to the well-being of the whole society. It just makes sense!”

But education is only as meaningful as the actions it inspires.

Woman as Hero takes action to inspire broad involvement. Through the hosting of dialogues and film screenings, annual summits, fundraisers, awareness campaigns, and community service projects, Woman as Hero educates to improve the status of girls and women all over the world.

As we digest the remains of our Thanksgiving turkey, there is a lot that we can be thankful for; the progress that women have made since the mid-nineteenth century; the men that have partnered with our movement; and those women who have already made it to the Sweet-C positions of companies and businesses.

But let’s not forget how much more we have to achieve; how much more educating and collaborating must be done before we can sit back and relax with our cranberry sauce. I am thankful for young women like Lauren and all of you heroes and very grateful that they are taking the lead for the next wave of women.

28 to 40: Danger Zone Keeping Women from Leadership Parity

gender pay gapWomen are not promoted at the same rate as men. This disparity takes many different forms, as does the gender pay gap that stunts leadership parity around the world.

The pay gap starts within a year out of college   according to AAUW. That said, women in their early 20s earn almost as much as men, and the number of women and men in the top 10% of earners is roughly equal.

But as women approach their 30s the pay gap starts to widen, and by age 45 women earn on average 28% less than their male colleagues. 

It is not clear where this “danger zone” became established, but studies find that when women are progressing through the middle ranks of their careers, it is the age bracket between 28 and 40 where they usually run into gendered barriers and are lost to the higher rankings in businesses and companies.

Twenty-eight to forty is a critical age for career development. This phenomenon where women too often fail to be promoted at the same rate as men poses a problem for not only women, but also for companies.

Lest you are thinking, “But that’s prime childbearing and raising age. Many women opt out for that reason,” think again before you place the onus on the female employee. Studies have found that mothers are penalized when it comes to promotions, whereas fathers benefit on the promotion and pay scale.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Opportunity Now is a campaign on gender diversity from Business in the Community, based in London. Opportunity Now aims to increase women’s success at work, because it’s not only good for business but good for society too. Its agenda aims to empower employers to accelerate change for women in the workplace.

To be sure, other factors are in play—women are less assertive in asking for pay increases and promotions, for example, and inadequate paid parental leave policies still place extra burdens on women since they are the ones who give birth. Still it is clear that systemic barriers exist and need to be addressed if organizations are to benefit from the full complement of human capital available.

So, it piqued my interest when I saw Opportunity Now is conducting an online survey on the gender gap. They are calling on women to share their work experiences and life goals in an attempt to unravel the problem of why women see their careers stall in their 30s.

The survey is live at www.project2840.com for one month. It is backed by a host of FTSE 100 chief executives, from Barclays, GSK and Rolls Royce, as well as the heads of government departments, the London Fire Brigade and the British Army.

Although seeking to understand the experience of women aged 28-40, the organizers also want to hear from younger and older women, including those who have left the workforce in the last five years.

I encourage anyone reading this to contribute their stories to this survey www.project2840.com . Make your voice heard. The more employers and employees understand about gender leadership imbalance, the easier it will be to solve the problems that are holding women back from leadership parity.

And please post your comments here too—let’s discuss not just the problems but the solutions, and find examples of companies and organizations that do the best job.

Mind the Gap: Liz O’Donnell’s New Book on Moms in America

Liz ODonnell headshot 3x3Feminists and economists alike have been buzzing about the latest data released from the U.S. Census Bureau that shows the gender-based wage gap has remained virtually the same for the past decade. Women earn, on average, just .77 cents for every dollar a man earns. And for women of color the gap is even greater.

But another gender-based gap is worth talking about too – the housework gap. This gap has a direct and negative correlation to the wage gap.

Sure, men are doing more housework than they’ve ever done before, but they were starting from a low percentage. According to the American Time Use Survey, women still do approximately 30 percent more housework and child care than their spouses. Even in homes where couples split chores like cooking, cleaning, and yard work, women tend to shoulder the burden of invisible tasks like scheduling doctor’s appointments, arranging carpools, and organizing play dates.

Another new study, this one from The Pew Research Center, reports there are approximately 550,000 stay-at-home fathers in the United States, and while these men do more housework and childcare than their partners do; it’s not that much more. A working woman with a spouse who stays home does approximately 14 hours of housework and 9 hours of childcare per week. Compare that to a working man with a spouse who stays home. They do approximately 8 and 6 hours respectively. Clearly, women are carrying a large share of the responsibilities at home, regardless of their work status.

These inequities inside the home contribute to inequities in the workplace. Women are stretched thin; 15 percent report feeling tired or exhausted almost every day. And employers are concerned. Research from Shelley J. Correll, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, supports the idea that many employers believe mothers are less committed to their jobs than other employees. As a result, employers are reluctant to hire them and offer them high salaries. And two other professors, Joni Hersch and Leslie S. Stratton, published research in The Journal of Human Resources, indicating housework indeed has a direct and negative correlation to women’s wages. And they suggested one theory for this could be employer’s negative reactions to women who appear dedicated to household activities.

Liz ODonnell MogulMomMaid3D_FINALThose who believe the wage gap is the result of choices women make are missing the bigger picture. They attribute the gap to women choosing jobs with lower salaries or choosing to work part time or take time off to care for family. Some women do. But many women, who may appear to choose to cut back at work, are actually just trying to manage the demands of home and career.

Women’s partners, including the more than half a million stay-at-home fathers, should push for legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen earlier fair pay legislation, and should play an active role in closing the gap at home. And companies should take a hard look at how they can embrace working parents, especially working mothers, as a vital part of the workforce. By instituting family-friendly policies like flex time and telecommuting, and encouraging not only women, but also men to use them, they can help create a more equitable dynamic in both the home and the office.

When you consider that more than half of American women who work are breadwinners contributing at least some part of the necessary income to maintain their households, you can see the wage gap is not a woman’s issue; it’s a family issue.

If we don’t mind the gap, families stand to lose out on income necessary to get by, women stand to lose out on lucrative career choices, and businesses stand to lose out on the valuable contributions of women at work.