Power and Leadership: Storify Your #SummerofPower

Gloria Feldt TweetchatIn case you missed or want to relive our June 1 tweetchat, I’m pleased to share the Storify summary.  The tweetchat about women and power was incredibly fast paced — the tweets virtually whizzed by — and I had a great time answering as many questions as I could get to in our short time.

Feel free to send more or to comment on the conversation here. And consider joining me to learn your 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career to energize your own #SummerofPower.

 

Women’s Campaign Fund Won’t Settle for Less Than Half

Monday night I attended the bipartisan Women’s Campaign Fund’s  annual “Parties of Your Choice“.

Changetheplayers600

As always, they begin with a raucous reception at Christie’s for several hundred guests, after which we all scatter around town for intimate dinners in beautiful homes. At each party, there are several WCF-endorsed candidates or elected officials who tell their tales and make their pitches.

Here are a few photos I took during the evening, which was peppered with chants of “Change the players. Change the game.”

Gala guest Ilene Wells "Wearing the Shirt"
Gala guest Ilene Wells “Wearing the Shirt”

Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress
Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress

Sam Bennett, President of the Women's Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders
Sam Bennett, President of the Women’s Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders

MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC'd
MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC’d

Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset
Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset

Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner 'liked' this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name
Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner ‘liked’ this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name

 

 

 

Happy 2013: Why Women Must Change Our Narrative to Break Through to Leadership

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves define us and how we engage with our world. It’s time for women to write ourselves a new narrative. So when asked to write  for the fabulous new “Kardashian free” women-owned and focused website Vitamin W  (you may recall the “She’s Doing It” column on Amy-Willard Cross who created the site), I decided to put this idea out to you. (Thanks to Debra Condren for the “Fork in the Road” photo that illustrates this perfectly.)

fork-in-the-road-condrenJudging from the unusually large number of tweets and retweets, it hit a chord.  Here’s the original post on Vitamin W.

I want to start a conversation that will lead to specific initiatives of all kinds—social, political, workplace, personal relationships. Let me know what you think, and what you’d like to see.  I’d very much appreciate your comments, shares, and tweets.

With a virtual thud, the Catalyst 2012 Census of Fortune 500 companies hit my e-mailbox:

NEW YORK (December 11, 2012)—Despite high-profile news about gender gaps, equal pay, and women on boards, once again the needle barely budged for women aspiring to top business leadership in corporate America, according to the 2012 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors and 2012 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Executive Officers and Top Earners.

Ouch. For 50 years of the venerable organization’s existence, which began at that pregnant moment when second wave feminism would about nine months later birth Betty Friedan’s 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, Catalyst and its sister organizations—now numbering in the thousands devoted to research on and advocacy for women–have shaped the public conversation about women by using the most dismal data to highlight seemingly intractable problems.

Information has its own power. Quantifying discrimination can motivate companies to change hiring policies or politicians to change laws. Just as important, documenting the absence of females in powerful positions performed a crucial consciousness raising function women needed in those Madmen days. For just as fish can’t see the water they swim in, many women—perhaps most at the time—accepted the way things were as the way they had to be.

I counted myself among them. I wasn’t one of the first feminists, though I was an early adopter, despite living in wild and wooly West Texas where men were men and women were screwed if they wanted to be anything other than housewives and mothers of large broods.

But this is 2013, people. The old narrative no longer works. It’s time to change that negative focus on today’s problems to a vibrant positive story about solutions for tomorrow.

We have to face the fact that women have been stuck at under 20 percent of top leadership positions across all sectors for almost two decades, according to the White House Project Benchmark study, but not let ourselves be defined by it. Shifting the narrative would foster a new wave of breakthroughs that I believe can catapult women to leadership parity by 2025.

After all, women have the purchasing clout of 85 percent of consumer goods sold, constitute half the workplace and 54 percent of the voters, and earn 57 percent of college degrees. So why does the narrative remain numbingly the same, creating so little progress that at the rate women are ascending to Congress it will take 70 years to reach parity and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg predicts that it could take 500 years for women to reach parity at the top of the corporate ladders?

