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.

 

 

Thank You, Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman, 1928-2014

Maya AngelouI remember the first time I read Maya Angelou’s book
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was the most searing yet beautiful prose I had ever encountered. And later, the phenomenon of her poem “Phenomenal Woman” invaded my consciousness and became a kind of anthem for women everywhere:

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

And who can forget the distinctive, rich voice of America’s poet laureate reading “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration?

“And still we rise.”

Like picking your favorite star from the galaxy, who can choose one from among Maya Angelou’s shining words? But it’s equally impossible not to try. Here are a few of our favorites in tribute to the woman who in the authenticity of her soul and the sharing of her wisdom  grew ever more beautiful with age:

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.

Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

 ♦

You may encounter many defeats,

but you must not be defeated.

In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats,

so you can know who you are,

what you can rise from,

how you can still come out of it.

♦ 

The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.

 ♦

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” 

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.

And nothing will ever dim the words of this phenomenal woman. Thank you, Maya Angelou. May you rest in the peace of one whose words and deeds have made the world phenomenally better.

What are some of your own favorite Angelou quotes?

“Born Leader” Betsy Rafael Is GoDaddy’s First Female Board Member

Betsy RafaelWhen GM’s new, and first female, CEO Mary Barra moved quickly and publicly to recall cars with the company’s potentially lethal ignition switch problems her predecessors had known but failed to address for a decade, you could feel the fresh air.

It would be foolhardy to say her gender made her act in this ethical manner, or to assume a man would not. Still, you can’t help but notice that Barra straight-up owned the problem in a way startlingly distant from the public relations posturing typical of Fortune 500’s protecting their fortunes.

This happened shortly after I’d interviewed GoDaddy’s first female board member, Betsy Rafael as a follow to my post on Blake Irving last week. I’d had that same airy feeling when I talked with her.

What was your life and career path?
My dad was a human resources executive; my mother owned an advertising agency. Dad told me I might as well focus on a degree that’s practical, where you can get a job, like engineering for accounting.

I got excited about technology in my first job with Ernst & Young. Apple had been a client, then I went to work there. I developed expertise in bringing organizations to scale. I’m a good coach and mentor. All along, I used my background in finance and the numbers of business. I’m goal oriented and liked being closer to the action than auditing the numbers.

You sound very intentional about what your career choices…
I didn’t have a long-term goal of being CFO. Careers are journeys in how you get from place to place. The core is I was a natural leader, a natural delegator, good at communicating and getting people to move in a direction. I keep teams connected. Everything you do as a leader is about connecting with people.

I’ve talked and worked with many women leaders and you are the first who ever said, “I’m a natural-born leader.” Tell me more.
Not only did I feel I was a natural leader, I also invested in my own leadership. You have to invest in yourself. I read every leadership book early on—I wanted to be better, to develop, to grow. To know how do you work through obstacles.

Was any training was particularly helpful to you?
There’s no silver bullet, but every quarter I did an offsite with extended leadership team with outside experts. Even if we only learn one thing each time, we get better. The key is knowing yourself which sometimes executives don’t do, your strengths and weaknesses. And you have to be your own advocate.

You also serve on the boards of Echelon and Autodesk. Why did you join the GoDaddy board?
It’s one of those special companies with a unique global built platform. It has the power of an established company with the energy of a start-up. I was drawn to help them scale.

Only 17% of Fortune 500 boards are female and in Silicon Valley that number hovers at 10%. Why do you think, or do you think getting more women on boards is a good idea?
Yes  —  I do, actually. I’ve always been a believer in my responsibility to help other women. Women always want to be so pure and say we just want the best person, whereas the men help each other. You show the value of diversity when women get onto the board.

What’s your advice to women interested in serving on boards?
I was fortunate that after 2002 when Sarbanes- Oxley came into effect, it put requirements on boards to have people who are qualified, especially in finance. Coming from a background in finance made me stand out as someone who had the experience to be in that capacity. The first thing to understand is your value proposition: finance, legal, securing funding, for example. At the end of the day, they’re looking for people who are experts in their field.

