The Evolution of Male-Female Relationships: An Interview with Leon Silver

I recently had a chance to speak with my friend and Take The Lead board member Leon Silver, co-managing partner of the Phoenix office of law firm Gordon & Rees. Leon is a lifelong supporter of women’s rights and co-founder of The Liberty Project nonprofit.

Gloria Feldt: You recently welcomed your first grandchild to the world, a baby boy named Greg. Looking forward to his future, can you tell me what you want the world to look like 25 years from now—in terms of gender roles and relationships both at work and at home?

Leon Silver: Simply put, I’d like for us to not to have to talk about gender roles. I would like to see an equality of judgment and an equality of merit. I don’t want Greg to live in a world where you are defined by your gender or by other people’s expectations for what you ought to be because of your gender. I’m not a fan of defined gender stereotypes or judgments or conclusions that get made based on gender differences.

G: In the legal field, women who choose to work and to be mothers often find themselves at a disadvantage. According to 2014 figures released by NALP earlier this year, only 17 percent of equity partners were women and only 5.6 percent were racial/ethnic minorities. What’s holding women back?

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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?

Pebbles

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.

Women’s Leadership Stars on Broadway

I recently had my Broadway debut. No, seriously, check out this video of Feminomics  interviewing me and Susan Arnot Heaney at the Women Leadership Summit,  just after we had both spoken on a panel smack in the middle of Times Square.

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Here’s a longer version of my part of the interview, if you have time:

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Enjoy and let me know what you would have said.

A Vision, a Goal, some Mustard: Women’s Leadership @ ASU

Somebody once gave me a greeting card that read, “Just when you think you are done, you are really just beginning.” That is certainly my story with Take The Lead which I co-founded with my wonderful partner-in-good Amy Litzenberger. So when the question came up about how I came to be teaching this online certificate course, “9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career,” I took a little trip down memory lane to recall why I became an advocate for women’s leadership parity and how I learned what makes a successful movement to achieve that–or anything else you want to make happen.

women's leadership: mustard no more

When I was 15, I had my first lesson in the power of working together to make systemic change.

I attended high school in Stamford, a small Texas town with only two places teens could gather for hamburgers and hanging out. One, Son’s City Pig had indoor space where we went to chat and listen to music. The other, the Superdog, had no indoor seating.

The owner of Son’s started charging us two cents extra for those little white paper containers of mustard. We were outraged by this injustice, but it wasn’t till a boy named Ralph challenged us to action that we realized we could do something about it.

“Let’s go over to the Superdog and ask the owner, Mr. Jackson, to build a room where we could hang out. And if he won’t charge us extra for mustard, we’ll take all our business to him.”

About 20 kids piled into three battered cars and drove the two minutes across town. Ralph went to get Mr. Jackson, who looked a tad frightened at first but soon recognized a lucrative proposition.

He built that room, we took our business to him, and he thrived even without the extra mustard revenue.

Injustice rectified.

That process, or some variation on it is the very one that created almost every sustainable social change I know of:

  • A compelling vision with a well-defined goal;
  • A worthy mission bigger than oneself, that rectifies an injustice or creates an innovation that meets people’s real needs;
  • The courage to act upon convictions, to confront issues even if they are uncomfortable, and to assert your worth – even if it’s just a bunch of kids buying burgers;
  • A constituency—people who share your concerns and will mobilize;
  • A plan to achieve the goal and the will to stay with the plan till it’s accomplished.

There was just one thing wrong with the story of the mustard-liberation movement: its leaders were all male. Ralph, the two restaurant owners, even the drivers of the cars. The girls were present in the background. It was, after all, 1957.

Now, women are half the workplace and 57 percent of college graduates; they buy 85 percent of consumer goods and there is ample evidence that companies that have more women in their top leadership ranks earn more money.

Although movement building for systems change helped rework laws and open doors 40 years ago, women have been stalled at under 20 percent of the top positions across all sectors for almost two decades.

ASU is involved with an exciting new movement to ensure more women are able to take their places in the ranks of leadership positions worldwide, recently partnering withTake The Lead, an organization I co-founded, 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.

