The Whole World Is Getting a Spring Cleaning.

I was never much of a housekeeper. “Shmutz,” my husband lovingly calls me while he cleans up the place. I long ago decided I’d rather spend my precious time changing the world than vacuuming it.

But even I have to admit spring cleaning brings a special lightness to the spirit. This spring, in particular, feels like the whole world is getting its closets cleaned, as women speak in their liberated #metoo voices and transform their newly found #powerTO into a quest for — no, a Time’s UP demand for — equality, including leadership parity everywhere.

Seems everyone has finally realized that sexual harassment and abuse are actually about power, and more specifically imbalance of economic, social, and legal power between men and women.

And so our spring cleaning this year is about creating or restoring (depending on how back in history you go and whose rendition of it you believe) a new balance of power, one where women are not just seen but also heard and not just doing but actually leading. And we are finding all sorts of crevices and closets to clean out.

There’s nothing like a tinge of anger to make you sweep out those dust bunnies of discrimination from every corner of every social institution. They were built for men by men who had women at home taking care of, well, just about everyone. When I saw the 82 deliberately intersectional women the likes of Cate Blanchett and Ava DuVernay leading the charge for more recognition in the film industry, I reminded myself just how pervasively culture has bound our brains. The women chose the number 82 because it represents the number of female directors who have had films in the main competition — compared to 1600 films by men. As if only the male gender has something to say. No more. Net-net? A pledge by the Cannes festival and its two main sidebars to bring in more films by women.

Once recognizing the inequities, we are on a mission to vacuum up those implicit biases that continue to mess up our heads long after we changed laws that either ignored women completely or made us second-class citizens. “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head,” Sally Kempton famously said. This is the mental detritus that saps women’s confidence, lowers our sense of self-value, and makes us spend inordinate amounts of money on beauty treatments on the impossible task of perfecting our bodies. And voila, the notorious likes of Uber open up to sunshine disinfectant by getting rid of mandatory arbitration in alleged sexual harassment cases.

The spring cleaning extends to calling for body shaming no more by outing made-up ways of judging women’s appearance such as selling cure for cellulite.

We are sweeping up the shards of glass from the ceilings broken by brave and visionary women who could see themselves in the leadership story even when others could not, and who made it past that thick layer of men at the top to claim their rightful share of powerful positions. Rightful share, I said, not all leadership positions. Bella Abzug said famously, and said only slightly tongue in cheek, “We want it all but we’ll take half.”

Half would be amazing. Earth-shaking. So revolutionary that the very idea terrifies many men and even some women who feel safer under the protection of Big Daddy, frightened and angry.

But women have never aspired to take over the world, only to have the same opportunities to succeed or fail on their own merits as men have.

That’s why we’re scrubbing all vestiges of male privilege from the crevices of the culture during this spring cleaning session.

I mean the kind of privilege that bullies and harasses and abuses women, and less powerful men too. And I mean really scrubbing it with a fine brush and disinfectant. Even from places hailed as advances because they are showing women as strong warrior types.

At the same time, we are taking the strong soap and water to our own culturally learned penchant to ask for and accept less money than men for the same job, to stay in the secondary sidekick role, or to fail to see ourselves as the capable leaders we are. As one woman in a 50 Women Can Change the World program declared at the end of it, “I now have the courage to admit I am ready to lead my organization.”

Profound change is in the air and it smells like lilacs and freshly bathed babies.

Things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime are happening every day. Christiane Amanpour has replaced the eponymous television anchor and everyone’s (formerly) favorite celebrity interviewer, Charlie Rose.

Male politicians, comedians, and businessmen, felled by their own privilege-powered inability to behave in ways that every kindergartner has been taught are appropriate, are falling at warp speed and being replaced by women so often that Take The Lead feels the wind under our wings. It’s hastening our mission of leadership party by 2025. Nobody believed when we started that we would make it by 2025. Now I think it could happen even sooner.

“If we want to change the world, we should invest in the women who already are,” Melinda Gates has said.

Powerhouse gathering: Gloria Steinem, Teresa C. Younger (Ms. Foundation), Ava DuVernay, and Tarana Burke

I’ll take that affirmation for world-changing over vacuuming and encourage all my sisters to persist as well. This current brand of spring cleaning is actually fun.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

The Sum – Meaning of the Week: Crossroads

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

Word of the week is CROSSROADS.

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

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

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

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

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Do Mainly Men Have Ideas Worth Spreading?

Women With Power Tools

Since my friend Ruth Ann Harnisch told me about it a few years ago, I’ve thought that attending a TED (tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading”) conference should be on my bucket list. I LOVE big ideas and great speeches about them. So why did I decide not to go to one when the opportunity was offered to me to attend TEDWomen in Washington D.C. December 7 and 8?

I vaguely wondered if the TED folks thought the little women still needed a conference of their own because women’s ideas aren’t as big as men’s. Organizational reputation scholar and consultant CV Harquail raised the same concerns more powerfully in this post when TEDWomen was announced. Nevertheless, I filled out the forms and proposed myself as a speaker on the very big idea of what specifically it will take for women to “reshape the world,” as TEDWomen’s tagline proffers. That was rejected based on some pretty lame reasoning, in my opinion. Then, frankly, I got so busy with my own speeches and interviews after No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power was published in October that I forgot all about the conference and let the slot I’d been offered go.