The second piece of advice is to have a network and to understand the people who are going to be making decisions about who joins the board. Are there ways you can get experience relevant to board service without being on a board? Are there ways to enhance your viability as a board member?

What do you do when you’re not working?
I’d like to think I’m a golfer. My husband and I play golf, and we have two dogs that are spoiled rotten. We have 3 out of 4 parents who need some assistance. I serve on the board of trustees of Santa Clara University where I went to school.

Postscript:The press release announcing Rafael’s appointment plays the gender card. But Rafael isn’t just varnish for the company’s image. She sounds solid, matter of fact, well grounded. When she says she’s a natural leader you don’t hear ego — it’s just a fact, ma’am.

You can also imagine that like Mary Barra, Rafael keeps calm in chaos. You sense those studies finding the addition of women increases group intelligence must be true, and that you’ve just met the archetype of the woman whose risk aversion — a key factor in that vaunted better performance of companies with more women on their boards — is firmly planted not in fear but in intelligent consideration of evidence.

Let me know what you think:

  • Are Barra and Rafael examples of a core difference rooted in culturally baked in attributes of gender, or does this behavioral difference have more to do with their being self-selected “firsts?”
  • What would change about organizations if men and women held equal shares of leadership?

Adventures of Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and President Take The Lead

gloria-talkingAfi Ofori of Zars Media invited me to write about my career journey (originally published here) and kindly let me repost it here for you.

“Women are leaders everywhere you look, from a CEO to a house wife that holds together a home. Our country was built by women who stand alone.” (Denise Clark)

Hi everyone, I’m Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a new nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. I’m also an author and public speaker, and former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

I got into this role out of my passion for equality for all, and in particular for women to get a fair shake. That passion has taken several forms. Take The Lead is the most recent incarnation. It began in 2008, when I discovered while researching an article on women in politics for Elle Magazine that the barriers to women in leadership — whether in the workplace, in civic life and politics, or in personal life — now have as much to do with our own ambivalence toward power as with external barriers.

I know from my own life that this can be a painful issue, so I wanted to inspire, not blame women, and to give them practical tools and tips to help them on their journey forward. You see, I was a teen mom, married my high school sweetheart and had three children by just after my 20th birthday. Climbing out of that situation where I had no education or employable skills took some doing. So I got started in the workplace later than most young women today, and I had to compensate for that by working hard and taking on lots of responsibility.

But they say you write the book you need to read, and confronting my own power demons as I explored women’s lack of leadership progress became my latest of four books, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Then people started asking me to teach and conduct workshops to share the practical tips and leadership “power tools” I created to help women deal with difficult issues such as conflict, chaos and controversy that might be holding them back. When I realized that I could never reach enough people with my message in small groups, I joined with a colleague, former investment banker Amy Litzenberger, to start this new initiative.

I am absolutely certain this is the moment for women to Take The Lead! And I am excited beyond words to be launching our first fully online women’s leadership certificate course starting October 2. Anyone can take this 6-week course to uptick her career and embrace her power in fulfilling ways, creating a personal action plan proven to take her to her goal.

I feel like the goddess with 18 hands right now. I am the CEO, the spokesperson, the curriculum designer, the marketer, the social media manager, the fundraiser, you name it. We are a start up nonprofit but we think like an entrepreneurial start up, always looking for strategic alliances and partnerships that can benefit both parties.

As for my work routine……..Can you hear me laughing? Every day is different. But generally I keep mornings (after I exercise — for me this is a requirement to keep my energy high and also I am vain J) open for the most important tasks, whether phoning a potential funder, writing a workshop proposal, catching up my cofounder and board chair, or talking with the few staff and many interns and volunteers we are blessed to have. I work from my home office. I spend about half an hour on social media most mornings, and try not to do more because I am a bit of an addict. I try to take face to face meetings either at afternoon tea time or have walking meetings, both of which I find delightful. Working at home, I have too few boundaries — for example, I am writing this at night on a holiday.

