Tag Archives: leadership

Embracing Controversy Means Standing By Your Convictions

Tuesday’s elections were disappointing, to say the least, for me as a progressive woman. But this isn’t the time to throw up our hands in defeat. It’s time to regroup and lead ourselves forward. Today I listened and tweeted up with the Name It Change It campaign. I learned that their polling data backs up my contention that it’s a good thing to embrace controversy, rather than run away from it, if you’re a woman in politics (Republican or Democrat–as pollster Celinda Lake commented “Sexism is one of the very few bipartisan things”).:

Celinda Lake, of Lake Research Associates, spearheaded research measuring how gender-based attacks negatively affect voter perception of female candidates…Lake explains, “Up until this research was conducted, I often advised women to ignore toxic media sexism. But now, women candidates are equipped with evidence that shows they can recover voter confidence from sexist media coverage by directly addressing it, and standing up for all current and future women leaders.”

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Questions for Democrats Post Election

In many ways, today is like where I came into national leadership. It was 1996, after the1994 Gingrich revolution Republican sweep of Congress, in a huge Tea Party-like backlash against the progressive initiatives of President Bill Clinton’s first term.

While I’m processing the key question in my mind–why do the Democrats never learn????–I want to share questions that Political Voices of Women’s Pamela Kemp put forward last night:

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It’s Time for Women to Step Up

Nicole Baute from The Star asked me to share some of the central messages of No Excuses when she interviewed me last week. Here is an excerpt from that interview.

You called your book No Excuses. Do you think that women are coming up with excuses for why we aren’t getting a little more power and a little more pay?

The honest truth is that my title was Unlimited and the publishers made me change it. They wanted something more controversial. I tend to take the positive approach. I think this is the moment for women, but I did want to sound a clarion call to women to say, this is a moment, but you have to take it. Things won’t just happen.

Why would you have preferred Unlimited?

Because I am hopeful, I am optimistic and I believe that this is just an incredible time for women.

Why is now an incredible time?

Well, the rest of the world knows it. I’m not sure we always do. For example, the World Bank has done studies that found that Parliaments that have 30 or 40 per cent women on them make better decisions, they have less corruption, the performance is better. Marketers know that women buy 85 per cent of the goods.

That old thinking, why is it still persisting?

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Power Tool #3: Use What You’ve Got

In No Excuses, I share this dream I had one night. I was in my out of control speeding car, and I couldn’t stop it. I slowly realized the keys to the car were in my hand, and they had been all along.

You don’t have to sit in the shrink’s office to figure out the metaphor in that dream! Have you ever had a similar experience?

To be able to use power, the first thing you’ve got to do is realize that you have it. I’ve found in personal life and in meeting challenges at work that what you need is usually there if you can only see it and have the courage to use it.

Here are just a few examples women shared with me about how to use what you’ve got:

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Time to Change How We Think About Power

Check out this piece I just wrote for More.com on why it’s time for women to change how we think about power.

I want women to reach parity while I’m still alive to see it. But at the rate we’re going, that will take 70 years.

Google “women and power conference” and you’ll get over 50 million results. Google “men and power conference” and you get 49 million. But a quick scan through the top-ranked conferences tells you that the majority of the latter are actually conferences about women and power that happen to mention men.

Full disclosure: I have attended many such events, including a few years back the invitation-only Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit during my 40 years of activism for women.. I believe in celebrating successes along the bumpy path to equality, and my new book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power , exhorts women to embrace their power and blast through the doors now open to us. I want women to reach parity while I’m still alive to see it. But at the rate we’re going, that will take 70 years.

Women are 60 percent of college graduates, 50 percent of the workforce, and yet according to the White House Project, constitute a mere 18 percent of the top leadership roles across all sectors of business and political office. So I get a bit testy about the proliferation of conferences that exist to puff up women’s egos around how powerful we are yet have no agenda to break through the remaining barriers, advance women who are not so powerful, or even to use their positions systematically to bring other women through the doors we’ve struggled to open.

Some remaining barriers are external. For example, hiring officials often assume resumes bearing women’s names represent less competence than the same resume with a man’s name attached, and the physical appearance of women running for political office comes under greater media scrutiny than that of men. Still, in my research, I found that with legal barriers down and almost every position having seen a “first woman,” most of the barriers that remain are culturally induced, They are lodged now within ourselves and how women think about and engage with power in our own lives.

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What Does Power-To Look Like?

On Monday I asked you when you first realized that you had the power to . . . And I gave you a brief glimpse at my definition of what power-to looks like. Here’s another look at what power-to means:

Power-over focuses on tactics for gaining compliance, while leadership focuses on getting answers and solutions in order to be able to accomplish something for mutual good.

Power-over makes people feel powerless. Even if it isn’t force or brute power, but a manipulative power such as political dominance, the feeling that one has no control over one’s choices makes her disgruntled, angry, or passive-aggressive.

Power-to makes us feel powerfull.

Power-to supports and enhances whatever power the individual brings to a project, workplace, relationship, or civic activity. It abhors coercion. It opens up the possibility of choices; the ability to choose is what makes us human. Choosing is the basis of morality.

Power-over is amoral. Power-to is responsibility.

Power-over is oppression. Power-to is leadership.

What are your thoughts about this definition? How does it change your ideas about power and leadership? Can you give examples of the use of either definitioneof power?

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Was There a Moment When You Knew You Had the Power To?

Most high school debaters can tell you that the first person to set the terms of the debate usually wins. That’s because when we allow someone else to define the terms, we allow them to set the framework that constructs our thoughts. Just think about how power has typically been defined, as an oppressive power-over model. If we shift the definition of power to a power-to model, suddenly the discussion is about leadership, and the ability to get things done. As I say in No Excuses.

