Samantha Bee, Kate Spade, Bill Clinton, and Full Frontal Gender Bilingual Communication

Issue 53 — June 9, 2018

I’ve been toting my Kate Spade bag since her untimely death by suicide this week. I can’t tell you why it touched me so deeply but I can’t stop thinking about how she brought so much light, color, and beauty to the world but apparently didn’t always receive it herself. And now, Anthony Bourdain. Sad. My heart goes out to their families and especially the daughters they left behind.

These tragedies make it self-evident that it matters not what gender we are, we all can be susceptible to the same emotional turmoil. We all have the same human needs and demons.

It also means that we need to cut each other some slack and be there to help a friend in need, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or any other identifying factor.

And that in turn makes me wonder even more why we spend so much time thinking about differences when we have so much in common.

I’m thinking about this in a week when Samantha Bee has been in full frontal hot water for calling Ivanka Trump a female body part name that in its origin was simply a neutral description, yet has developed a vulgar meaning precisely because it is associated with women.

And a week in which #metoo rose to the top of the discussion charts again when Bill Clinton felt the need to mansplain in defense of his behavior with Monica Lewinsky (yes, he did have sex with that woman).

In 1998, the year the Clinton-Lewinsky affair became public and roiled politics, the majority of the public wanted to “move on.” In fact, the phrase spawned a political and social justice organization by that name. I was struck by how much things have changed as I observed younger female talking heads react with 21st Century disgust to Clinton’s rendition. They aren’t buying that “move on” stuff anymore.

Just as the pink hats of the Women’s March are a statement to reclaim the same body party that Bee used pejoratively, meanings of language can change. Meanings that sting in one era can become meanings that praise in another. They can become a badge of honor. New memes and tropes can open our minds to new ways of thinking: #metoo, #BlackLivesMatter, #TimesUp being some of the most recent.

My Kate Spade bag on stage with journalist Ruthie Ackerman (Forbes) and me at the Northside Festival this week

That leads me only slightly circuitously to the question I am often asked: Can men and women ever really talk to each other? That our country has a difficult relationship with sex and has only recently come to realize that sexual harassment and worse are about power at their core, not about sex, is one of the most important and difficult conversations that we must have in order to solve these systemic problems. They are rooted in power imbalances between the sexes. And those gendered power imbalances become ingrained in everyday language. That my grandson refused to wear pink shoes because they symbolized being female is one simple example.

These imbalances in turn have fostered the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” approach to male-female communication. And yet, we do inhabit the same planet after all and therefore must learn to speak each other’s languages in order to thrive at our highest levels.

A new mug that Kerry Giangobbe gave me last night

In this month’s Virtual Happy Hour, “Speaking the Language of Power: Gender Bilingual Communication” I’ll get to dive into these questions and more with a man in the forefront of exploring gender. Michael Kimmel is the leading authority on men and masculinities, the author of books such as Angry White Men, Guyland, and Misframing Men, and Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University. He shares his expertise with a side order of good humor.

Communicating across gender and culture requires exceptional skill, so I’m thrilled that Catalyst’s Katherine Giscombe, Vice President and Women of Color Practitioner, will bring her wisdom to the VHH as well on Wednesday, June 13 at 6:30 eastern time. She has authored the groundbreaking study “Women of Color and Corporate Management” and generates solutions to the subtle obstacles that still must be overcome for women of color and other marginalized groups to succeed in the workplace.

You’ll get to ask Michael and Katherine your questions directly if you tune in live, but do register even if you can’t join us live, and we’ll send you the replay, plus you’ll get access to a new set of juicy Gender Bilingual Communications tips I’ve developed for the occasion, and that you will be able to put to use right away.

Leaders inherently must grapple with creating an environment in which clear and respectful communication happens in the best interest of the individual people and the health of the organization. And both men and women benefit from learning the language of power so they can use it to get things done and in order to speak effectively across gender and culture.