Why? Because power unused is power useless. The problems have been researched and documented ad infinitum. We can continue to rail against them and get the same results. Or we can create a new, positive and solution-focused story about how women can achieve parity, and barrel right on through to make breakthrough progress in the 21st century just as the second wavers did in the 20th.

Power and energy come from going into new spaces, not from standing still or remaining mired in half-century-old tropes.  It’s difficult to make the shift for three reasons we must understand if we are to change them.

JK-Rowling-you-have-everything-insideFirst, like those proverbial fish, it’s hard to see beyond the constructs and constrictions of one’s own culture. And let’s face it, it’s in the best interest of the existing power structure to diminish the women’s movement, declare it dead, and dismiss its gains. In reality, feminism has become the predominant social value for both younger women and men today whether they claim the name or not. Women in their 20s, 30s and even 40s don’t just see a world different from their mothers’ experience, they live in a different world. Still, it’s a world where they are repeatedly told what’s wrong with them, that the workplace is rigged against them, and the double burden of managing family and work will fall to them, so they should curb their ambitions. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, when you fight an adversary for a long time, you can become its mirror, locked into a Kabuki drama. US women have had a very good year politically, thanks in no small part to well-timed misogynist revelations by the likes of Todd Aiken and Foster Freiss who seem to have failed sex education. We reelected a pro-choice president and defeated the guy who saw us only in binders for heaven’s sake. We elected a record twenty women in the Senate (still at that 20 percent level, but up from 18). Yet, I am bombarded with pleas for money from women’s organizations asking me to fight back against the latest attack, rather than fight forward for an agenda of their choice, pun intended.

Even newer, edgier women’s groups such as Hollaback and Ultraviolet (both of which I admire greatly) operate primarily from a position of reacting to gender based discrimination. Slutwalks, heralded as the new women’s movement are anything but — protesting but not creating systemic change.

And third, at some level, we’ve been co-opted into the culture of oppression, become drunk on the nectar of fundraising and support building made easy by sounding the alarm rather than leading to aspirations. I once had a fundraising director who became distraught when we won a political battle. “How will I raise money,” she fussed, “when I have no devil to fight?”

Instead let us ask, “Why do we need the devil to fight when we could be calling upon everyone’s higher angels to accomplish the next big steps for women?”

Almost all Americans now think women should have equal rights. The world is ready for equal rights—are we?

According to negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon, women work 20% longer and 10% faster to get the same reward as men. Women must stop focusing on those studies that decry the 23 percent wage gap and attend to the solutions: ask, expect, demand, intend, insist upon equal pay. And in every sector’s parity gap, the same scenario exists. Nobody will step aside for us once the doors are open. Women have to walk ourselves through. And the story we tell ourselves about ourselves will either propel or limit us.

It’s up to women to change the conversation. We must shift to a new vision of what is possible for the continuing advancement of women to full equality, and how it can be done.
To start from a position of believing we deserve it, and create a new narrative based on the possibilities for solutions with which we can shape a future where all women and men can thrive.
To embrace wholeheartedly this truth: we’re powerful as hell and we’re going to take our rightful place in politics, work, and personal relationships now and forevermore.

 

 

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

 

 

What’s the Secret to Increasing Women’s Political Leadership?

In this interview, I talked with WJCT-FM (NPR) First Coast Connect host Melissa Ross  about why women haven’t moved the political power and leadership dial since 1992, and why women remain stuck at a mere 17% of Congressional seats and less than 25% of state legislative positions.

Remember 1992 year of the woman? That was the last time a presidential election overlapped with re-districting initiatives. The result was that women won 22 of the 24 open congressional seats that year. Some political observers think that kind of sweep could happen again this year as congressional and state legislative districts are being redrawn across the country.

The 2012 project of the Rutger’s Center for Women in Politics says, “Political opportunities for women are ripe for the picking if they only seize the moment.”

MELISSA ROSS: Let me begin by asking you about the 2012 Project. Is it designed to get more women into congress?

GLORIA FELDT: The 2012 project is designed to get more women to run for office. Period. And Congress has been a big focus. I think people tend to focus more on national elected positions but it’s also important for women to think about running for office in more local offices too. School boards, city councils, state legislators. There are many, many opportunities for women to serve and to be engaged in the political process where we haven’t really been maximizing our leadership potential.