One of the first visible manifestations of this partnership is the launch of ASU’s first online women’s leadership certificate course. It starts Oct. 2 and runs for six weeks. It’s asynchronous, so participants can view lectures and participate in conversations at times that fit the busy schedules of working women who are or aspire to be leaders. In the course, we’ll apply those five principles of changemaking, because it’s time for women to have an equal place at life’s table and this is the moment when we can do it.

I’m particularly grateful to ASU President Michael Crow for deeming Take The Lead’s work a university wide initiative and to W. P. Carey School of Business Dean Amy Hillman, who serves on our board. Those interested in women’s leadership issues will also want to mark their calendar for Feb. 19, 2014, and join us at ASU Gammage for the Take The Lead Challenge, a national launch event for our initiative. It will feature speakers such as Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In,” and a surprise challenge that does not involve mustard.

Want to be part of this exciting vision? Contact me.

This article was originally posted in the ASU Magazine.

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.

The Young Politica: After the Fiscal Cliff, What?

For now, it seems that the fiscal cliff crisis has been temporarily adverted. The Senate and House approved the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which has prevented old budgeting from sending the country hurtling down the Fiscal Cliff.ypcongress

But don’t get too excited. The battle isn’t over and in some ways it’s just beginning. The new deal, which is designed to keep our economy from another recession, increases taxing on the wealthy but has temporarily halted many changes in government spending.

In further detail, here’s what some of the new bill entails:

  • Tax rates will increase for taxpayers with incomes higher than $450,000
  • Changes in estate taxing were averted
  • Middle class gains an extension on stimulus tax cuts
  • Capital gains taxes increase to 20% for high earners
  • Some estimates say the deal will provide bout $600 B in revenue over the next 10 years.

However, there’s been no real agreement on what should be done about government spending cuts. Obama argued that cuts wouldn’t be made if they didn’t produce enough revenue. The result: a second fiscal cliff-like dilemma that will happen over the next two months.  It’s exactly what  Congress has been bickering about over for the past year, so another battle ’til the bitter end is to be expected.

Student Debt

While most of us in college thought that these tax hikes wouldn’t affect us, the new Fiscal Cliff deal may affect what federal funding we receive for school. According to the New York Times:

“The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps defray undergraduate college education expenses by allowing borrowers to deduct up to $2,500, has been extended for five years, through the end of 2017. The Tuition and Fees Deduction, which allows taxpayers to claim up to $4000 in tuition expenses, has also been extended. The deduction, which was set to expire at the end of 2011, will continue through the end of 2013. Some changes to the Coverdell Education Savings Accounts have been made permanent. This means that the contribution limit has been increased to $2,000 from $500 and that the account may be used for elementary and secondary school expenses. Higher income phaseouts have also been made permanent. The deal permanently repeals a five-year limit for deducting up to $2,500 via the Student Loan Interest Deduction. This means that students and families can claim on their tax forms student loan interest beyond 60 months.”

But cuts in federal aid funding and work study may be approaching. For Young Politicas out there hoping to get a degree, this may not be great news.

Unfortunately, the public does not see much resolving until one of these ‘deals’ is made. This last deal has been less than ideal for both parties. For a man who built on his trademark campaign slogans of hope and change, President Obama looks a little weak in terms of how he’s failed to change the opinions of Congress.

Media expected Obama’s second term to start full throttle, but obviously a Republican-run Congress had other ideas. His original proposal for solving the Fiscal Cliff crisis did reflect some of his ideals, but getting that plan into action was not easy. By January 1st, the Obama administration had softened up to Republican requests. Today’s Taxpayer Relief Act looks very different from what the POTUS and his administration drafted up. However, solving the crisis required agreement from both sides–not just a cave in from the Democrats. John Boehner was also heavily criticized by his own party for cutting a deal.

This bill does little to decrease the deficit and is a band-aid for the problem more than it is a stitching solution. So now, more than before, it is time to recognize that as a nation, we are still at risk of defaulting. This could mean drastic changes for the country and in our personal lives, too. Even if it does not seem like an immediate danger, the threat still needs to be dealt with in a more economically sustainable way.

The fiscal deal is not even close to where we need to be. So sit back and relax, because now it’s time to wait for the House to iron out another proposal over the next two months. The upcoming talks will—hopefully—provide a more long-term solution.