Nobody ever said it would be easy, but if we remember that we are all in this life together, it gets a lot less complicated.

Here are a few hashtags to consider turning into powerful memes for good: #GenderBilingual #GenderEqual #ListenforaChange #KindnessMatters #YouAreNotAlone #FullFrontalRespect #LoveOverH8 #PowerTOnotPowerOver.

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.

How to know the future

Issue 49 — May 11, 2018

I attended “The Future of Everything” conference this week. Hosted by The Wall Street Journal, it featured an array of speakers as sparkling as Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoes, in short panels that provided just enough fodder to get your brain synapses firing like popcorn.

Futuristic speculations are as addictive as popcorn to me, and I really, really love popcorn.

I attended the Equality Track. It started with a look at the future of men and ended with a ringing affirmation by Sarah Jessica, rocking her glittery SJP shoes, that the future of women in society and the workplace has been irrevocably changed by #metoo and Time’s Up. As a student of movement history, I am not that sanguine that progress always goes in a straight line, but let’s go with it for now.

While there were many nuggets worth chewing on during the conference, those two sometimes divergent bookends stood out most for me.

In between the bookends, we heard Tracy Chou of Project Include opine that companies get the best bang for their Human Resources buck by focusing on retention: nurturing and creating cultures in which the women and men already in their workforce can thrive. We were treated to a lively look at Marvel Comics superheroes present and future by their Vice President for Content and Character Development (what a fun title that is!), Sana Amanat. I asked the panel whether simply creating female superheroes in the male model changed anything culturally. Can’t say I got a satisfactory answer. What do you think?

Actor/activist Amber Tamblyn delivered a paean to women not just finding their voices but asserting absolute right to speak and assert our truth and she offered the opinion that men not only can be feminists but must if they want to survive.

And what of the future of men?

Here’s the topic description:

“From the bedroom to the boardroom, definitions of manhood and masculinity are rapidly evolving. Women have spent the last 50 years redefining their role in domestic and professional contexts, yet modern masculinity remains a Gordian knot of conflicting expectations. What ‘future of masculinity’ are we shaping today at home, at work, and in culture?”

Inevitably, I have found, discussions about gender roles break down first to “But what about sex?” as though humans are essentially walking genitals and we have to get that out of the way before we can deal with the rest of the issues.

Not surprisingly, “What is the future of sex?” was, in fact, the opening question from the moderator, WSJ’s Live Journalism Editor, Nikki Waller.

Panelist and pundit Baratunde Thurston didn’t seem too worried than men and women will stop being romantic in the #metoo age, despite all the handwringing about how men don’t know how to act toward women anymore. He believes we will find new, and we assume healthy, ways to play.

Thurston and the other panelist, psychotherapist Esther Perel bantered in good humor about the often fraught topic. But I thought Perel’s serious observation that “Powerful men seduce. They don’t harass. Insecure men harass,” was intriguing.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. — Steve Jobs

Which is exactly the message I got from Tina Tchen, a founder of Time’s Up and former chief of staff to Michelle Obama as she crisply ticked off Time’s Up’s short and long-term goals:

— The Legal defense fund

— Intersectionality in everything, including the plus one principle- take someone who might not have had access along to powerful events

— the entertainment industry’s pledge of 50–50 Leadership gender parity by 2020

Tchen and the optimistic actor/businesswoman/activist Sarah Jessica Parker of the sparkly shoes closed out the conference but not before SJP confessed that “Sex and the City” would probably look a lot different if it were reprised today.

All in all an uplifting day.

Despite the bad news we are bombarded with daily, I was reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Here’s myself brazenly quoting myself: “Don’t follow your dreams — lead them.” To me, that truly describes the possibilities for the future of everything.

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.

Networking When You Hate It

It’s gala season. I was getting ready to go to the Ms. Foundation’s 30th annual Gloria Awards dinner yesterday and fretting about — almost everything.