MR: I noticed that the presidential election and all of the re-districting elections around the country sort of opened up space for that to happen. For women to get into office. Now your book is called No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change the Way they Think about Power. So you’re saying that are women making more excuses when it comes to their reasons for not pursuing more political or economic power?

GF: I have to tell you a funny story. My title for the book was Unlimited because I believe this is a moment when women are unlimited. And I tend to be a rather positive person to begin with. But once the booksellers got into the act they decided that I needed an edgier title.  So they wanted me to call it No Excuses. And I’ve come to really like that title because it has a more in your face quality about it. And maybe that’s good because I think women do need a little bit of tough love right now. We’ve opened the doors but nobody’s going to walk through them but ourselves.

MR: So how do women need to change the way they think about power? What do we need to change in our thinking?

GF: We need to change how we think about it from an old fashioned way that I discovered women are looking at power and therefore resisting it. That is the idea that power is power over. Power over has a really negative connotation. Particularly for women, because we’ve worn the brunt of the negative aspects of it. It’s oppressive. It assumes that there is a finite pie and if I take a slice there’s less for you. Women have been abused, we’ve been discriminated against, why would we want that kind of power?

Once we discuss this and change how we’re defining it in our own minds as the power to, the power to do good things in this world, the power to make life better for our kids, ourselves, our families, our communities, our world. The power to understand that it’s not a finite pie and if I help you have more power, there’s not less for me it just means there’s more power and goodness out there in the world. Then I would see women’s faces relax. And hear them say ‘’Oh, yeah, I want that kind of power.”

And I think what you find, since we’re talking about women in politics specifically, is that the motivations women have for running for politics and running for political office tend to be different motivations than men have. Men will run just because they want the power and the glory. Women will run if they see an injustice, if they see something that needs to be fixed.

MR: Then let me ask you then, what’s wrong with women wanting power for its own sake?

GF: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. The thing we need to learn to do is embrace power. And, why not us? Particularly if we’re going to use it in an ethical fashion. Again, I think what women resist is that we’ve seen too much power being used unethically and we don’t like that.

But power is like a hammer: you can use it to break something apart or you can use it to build something. So I just urge women to recognize that using their power to is the same thing as leadership. And the world right now is crying out for women in leadership. The World Bank has looked at parliaments around the world and found that those with more women have less corruption and have a better decision-making process.

MR: You mentioned that the goal of the 2012 project is to get more women into office at the local, state and national levels. How are the numbers looking?

GF: Numbers aren’t looking so good. This is what actually got me started writing No Excuses. Once I started looking into women in politics, I discovered the dynamics are exactly the same whether we’re talking about the workplace, personal relationships or politics. But it was the political issues that got me looking at this topic. And what I found was that all the organizations that have been trying to get women to run for office like The 2012 Project, The White House Project, Women’s Campaign Forum—there are dozens and dozens of them—hadn’t moved the dial in 20 years. They hadn’t moved the dial at all since 1992’s year of the woman which you cited at the beginning of the show.

So, that’s when I started looking at why women aren’t moving the dial and that’s when I discovered that it’s because they didn’t want what they perceived as the male model of power.

MR: She’s Gloria Feldt: author, former CEO of Planned Parenthood and women’s leadership speaker and expert. Thanks for joining us.

GF: It’s my pleasure and I invite people to learn more at my website Gloriafeldt.com.

Listen to the interview here, and share your thoughts about whether 2012 is going to be another “year of the woman” and how you night have shifted your own view of power recently.

Happy July 4! What Madonna Said About Voting and Sex Still True

So here’s the lesson for July 4, Independence Day 2012:

On July 1st, Mississippi legislation that mandates that all abortion providers be registered OBGY-Ns with hospital visiting privileges was to go into effect, because two of the three doctors at the only clinic providing abortion services in Mississippi do not have visiting privileges (undoubtedly yet another consequence of the war on women with abortion as its frontline).

Good news is, the Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a suit and temporarily stalled the enactment of the legislation, which has nothing to do with medical necessity and everything to do with using the political process to restrict reproductive sell-determination for the women of Mississippi.