Though I attribute much of my success to the willingness to say “yes” when offered a new opportunity, I do wish I had been more intentional about where I wanted to be and how I wanted to make my mark.  Who knows, I might be president of a large company I started now, or maybe governor of a state.

Do I have any regrets or careers I would have liked to explore? One can never go backward, only forward. And as Diana Nyad has shown, it is never too late to do something you want to do! Now the biggest obstacle is that many people identify me still with Planned Parenthood since it was such a high public profile position, rather than recognizing that I have always been about the big picture of women’s equality and leadership. But that’s not a bad place to be, is it?

How would I rate my success in my current role? You’ll have to ask me that in five years when Take The Lead is thriving — or not! I am very good at setting a vision and goals. I do not love managing the many moving parts of daily tasks that must be done to make the vision happen.

Is there a secret to success…… J. Paul Getty used to answer this question by saying, “Get up early, work hard, find oil.” I haven’t found oil yet, so I rely on getting up early and working hard.

I think the concept of balance borders on absurd. Let’s face it, Life is a series of choices. Every day you have do decide what that 24 hours is going to mean.  So I don’t look for balance so much as asking am I getting my exercise so I feel good physically, have I talked with my kids, and did I have fun in my work. If it’s not fun, stop and go do something else.

Here’s what’s so exciting today: Women are transforming the power paradigm. I have a concept I call “Sister Courage.”  It has three parts:

  1. Be a sister. Reach out to another woman to offer help. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t let yourself be isolated or try to solve all problems by yourself.
  2. Have the courage to raise the issues that concern you. Do you think there is a better way to solve a problem or design a product? Do you want to negotiate flex time so you can see your children more?
  3. Put the two together with a strategic plan to lead to the change you want to see in your workplace.

That’s Sister Courage. And with it, you can change your workplace, your life, your world.

I am inspired to do my work because it is a big, bold vision to change the world for the better. I think we all need to be inspired to do something bigger than ourselves. The time is right for women to reach leadership parity much faster than the 70-year trajectory we have been on. Besides, I get calls and letters like one from Valerie, who took my workshop. A year later called to tell me she had achieved the goal she set for herself using the power tools I taught her — she had just been promoted to vice president.  And there was the young woman who asked for and got $10,000 more in salary than she was initially offered after she read my book. That’s the real payoff — to know I have helped an individual person.

For young people thinking of entering this field, I say, if it is your passion, go for it. But don’t let yourself get lost in a cause — have a plan and a vision of where you want to be in five or ten years.

All things are possible, so go big, and know your worth when you do. Network purposefully, for the world turns on human connections.  Take risks because you can always “unchoose” a path taken, especially when you are young. And in the end, honesty and courage are the most important values, so be true to your own integrity even if it means leaving behind something you thought you wanted.

I want to leave a legacy where women will take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

And now as my story draws to a close, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes. I collect quotes. I have hundreds of them so choosing just one is hard. However, here’s one I recently learned by the late Muriel Siebert, the first woman to buy a seat on the NY Stock exchange: “If you can’t play with the big boys, start your own game.”

If you’d like to get more of my favorite inspirational quotes, learn my Leadership Power Tools and how to use them to advance your career, I invite you to join up for my online certificate course.

New Year’s Wishes for Women

Who needs the fiscal cliff stress we’ve been getting starting out the new year? Mika Bzrezinski slammed Congress and President, says women negotiators would solve fiscal cliff.  I tend to agree. But, meanwhile we have a brave new year to embrace to the full.

One of my favorite leadership coaches for women (or fem-evangelist as she describes herself), Ann Daly, asked me and a number of my women’s advocate sheroes to tell her their wishes for women in 2013. Then she was kind enough to allow me to repost the results, the original of which appeared on Ann’s blog on New Year’s Day.