This past week, the topic of TEDWomen and TED in general heated up so much in the blogosphere and on listservs I’m on that it came back into my consciousness. About that time, a walk and talk in Central Park with Debra Condren, executive coach and author of Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word, inspired me to do my part to make sure women’s big ideas are included at parity with men’s in future TED conferences–not just because it’s the right thing to do ethically, but because if the world really needs women’s leadership as much as I think it does and as the TEDWomen’s tagline implies it agrees, then gender parity is as good for TED and for men as it is for women.

Once Again, CV Harquail has said it so well that I don’t need to write more. I cross post her latest commentary on the topic here:

The Goal is Gender Parity — at TED and Beyond

Thank you to Gloria Feldt (@gloriafeldt) and Debra Condren (@debracondren), whose ideas and action suggestions inform this post, and forthcoming posts about Gender Parity at TED.

Is it possible that I haven’t been clear about what we’d like to see at TED conferences? In the conversations around TEDWomen, the relative absence of women and men of color TED programs, and concerns about whether TED as an organization is interested in inclusiveness, we may have focused mostly on constructive criticism and possible action steps. I may have just assumed that everyone knew what the goal was.

If so, let me make the goal clear. The goal is:

Gender Parity at TED 2011 and Beyond

Because women surely have at least half of the world’s big ideas, it’s time for TED to commit to full gender parity, with proportionally diverse representation, starting at the very next TED conference, and at every TED and TEDx conference from now on.

We are not interested in nudging the needle from 25% or 30% women speakers all the way up to 35% or 40%. We want full parity – 51% of the speaking slots for women.

We’re not interested in taking another 10 years to get to parity on the TED Stage. We want parity at the very next TED conference, and at every TED conference beyond that. This means that there should be 51% female speakers and 49% male speakers, at the very next TED 2011.

Let’s face it: TED can’t offer a valid range of truly influential ideas if it doesn’t mine the ideas of a truly diverse pool of speakers.  Women and men from a range of groups, not just the most privileged groups, have ideas worth sharing. We want a diverse group of these women (and men) on the TED stages.

To have a most effective TED, it needs to be clear that race privilege, gender privilege, sexual identity or orientation privilege, economic privilege, or privileges of physical ability should not and will not be unconscious criteria that exclude a full range of women thinkers and doers.

Gender Parity is an Idea Worth Sharing

We don’t need more excuses – there are plenty of women with kick-ass ideas who are more than qualified to share their ideas from the main TED stage, as well as from the stages of  TEDx and TEDWomen.

TED doesn’t need more time — the change we advocate is easy to implement, and practical action suggestions are abundant. In fact, a full action plan is forthcoming from the NYWSE Roundtable on Wednesday evening.

The only thing we need now is an explicit, sincere commitment to parity from TED.

TED, gender parity is an idea worth sharing. We want to share with you our ideas for making TED inclusive.

Email me, or comment below, and I can connect you with a diverse group of women and men who are ready to help.

See also:
Want More Women on Tech & TED Panels? Reject Meritocracy and Embrace Curation
Separate Still Isn’t Equal: Sexism and TEDWomen
Followup on the TEDWomen Conversation
Is TEDWomen Sexist? Use the “Group Replacement Test” and tell us what you think
Building on TED & the TEDWomen Conference: How can _we_ make conferences more inclusive spaces?

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Today’s Power Point: Where Were the Women at Davos?

Check out this info from the Aurora Monthly Newsletter put out by wheretowork.com:

Following recent headlines about the lack of women at Davos again this year, women question the role of such a forum if it doesn’t comprise diverse leadership. The World Economic Forum’s own leadership structure that sets the agenda and decides who attends is not gender diverse. 4 / 22 foundation board members are women. There are 0 women on the managing board responsible for WEF’s operations and running. 2 / 10 senior directors responsible for subject areas within WEF are female. It ‘d be quite insightful to know which corporations and Governments in attendance at Davos sent mixed gender delegations.

In chaos is opportunity. Mark my words, despite the many real dangers that women (being often the last hired) might face heightened vulnerability to losing jobs during an economic downturn, the current economic chaos is great opportunity for women to advance.

First of all, when there’s a mess to clean up, they always bring in the women, right? Second, when those in power can’t figure out what to do, they are more open than usual to new solutions and in opening the table to previously untapped individuals who might offer new ideas for the solutions they are desperately seeking in order to retain their positions. And finally, as the public and investors daily lose more confidence in the men who have been in charge for so long, pure pragmatism says that if you can offer a solution and it works, they’ll no longer care whether you have a higher pitched voice and sometimes wear a skirt. So women can move into leadership positions that have never before been open, and suddenly guess what–women in power and leadership roles becomes normalized, and considering ability before gender becomes normal operating procedure.

This is one of those Power Point moments for women. Who will step up to take advantage of it? I can’t wait to see what happens in the next decade.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.