Photo Credit: Madonna dons an American Flag and little else in her 1990 ‘Rock the Vote’ campaign.

 Therefore, the only solution to these assaults on women’s freedom and equal rights is participation in the political process. This to me is what Independence Day celebrations are all about—or should be. And as we enjoy those barbecues and fireworks, remember what Madonna says about voting being as important as sex.

Because as usual, the Material Girl tells it like it is.  As do my great colleagues Molly Dedham and Christine Eads. I’m fortunate to be a “Regular Broad” on their terrific Sirius XM radio show called “Broadminded.” The interview excerpted below is from my first “Broadminded” interview.  We talked about a range of political issues, including the imperative to harness our sister courage—joining with our sisters–as we use our cherished American liberties to influence the policies we want.

Q: Gloria Feldt is an amazing woman, she’s definitely an unbelievable broad. She was the former CEO of Planned Parenthood, she’s a professor of women’s studies. She wrote a book No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power. Gloria, welcome to Broadminded, we’re glad to have you here.

Rutgers Center for Women in Politics said women in politics is going to happen again, the last time it was so ripe and it was this exciting it was 1992. What sets the stage for this coming back?

Gloria: If you remember 2010 was called “the year of the conservative women” and that sort of fizzled. What happened in the 1992 “year of the woman” is an object lesson.

Because that was the year that women were really ticked off…about Supreme Court rulings   that threatened to take away their reproductive rights. They were ticked off about Anita Hill and how she had been treated by the guys in the senate when she said that she had been sexually harassed.

And so women voted in droves and elected a record number of progressive women to Congress.

Well guess what? In 1994 we got the Gingrich revolution.

So the object lesson is that in 1994 women stayed home from the polls in exactly the same numbers that additional women had come out in 1992—and lost many of those seats.

Q: Let’s think about that. You’re saying we’ve got to pay attention to 1992 and you just explained why. So what’s happening here is politics comes in, people come in, and it changes women’s rights. We don’t use our power. Why does it work in 1992? Why does it change in 1994? Now we’re in 2010, so can you kind of speak to that to kind of bring it all to one spot.

Gloria: It’s always easier to get people activated when they’re angry about something specific and you can mobilize that anger. But politics and also advancement in the workplace are things that you have to sustain. People do not give you power. Why should they stand aside? You have to claim the power that you have. And in politics the power of the vote is the first and most important citizen power.

Women don’t run for office in the same numbers men do. I wrote an article in 2008 thinking I was going to be talking about how women were coming to the fore in politics, and that was going to be a year of the women. And everyone was saying it then because Hillary Clinton was supposed to be a slam dunk to become the Democratic nominee, and on track to become the first woman president. Well guess what, that didn’t happen, did it?

Because if women don’t pay attention, then nobody is going to step aside for them. The doors are open, but nobody walks you through them but yourself.

Q: Can we just concentrate one second on voting. It drives me absolutely crazy. A woman who calls herself an advocate, or stands for something but doesn’t do something as simple as go to the polls and vote, cast a vote. I don’t understand that.

Gloria: Right Christine. It’s become easier to do that. You can do early voting, you can find ways to cast your vote.

Q: There is no excuse.

Gloria: There is no excuse. And we need to tell that to our sisters. People are busy. Women have extremely busy lives. And so it is very easy for something to come between you and voting. And also, you hear politicians trying to persuade us that, oh it won’t really make a difference. But it does make a difference.

Q: I want to say too that this is important, you’ve got to be careful about, a lot of women don’t realize how powerful the vote is. So before we start blaming, they’ve got to understand how important it is. I really didn’t figure that out until I was older. I didn’t really get it until I was in my late 20s, maybe early 30s, about voting and how important it is. I had passion about things, I would get mad about things I could definitely point the finger and say, “that’s wrong” but how do you make the difference? And it comes down to the vote, and voting records of the people that you are going to vote for.

Gloria: It comes down to voting not just in the general election, by the way, because most races are determined in the primary, especially state and local races. And even congressional races. They are decided in the primary because most districts are either heavily democratic or republican. So if you don’t cast your vote in the primary, only, at most, 25 percent of the voters do, you have lost your voice.