Please share: what are your wishes for women in 2013?

toastglasses

Happy New Year! At this time of renewal, I’m reflecting on what we can achieve together as women. And how we can help each other as women. So I asked my favorite women’s advocates, “What do you wish for women in 2013?” What would you add to the list?

Several decades ago, my cousin Chris gave me the following advice: “Remember to laugh out loud and make your own luck.” I have often marveled at just how challenging that is to do, but every day I strive to do both.
Janet Hanson
CEO and Founder, 85 Broads

I wish for women the collective will to hold elected officials’ feet to the fire on issues that really matter to us. After this election, it’s clear that women’s votes brought them into this world, and that women voters can also kick them out!
Lisa Maatz
Director of Public Policy & Government Relations, American Association of University Women

My wish for women in 2013 is that we grab some confidence, get out there, and do something we’ve been dreaming about but are scared of. I did this in 2012 and it catapulted me into a completely different, exhilarating world I’d never imagined I would know. One step into the unknown and untried can be like a clarifying plunge into a cold pool. You realize you can swim, after all. Ignore the voice in your head that says, ‘Who do you think you are to try this?’ The more new things you tackle, the more your world expands. You begin to realize just how much you’re capable of.
Ashley Milne-Tyte
Host, The Broad Experience

A commitment to each other that we will use our “power to” prepare, inspire, and propel women to reach leadership parity by 2025.
Gloria Feldt
Author, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

I wish that in 2013 women lawyers have real opportunities to advance and succeed and we see more women making equity partners and assuming positions of real power and influence.
Roberta Liebenberg
Chair, American Bar Association Gender Equity Task Force

My wish for women in 2013? Determination to reach their goals, success to keep them eager and challenges to keep them strong.
Carolyn Pineda
Founder, Empowering Women as Leaders

I hope that 2013 brings safe and secure schools for girls from the developing world in their quest for learning. As girls learn, stability and peace will result.
Joanna Barsh
Author, How Remarkable Women Lead

I wish for all working moms to have the flexibility they need to be the best employee, best mom and best partner they can be. Let’s get rid of useless stress!
Jennifer Owens
Editorial Director, Working Mother Magazine

More gains in politics, business and civil rights.
Bonnie Erbe
Host, To The Contrary

 

 

The Young Politica: The Wage Gap Starts Soon After You Receive Your Diploma

For many college-aged readers, loans are the reason we get the opportunity to get to college. We spend thousands of dollars in virtual money to get an education in the hopes that it will begin to pay off as soon as we get a job. Yet, despite the fact that we advance in our career fields, it seems like women’s investments aren’t paying off as quickly as our male counterparts.

A recent report released by the American Association of University Women, Graduating to Pay a Gap, found that the pay gap persists and even begins soon after graduation

—“women one year out of college who were working full-time earned, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers earned.”

It is important to note that even after variances like college majors, number of hours worked, and career industries were accounted for, women still earned less than men. One third of the gap cannot be explained by differences in education or unemployment, according to AAUW.

AAUW says gender discrimination is part of the reason for this wage gap. The organization also points to the decisions women make in their careers.

As NPR reports, men are four times more likely to ask for a raise. The study also reported that many women are perceived as more aggressive than men when asking for the same raise. Perhaps it’s due to the general perception of women in the workplace. Perhaps it’s women’s general lack of negotiation skills. Or perhaps, as this UC Berkley study suggests, women should revert to antiquated gender norms and flirt their way to the top.

The latter study, I hope, should become a thing of the past, if we follow a few of AAUW’s recommendations. The report has quite a few suggestions to help close the wage gap. Some significant recommendations for high school and college students include considering future earnings when choosing a major and educating yourself about loans before getting them.

For recent college graduates, the report suggests considering future earnings when choosing a job to pursue, consider joining a union, and knowing what your skills are worth in the job market. Lastly, the report calls policy makers to action—asking for the protection of Pell grants and for Congress to increase the standards of federal equal pay laws.