Almost anyone can employ power-over, but it takes skill to employ power-to. It takes a skill to lead others rather than to force, requires, coerce, or lord over them. Leadership power is much different from the use of force to gain acceptance of a goal.

Watch feminst icon Gloria Steinem, CODEPINK founder Jodie Evans, young feminist leader Shelby Knox, El Diario/La Prensa editor-in-chief Erica Gonzalez, and others talking about their power-to moments, both personal and interpersonal.

Was there a moment when you knew that you had the power to . . .(you fill in the blank)? What was it? And how did you feel? What did you do? If you didn’t have one moment, was there a process that led you to that awareness? What can you share with other women that might help them on their journey?

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Women’s Leadership to the Fore at 21st Annual Bioneers Conference

I am extremely pleased to be speaking at the 2010 Bioneers Conference. If you’re unable to attend the conference in person, you can watch live webcasts of my keynote address, “Riding the Leadership Wave,” as well as the afternoon panel discussion that I am participating in, entitled “Moonrise: Women Leading from the Heart.” The webcasts will be available right here on my website, so grab a latte and enjoy the discussion!

If you’ve been following my Heartfeldt Blog or my 9 Ways Blog, you know that I’m very passionate about encouraging women to embrace their power and step into positions of leadership – now! I invite you to join the discussion by leaving a comment – and don’t forget to come back often, because the 9 Ways Blog will be featuring a different discussion topic each week.

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Women, Power and the Transformation of Leadership


This was this morning published over at the Women’s Media Center.

Ever had the experience of awaking at night from a nightmare where you’re onstage to give a speech and find you’ve forgotten entirely what you had planned to say? It happened to me but I was wide awake.

Last January, I was slated to give a keynote to a packed house of activist women who had traversed winter snows to attend the SeeJaneDo Passion to Action conference in Grass Valley, California. The speaker to precede me was Bioneers co-founder Nina Simons.

I’d had a chance to meet Nina at breakfast that morning and was eager to hear her talk about the women’s leadership program she’s created within Bioneers, a diverse global coalition of environmental groups that connect to leverage their common mission, which is nothing less than saving the planet. Like so many social movements, Nina told me over hearty biscuits and country gravy, the majority of environmental volunteers doing on-the-ground work are women—but the leadership was primarily men.

Nina began her speech, and my wide-awake nightmare began to unfold. Yes, my notes were neatly tucked away in my folder, and yes, I knew exactly what I wanted to tell the women assembled. The problem? Nina was giving my speech. Almost word for word, and definitely idea for idea.

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No Excuses Interview with Daily Femme

This interview with Cherie over atDaily Femme was a lot of fun to do. They generously agreed to let me cross-post it here on Heartfeldt.


A teen mother from rural Texas, Gloria Feldt was active in the Civil Rights movement before committing herself to the advancement of women. She served as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood from 1996 to 2005 and is also the author of four books, including the New York Times bestseller ‘Send Yourself Roses’ and her latest book ‘No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power,’ in which she argues that women are the ones holding themselves back and discusses the ways they can achieve power. When I heard Gloria speak as the keynote at this year’s BlogHer conference, I knew she would be an incredible interview for The Daily Femme. I am thrilled that she accepted to be featured on our site. In this wide ranging interview, she urges women to recognize the power they hold and discusses the hardest steps for women to take in order to exercise such power. She even argues that President Obama can use Feldt’s 9 ways. One of my favorite ideas in her new book is the distinction she draws between the “power over” and the “power to” which she explains in this interview.

Gloria is currently on tour discussing her book, No Excuses, and will be at the Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway) in New York on October 7th at 7pm and at Busboys & Poets (1025 5th St. NW) in DC on October 13th at 5:30pm.

Prior to becoming an activist for women’s rights, you were set on a more traditional path as a young wife and mother living in Texas. What made you decide to change routes and get involved in the struggle for gender equality? How hard was it for you to maintain a work life balance as you took on more responsibilities?

The personal is always political and vice versa. I became an activist for women 40 years ago when I got ticked at discrimination that affected me personally—like “help wanted, male” ads that said I couldn’t apply for well-paying jobs. I married and had children in my teens, and then when the birth control pill became available, I realized I could plan my life more intentionally, and became aware of the importance of reproductive self-determination to women’s ability to determine anything else in their lives. So I started to college and as my children grew up, I needed to go to work to contribute to the family income. I was denied a credit card in my own name and refused a loan for a car without my then-husband becoming the responsible person. I became incensed at the unfairness of it all.

At the same time, I was immersed in the Civil Rights movement, volunteering with several local organizations. One day it occurred to me that women have civil rights too. That was a turning point in my life, and since then I have devoted both my professional work and my community service to advancing women.

There was no such thing as work-life balance then. A woman who worked outside the home simply had to be Supermom and do it all without complaining. So I did—for a while. Then I realized it was unfair and started enlisting my children to do some of the housework. But the male-female roles were relatively stuck. My first husband and I were divorced about that time after 18 years—not because of life balance, but because a teenage marriage rarely lasts forever. Four years later I remarried. I have often joked that I was taken with Alex because he cooked and had a housekeeper once a week. (He does have many other fine qualities too! )

In truth I work too much—always have and probably always will–and for me balance is in doing what I love.

In your new and 4th book, “No Excuses” you argue that the doors are open for women but it is women who are not taking the initiative to walk through them or break the glass ceiling. Why do you believe that women are the ones holding themselves back?

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