Q: Remember when Madonna came out with that flag? And she did that campaign about voting? That was in the 90s, and that just went right over my head. I think for most people it did because we were in our 20s, we were thinking about boys and drinking and college and partying. If you think about it, that was a major statement for women back then. It’s also an age thing too, you know so much more, I think, women are getting smarter. Some of the best ages, late 30s and early 40s, we start really coming into our own and understanding power. You’ve studied this so you should know.

Gloria: I’ve studied it and I’ve lived it. One of the things you were just saying made me think about, ‘my vote does count.’ My vote counts but my vote counts more if you and I go vote together and our two votes count yet more if we each take another sister with us.

Q: Look what just happened; you’ve got 6,7, 8,10 people. The three of us, if you took somebody and they took somebody, and that all adds up.

Gloria: It all adds up, that’s right. One of the things that I talk about in No Excuses, one of the nine power tools I share with women, because I didn’t want to blame women for not doing these things, I want to help inspire them and give them the tools to actually do these things. It is the power of the sisterhood. I call it “sister courage.”

Very often women isolate themselves because they are so busy. We’re dealing with our kids, we’re dealing with our work, we’re afraid if we take time off for the kid that we’re going to be treated badly at work. We’re afraid of all kinds of things. So we think we have to solve our own problem ourselves.  We are responsible to deal with our own problems, but if we look around us we will most certainly find at least one other person who shares that issue and who is willing to talk with us and then if we join together and strategize with courage to put the issue out there, we can usually make some change.

Q: And so that’s leadership skills?

Gloria: That’s leadership.

Memo to Julia Louis-Dreyfus: How Veep Can Lead Without Power

I could hardly wait to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her new life-after-Seinfeld sitcom, Veep.

As a student of women’s relationship with power, I made sure to be curled up in bed for Veep’s 10pm edt HBO premier last night, ready to soak it up and take notes on my equally charged up  ipad.

My excitement deflated minute by minute.

Entertainment Watch’s plot overview is one reason:

Louis-Dreyfus’ Vice President Selina Meyer is a veep without much influence constantly trying to gain some, a ripe premise for comedy.… In the first installment of Veep, we saw V.P. Meyer trying to advance her green initiative with the introduction of cornstarch-based utensils in government offices, a move that irritated (“outrage” being too strong a word to use for anything a Vice President introduces) the plastics lobby.

Now, I know that Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president John Nance Garner (do you even know who he was?) described the job as “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” And when Veep Meyer asks her former senatorial colleague what she’s been missing since she left the Senate to take the vice-presidency, the senator replies, “Power?”

As the tension between corn starch versus plastic utensils mounts, Veep receives repeated messages that the White House doesn’t want any mention of anything that could bring down the wrath of Big Oil’s mega lobby. The President himself is never seen or heard—rubbing the wound of Meyer’s perceived powerlessness with sea salt.

But that’s just the beginning of the narrative by which Veep renders the foul-mouthed Meyer less than influence-commanding.

Her self-presentation telegraphs “I am not to be taken seriously.” Would a vice president come to work in sleeveless party dresses, with visible cleavage, hair flopping in her face, the red power suit only worn for purposes of the official photograph?

Dreyfus acknowledged that she was styled after Michelle Obama.

“[My character Selina Meyer] is not as chic as Michelle Obama, but who could be?” Louis-Dreyfus said, explaining further that it was still Obama’s singular style that provided the blueprint for the character’s sexy, yet powerful look, “so we can move it slightly away from the square look — no offense,” Louis-Dreyfus concluded.

They model the first female vice president on the First Lady?

Please!! There’s not one shred of job description comparability, and to imply so is demeaning both to women and to whoever sits a heartbeat from the Presidency.

The entire show makes Selina Meyer look like a Palinesque dunderhead, despite never revealing her political party. Meyer gives away her power in so many ways large and small. And swearing like a sailor while thinking up schemes to cut others down to size is supposed to make her look strong enough to operate in a man’s world? I don’t buy it.

Being a leader whether or not you have the formal power doesn’t require cutting others down. It means first and foremost that you have to act like one.