 

 

If You Don’t Sing Your Own Song, Who Will?

Analyzing gas prices isn’t usually my beat, but media messaging is. Is failure to talk about declining prices at the pump smart or self-defeating for Obama?

Politico Arena Asks:

Gas prices are expected to hit a two-year low this Memorial Day weekend, averaging around $3.66 a gallon, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Some energy analysts believe prices could continue to drop through the summer months. The falling prices take away a key piece of the GOP’s platform against President Obama – however, the White House has been relatively quiet about the price drop and a recent AP-GfK poll showed the majority of Americans still disapprove of Obama’s handling of gas prices.

Will the dropping gas prices help Obama’s reelection chances – and should the White House work harder to highlight the decrease?  Or will voters still be wary of Obama’s economic performance?

My Response:

People are quick to squawk when they feel the pinch in their pocketbooks, but rarely give credit when the pain goes away-unless leaders and/or media create a pervasive narrative about it.  Perhaps the Obama administration is refraining from crowing about the price drop because they anticipate a rise in price that would cause pre-election squawks next fall.

Whatever the reason, it’s a mistake. They should tell a positive story and take the credit if they want falling gas prices to benefit his reelection.

Does Newsweek’s Cover Help or Hurt Obama?

If the fastest way to self esteem is to stand up for what you believe, President Obama is standing tall this week–even though it has taken a long “evolution” to stand up for marriage equality. What do you think? Will it help or hurt his reelection prospects?

Politico Arena asks:

The newest issue of Newsweek Magazine has declared President Obama “The First Gay President.”  The cover features a photo of Obama with a rainbow-colored halo around his head.  The cover comes less than a week after Obama voiced his support for gay marriage.

Does this portrayal help or hurt Obama’s re-election chances?

My Response:

As gay rights leader John Aravosis says in an op ed about President Obama’s declaration of support for same sex marriage, “The president who seemed almost afraid of change became an agent of change. The man we voted for was finally back.”

For the most part, what voters want to see is a strong leader who says what he means and means what he says. Polls are showing that this stance might even help, as Aravosis observes, to reenergize Obama’s base which has been discouraged by his penchant for appeasing Republicans on so many issues. A Pew Research poll (PDF) found 49 percent of whites surveyed and 68 percent of African-Americans said the president’s embrace of marriage equality did not change their opinion of him. And in both groups, more who changed said they moved to a better opinion than worse.

Whether the decision was from conviction or political shrewdness, Obama really didn’t have a choice, based on where public opinion and his Democratic base are.  And when it comes to the realpolitik of the looming general election, the size and fierceness of gay activists easily matches that of the far right homophobes. Both will be organizing and mobilizing like crazy. And this might just be one instance where truth, justice, and the American way of fairness for all will prevail.

Did Scott Walker Foes Make a Bad Bet?

Looks like we’d all better rally to help Wisconsin elect Tom Barrett.

Politico Arena asks:

Polling shows Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker with a narrow lead over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett ahead of the June 5 recall election. Walker infuriated Democrats and labor organizations weeks after taking office in 2011 by driving a measure through the Republican-led legislature to curb the collective bargaining powers of public-sector unions.

Walker holds a hefty financial advantage over Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor. Barrett already lost to Walker in November 2010, and came up short in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary, when he was a congressman.

Did political foes of Scott Walker make a bad bet on the recall? And is Barrett a strong candidate or damaged goods?

My Response:

It is always imperative to challenge injustice, so taking on Walker is more than worthwhile. And there is plenty of time between now and June 5 for Barrett to marshal the votes to prevail over Walker, who has infuriated a broad based coalition of constituencies.

But this race illustrates the weakness of the classic progressive defensive organizing strength. Winning a long slog political race requires more than whipping up anger. To overcome the disastrous effects of policies like Walker’s, we need much more strategic action and less reaction, more asserting our values and less re-framing to please pollsters, more bold agenda and less fine talk, more hardcore organizing from a place of power and vision and less short-term mobilizing from a place of fear, more fighting forward to win and no more merely fighting back to keep from losing yet more.

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.”