All of these recommendations are steps in the right direction. They are infrastructural building blocks aimed at providing solutions. It makes more sense than anything we have tried to use to close the wage gap. Now, it seems, we have a grasp on change’s functionality. However, AAUW cannot force the change. Readers and policymakers must embrace it.

Whether you’re a first generation college student or you’re part of a legacy set to go to an Ivy, be aware the wage gap follows you straight after graduation.  As AAUW’s study found, even just a year after college—when both men and women are equally educated and have the same amount of work experience—the wage gap impedes on women’s efforts towards equality.

This pay difference is not blatantly clear, nor does it apply equally to every woman. However, as this study shows, it affects you sooner than you think.

Educate yourselves, Young Politicas!

Why are Biden and Obama “Evolving” on Gay Marriage?

Politico Arena Asks:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he supports gay marriage, following Vice President Joe Biden’s statement Sunday on “Meet the Press” that he is “comfortable” with it. President Barack Obama has not voiced support for gay marriage, instead backing civil unions, though he has maintained for over a year that his views are “evolving.”

Has the President’s hand been forced on the issue so he’ll have to declare his position one way or another? Or would backing gay marriage now make it look like he caved into Democratic pressure groups?

My Response:

It’s the job of advocates to make it impossible for politicians not to do the right thing. Biden knows what the right thing is, as does Obama . And now they’re being forced to “evolve.”

Linda Hirshman, in her upcoming book Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution, (Harper/Collins) due out on June 5 (www.gayvictorybook.com), explains exactly what’s going on in political terms:

“Why is this happening? Gays are at most a small percentage of the population. Support for same sex marriage just outpolled opposition within the last year. Wasn’t it supposed to be the economy, stupid?

“Biden unwittingly revealed the answer when explaining why he was in favor of marriage. He knew so many people, he said, and saw what it meant to them and to their children. He told a story of attending a fundraiser at the home of a gay couple and how impressed he was with the way they were raising their children. Even amongst Republicans, as Grenfell’s appointment reflects, gays are out and in too great numbers for the issue to be swept into the closet once again.”

 

Grace, Grit, and Paycheck Fairness – When?

The annual hooplah over Equal Pay Day is over. At gatherings around the country last month, politicians and activists alike decried the persistent 20% plus pay gap between men and women. Now what? Back to work with our heads down as usual?

Not if you’re Lilly Ledbetter.

The namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act—the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law while surrounded with the smart political optics of Ledbetter, bipartisan members of Congress, and other women leaders in red power suits—knows this:

  • Securing fairness and equality in compensation requires each woman to be persistently aware of what she’s worth and stand up for herself in the workplace.
  • Securing fairness and equality in compensation is a long haul process that requires changes to laws and policies so the system is fair to all.

The personal and the political are, as usual, intertwined.

Sure, negotiation expert  Victoria Pynchon can coach you on how to negotiate compensation more effectively for yourself. And when I speak and teach about my book No Excuses and its 9 Power Tools, I emphasize #3—use what you’ve got—to help women identify just how much power they have in their own hands, including the power to make changes in their paychecks.

And sure, as the Daily Muse pointed out, it’s good that the U.S. Department of Labor held an Equal Pay App Challenge seeking an app to educate people about the persistent problems of equal—or rather, unequal—pay.

But clearly these individual actions, as important as they are, constitute isolated drops in the deep blue ocean of needed systemic change.

Ledbetter’s new memoir, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, takes the personal and weaves it together with the political as she describes how she became a leader in the fight for equal pay.

The retired Goodyear Tire Company executive reveals how she discovered she’d been paid less systematically for 30 years because of her gender, began advocating for herself with her employer, and then realized she had a larger cause working for equal pay on behalf of all women through the courts and the legislative process.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act was needed to overturn the 2007 Supreme Court decision that nullified Ledbetter’s previously successful legal challenge to Goodyear, thus making it harder for women—and all employees—to pursue federal claims of pay discrimination.

Yet as Ledbetter explains in this radio interview with The Women’s Eye, her namesake law simply put women back where they had been before she filed her lawsuit.