What to wear. No, I can’t wear that red silk jacket that I wore the last two years again. I know everyone will be there in sparkly evening clothes and I don’t even have those in my closet.

More, stomach-churning: Who do I need to be prepared to meet to make the best of the occasion (Ava Duvernay, please please please!)? How will I do that elegantly? Who will greet me, whose name should I remember but will be embarrassed to have forgotten? What if I end up standing alone in the back of the room?

It doesn’t seem to matter that I have had the opportunity to meet people from the grassroots to the highest halls of power during my career. I never get over the insecurity before an event, large or small.

My anxiety elevates hourly. I can already feel the crush of people, the buzz in room where everyone but me seems to be engaged in scintillating conversation. Yes, FOMO — fear of missing out — is rampant.

I imagine myself oblivious to the person standing right next to me. You know, that person who looks equally uncomfortable, perhaps wishing someone would come up and talk to her, but you perceive vibes that say “I really wish I weren’t here” so you leave her alone, later learning she was exactly who I wanted to meet.

It should be networking heaven, but it’s actually personal hell.

What to do?

I start with a step back. I believe passionately that the world turns on human connections. There is huge value in being among people, especially when you are on a mission, as I am, to accelerate women to leadership parity in my lifetime.

Marley Dias, the most amazing 13-year-old, founded #1000BlackGirlBooks when she was just 10.
Marley Dias, the most amazing 13-year-old, founded #1000BlackGirlBooks when she was just 10.

It is so important to show up in this world as the authentic person you are or want to be. It’s so important to connect and deepen relationships with others to be able to accomplish your work and to have a fulfilling life. You simply can’t accomplish that much alone. Everyone gets where we are with the support of others whether we know it or not.

The Future is Female

All of this is why I’ve become increasingly aware of the power of the cohort. Of groups of women and men who intentionally support, sponsor, and elevate each other. Like the 50 Women Can Change the World cohorts that form organically during our signature training programs we have done for women in nonprofits and currently for women in media and entertainment. Proximity helps to animate that mutual support based in trust. And trust is the essential heart of any positive human connection.

With Alyson Palmer of BETTY and her daughter Ruby
With Alyson Palmer of BETTY and her daughter Ruby

So I start to change my mindset. And I focus on techniques I’ve used successfully over time.

The easiest way is to help organize or to be on the program at events so that most people attending will already know who you are. That’s not as hard as it sounds. You can be the one inviting others in your field to dinner or a mixer. You can be the connector, assembling the people you want in the room or the people you want to have in your longer-term cohort for mutual support. That way you can also set the stage and create the ambiance where you feel most comfortable. At a large event you can be the table host.

I didn’t organize the gala I’m going to tonight, but I can organize my experience in advance by sending a few emails to people who will be in attendance and let them know I’m looking forward to seeing them so we will seek each other out. And yes, I was so brazen as to ask my table host if she would please introduce me to Duvernay. “I wish I could meet her too,” she replied wryly. But at least I know I’ve put the intention out into the universe.

#metoo founder Tarana Burke presented Woman of Vision award to the amazing director Ava Duvernay as Ms Foundation president Teresa Younger and Gloria Steinem look on.
#metoo founder Tarana Burke presented Woman of Vision award to the amazing director Ava Duvernay as Ms Foundation president Teresa Younger and Gloria Steinem look on.

I don’t have to meet everyone at the event. I’ll instead concentrate on meeting or building deeper relationships with a few people I most want to get to know.

As Selena Soo, a brilliant connector of people says in this podcast, the fastest way to reach your goals is through relationships. She organizes amazing events with carefully curated invitees who are sure to find mutual interests. The atmosphere is always comfortable, not forced.

Dorie Clark says in an article on “Personal Branding for Introverts” in the Harvard Business Review that there is a difference between being an introvert and being shy. This distinction can be helpful:

“Despite the common misperception that all introverts are shy, and vice versa, they’re two very different phenomena. (Author and introversion expert Susan Cain defines shyness as “the fear of negative judgment,” while introversion is “a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”) I actually like giving talks to large groups… I’m happy to mingle and answer questions afterward. But at a certain point, I’ve learned through experience, I have to get away and go somewhere by myself.”

That sounds a lot like me.

If you too cringe at the idea of networking, or if you like it well enough but want some new tips for networking more powerfully and productively, then I invite you to join me for my next free Virtual Happy Hour. Here are the details of who will be there and what you will get from “The Power of the Cohort: Your New Networking Secret.”

Wednesday, May 9th at 6:30 pm ET, find out how to power up and network with purpose so you can build your cohort and accelerate your career with ease and grace. Take The Lead Leadership Ambassadors Felicia Davis, Founder of the Black Women’s Collective, Lisa Mead, President of Crown Healthcare Advisors, and Yesi Morillo-Gual, Founder of Proud to Be Latina are experts in building this new kind of network for women across industries. Tune in to this discussion jam-packed with useful information and moderated by Take The Lead President & Co-Founder, Gloria Feldt, (that’s me.)

Find out what makes a cohort the must-have new power-building block for women and learn:

  • How to create a community for yourself by crafting solutions that matter
  • 3 keys for networking with purpose to help you excel in your career or industry
  • Steps you can take to find or build cohort of your own without embarrassment or fear

There will be useful freebies you won’t want to miss! If you can’t make it on May 9, be sure to sign up anyway because we will send you the link to the program and the freebies afterward.

The Power of the Cohort: Your New Networking Secret
Wednesday, May 9th at 6:30 pm ET

Sign Up Now and here’s a video that tells even more:

The Ms gala was inspiring, and I had a great time in spite of myself. I wore a different red dress, my signature color. I didn’t aim to meet everyone but I had meaningful conversations with a few new people and some I wanted to meet. I supported a cause I believe in. I didn’t meet Duvernay but more importantly, my younger colleague did.

Ava Duvernay and Rhea Beddoe
Ava Duvernay and Rhea Beddoe

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.

How to Keep Women from Leadership Parity

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

She’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.)

Instead, 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.

That’s why Take The Lead’s 50 Women Can Change the World programs create cohorts of similar interests. The impact is immediate and apparent. We’ve done them with nonprofit women leaders. We are wrapping up another with women in Hollywood — our 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment. And we are readying for as many as seven new ones this year including healthcare, human resources, finance, tech, and child care policy. Cohorts organically build networks for mutual support. They are your new superpower.

Like 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 more about the power of cohorts and why they are the new superpower women can bring to their careers, join me May 9 for our monthly Virtual Happy Hour. Take The Lead Leadership Ambassadors Felicia Davis, Founder of the Black Women’s Collective, Lisa Mead, President of Crown Healthcare Advisors, and Yesi Morillo-Gual, Founder of Proud to Be Latina, are experts in building this new kind of network for women across industries. It’s going to be amazing!

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.

What Makes You Happy on Your Birthday?

What Makes You Happy on Your Birthday?

Issue 45– April 13, 2018

You guessed it: it’s happy birthday to me today, Friday the 13th. A day to think about what makes for happiness.

For me, it’s a day to be grateful for the many gifts I’ve received all year —the love of family, an amazing husband, an opportunity to do work I’m passionate about, good health, and friendship to name a few.

The Power of Gratitude — and Handwritten Thank You Notes

This week, I hope you had a chance to tune into my Virtual Happy Hour.

I had a vibrant conversation with three women — all of whom are changing the odds to speed gender parity, one in business, one in politics, and one in media. They are:

Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker, activist & Founder of the global 50/50 day movement;

Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights, a nonprofit dedicated to building a national infrastructure to harness Black women’s political power and leadership potential;

• and Kathy Coover, cofounder and executive Vice President of Isagenix, a billion dollar business, and direct sales expert.

Continue reading “What Makes You Happy on Your Birthday?”

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.