“Women are still lagging far behind,” she says. “You should expect and get a good day’s pay for a good day’s work.”

Although the 2007 law restores workers’ ability to sue if they believe they have been discriminated against in pay, it doesn’t solve the underlying difficulty for employees to know whether they’ve been treated unfairly to begin with.

That’s why Ledbetter’s now fighting for the next step—passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Paycheck Fairness Act has been called the 21st century fix for 20th century laws. According to the American Association of University Women— which has been a leader in equal pay advocacy—the Paycheck Fairness Act, a much needed updated of the 47-year-old Equal Pay Act, is a comprehensive bill that would create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach, education and enforcement efforts…the bill would also deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who ask about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.

Washington beltway rumor has it that the Senate Democratic majority will bring up Paycheck Fairness in the next week or two, in an effort to solidify their party’s electoral advantage with women while further eroding women voters’ support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Blocked by Republicans in 2010 when it was last considered, the bill has been neither endorsed nor opposed by Romney.

AAUW’s Government Relations Director Lisa Maatz has concerns about that strategy: “It’s always good to see our priority issues in the national spotlight, and there now seems to be a growing call in the Senate to bring up the Paycheck Fairness Act for a vote. It would be useful for voters to know exactly where our lawmakers and candidates stand on this critical issue. But I must also say that I’m not sure it helps our cause if equal pay simply becomes partisan cannon fodder in this year’s elections, with little actual effort made to close the gap.”

I think Ledbetter would agree with me that forcing the issue is a leadership act and might be the only thing that can help the fair pay cause by making voters aware of where the candidates stand so they can vote accordingly.

Whatever happens, women and men who believe in fair pay will need plenty of Lilly Ledbetter’s courage, grace, and grit to prevail.

I’ll be tracking and continuing to write about Paycheck Fairness here, so stay tuned.

This article originally ran in a blog post for FORBESWOMAN. Check it out here.

Hilary Rosen v Ann Romney: Will Mitt Benefit?

Resisting the cheap thrill of calling this the “War Between Women,” I nevertheless think this dustup pitting two views of modern womanhood against one another is worth acknowledging. Do you think Rosen was right in what she said?

Politico Arena asks:

During an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen questioned whether Ann Romney was qualified to be talking about women’s economic issues since she’s “never worked a day in her life.”

On Twitter @AnnDRomney responded: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

Do Rosen’s comments advance the Democratic narrative of a GOP “war on women”?

Or is it a mean-spirted attack on Mitt Romney’s wife of 42 years that’s like to backfire on the Obama campaign and fellow Democrats? http://politi.co/HBRdyo

My Response:

Rosen’s words about Ann Romney were ill-chosen, unkind, and aggravate a festering boil even among women in the paid workplace who are struggling to balance work and family responsibilities. It’s not as though stay-at-home moms have no brains with which to consider economic issues.

That said, Rosen’s concerns about Ann Romney would have rung both accurate and true had she stated them differently. Romney had the luxury to stay home with her boys because of her privileged position as the wife of a man who has been wealthy all his life. For most women, paid employment isn’t a choice, it’s an economic necessity. But that’s not the only reason women work. It’s fulfilling to use one’s gifts to contribute to society both within and outside of the home. And it’s fulfilling to earn a paycheck—a fair paycheck.

With Equal Pay Day—the date in April when women across America are reminded of the 23% pay gap between them and men doing the same work—looming, Mitt Romney’s wildly inaccurate allegations about Obama causing women’s job losses, and his party’s 18% gender gap in key swing states because of their War on Women’s bodies and economic lives, the Republican standard bearer has a lot more to worry about than what Hilary Rosen is saying about his wife.

For the same reasons that her husband comes across as a man out-of-touch with working families since he grew up and remains wealthy beyond most people’s wildest expectations, Ann Romney—who undoubtedly had far more household help raising those five boys than most Americans can even imagine—can’t hide behind the “it took a lot of work” excuse to justify relinquishing whatever career aspirations she might have had as a young woman. She was able to maintain her no-longer-traditional role of wife as helpmeet in charge of child rearing only because she married a 1%’er.

Rometty’s Epic #FAIL to Lead at Augusta

Talk show bloviator Rush Limbaugh calls 30-year-old Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a slut for advocating insurance coverage of contraceptives. Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus compares women to caterpillars. And the Augusta National Golf Club’s perfectly manicured greens remain firmly planted among those last bastions protecting male hegemony over society’s most powerful economic and political institutions.

The all-male golf club, based in Augusta, Georgia, has failed once again to award its coveted green jacket to a woman who clearly deserves club membership—IBM’s president and CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometti. IBM is one of three major corporate sponsors of the club’s vaunted Masters golf tournament, and Rometty is Big Blue’s first female CEO.

But as much as I’ve excoriated Augusta’s male leaders for perpetuating this exclusionary practice, and as much as I believe IBM’s board is culpable for not standing up for their own CEO, I’m even more distressed over Rometty’s failure to take this unprecedented opportunity to lift up not only herself but all women aspiring to the upper echelons of corporate leadership.

NEW! Listen to this TakeAway podcast with Gloria Feldt and Nicole Neily : Accusations of Sexism for All Male Augusta National Golf Club.

Rometty missed a historic chance to “sit in the high seats,” as Frances Perkins described it when tapped by President Franklin Roosevelt to be the first-ever female cabinet secretary in 1933, the same year Augusta National Golf Club was founded. Perkins took the challenge visibly as a woman because of her sense of obligation beyond herself. “I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered,” she said, “and so to establish the right of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats.”

Women have advanced tremendously since Perkins’ time, not because high seats were offered but more often because women themselves opened doors, broken through glass ceilings, challenged discriminatory laws, brought their own chairs in, and risked being ridiculed in the ensuing controversy.

Rometty herself stands on the shoulders of those brave women, whether she acknowledges it or not.

Thus far, she has not. Her response to calls for comment about being excluded from the golf club have been met with “no comment.” What a shame. And what a missed opportunity to sit in the high seats on behalf of women now and those yet to come.

For until women have reached full parity in top leadership positions across all sectors, each of us—especially a woman like Rometty who has broken through that proverbial thick layer of men to earn a place at the top of a major corporation—still bear responsibility to other women to take every opportunity to push the fulcrum of justice toward greater fairness and full equality.

Kathy Groob, publisher of ElectWomen Magazine says we should call Augusta’s exclusion of women what it is: sexism.

For years, women have been excluded informally from golf course business deal-making arenas because women typically didn’t play golf and golf courses have been somewhat of an all-male sanctuary for men. The number of women golfers is increasing as women now make up approximately 22% of the golfers in the United States.

Rometty happens to be among that 22% of women who golf. But whether she plays golf or not is not the most relevant factor. The power of access and access to power are.

Because the symbolic importance of that green jacket is not about golf, as Martha Burk, the former head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, is fond of pointing out. It is about power.

When power brokers hang together, they naturally do business deals together. So it’s a big deal negative for women when power-brokering sources like Augusta National hang out the “No Girls Allowed” sign.

Sure, women have single-sex clubs too, but rarely does any man clamor to get into, say, the Junior League or Business and Professional Women or even a Curves workout studios that might be conveniently located in his neighborhood. The stature of Augusta’s all-male entity comes from its power and influence that no women’s group to date is perceived to have.

And while Augusta as a private club might have the legal right to discriminate, it’s still wrong for them to exclude women. For in doing so, they keep women from accessing a main source of power in business: the human connections that are made when 300 of the nation’s most powerful business leaders bond on Augusta’s greens and in its clubhouse.

As a woman who has more than earned the right to be among them, Rometty should stand up and speak out now for the inclusion of women.

She can start by signing this petition that has been started to get her into Augusta.

This article originally ran in a blog post for FORBESWOMAN. Check it out here.