Here are three ways everyone can use power effectively without being the formal leader:

Value Your Piece of the Puzzle

Everyone in an organization holds a piece of the puzzle, without which the full picture can’t be completed. There’s much more mutuality than we often perceive.

Everybody needs help now and then, even—especially—if they hold the title of President whose job by definition is impossible.

Bonnie McEwan, president of the public interest communications firm Make Waves Not Noise and professor in the Milano Graduate School in New York, told me she advises her students to “view themselves as powerful, in a constructive sense, and understand it in terms of the ability to influence for good.”

McEwan teaches her students to analyze their own personal power bases. She highlights two key sources of power within their control: referent power, the power of personality or presence, and expert power, or their abilities and skills to contribute to the work. Meyer could have a lot of fun in Veep working these sources of power out while demonstrating spunk and leadership.

Deepen Relationships

The world turns on human connections, so it’s not surprising that many experts suggest deepening relationships by getting to know people and their motivations is as key to making things happen regardless of one’s position. People like working with people they like and trust. Coming from what was apparently a highly respected Senate position, Meyer brought plenty of that to the vice presidency.

In their book Influence Without Authority, Adam Cohen and David Bradford write about Nettie Seabrooks, who as an African American and a woman, had more than her share of hurdles to acquire influence at General Motors. Nevertheless, the authors concluded that her capacity for cultivating strong relationships and avoiding self-inflicted relationship traps helped her to be effective far beyond her formal position.

Set an Agenda and Deliver the Goods

When I spoke at the YWCA Tucson’s Women’s Leadership Conference recently, a nurse practitioner approached me with a worried look on her face. “I see where our patient care could be improved significantly,” she said, “But how can I exercise leadership when I’m not the doctor and not the manager?”

It can be frightening to tell the boss something he or she might not want to hear, but if you have your facts organized and present a cogent agenda, I’ll bet you won’t just get the meeting, you’ll be rewarded. And if the information or advice you offer proves to make the team shine, or keeps the boss from stepping into a big pile of —it, you’ll build trust and your own sense of empowerment.

Like the Veep, most of us don’t hold CEO positions during most of our careers. Nevertheless, as McEwan says, “If you see yourself as the leader of your staff rather than as the follower of your boss, you empower yourself to take action. Perhaps you can’t do everything, but you can do something.”

If Selina Meyer took these three tips for leading without formal power, she’d lose the contrived punch line of Veep. But believe me, there’s plenty of Washington absurdity to create a hilariously funny sitcom about a female Vice President without making her look small, mean, and truly powerless.

What was your reaction to Veep? How have you led despite not having formal power?

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

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.

Are You Angry Enough to Embrace Your Power To Act? (3 Signs You Are)

Get power-to without leaving home!

Join me for a No Excuses Facebook chat on my fanpage Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern, 2pm central, 1pm mountain, noon pacific, etc. I’ll be on video, you’ll be able to ask questions and talk with others via chat box. It’s easy. Really. And there will be giveaways! Let me know if you’re coming here.

In decades of experience as a women’s advocate, I’ve learned people can be inspired to action by one of two things: anger or aspiration.

A roiling, boiling anger is propelling women — even many who’ve never been activists before — to embrace their “power to” to take leadership and make change. They’re making their voices heard over the din of political rhetoric they might shun under other circumstances.

There was no one trigger, rather a succession of insults. I talked with Richard Lui about them this week on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. Here’s a smattering:

  • After 30-year-old Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke was denied the chance to speak about why contraceptives should be covered by insurance…
  • After the stunning optics of an all-male “expert” panel pontificating on women’s reproductive health before a Senate committee (also all-male because the women on the committee were so incensed they walked out)…
  • After shock jock Rush Limbaugh denigrated Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute (can one be both—don’t sluts give it away?) and demanding to see videos of her having sex…
  • After bills like those in Texas and Virginia forcing women seeking abortions to submit to 10″ ultrasound “shaming wands” (as Doonesbury dubbed them), an AZ bill requiring women to bring notes to their employers verifying they take birth control for health reasons not pregnancy prevention or risk being fired, and a Tennessee bill that mandates public reporting of the doctors by name and the demographics of each patient…

Women are rightly furious.

Why is this happening?

Writer Susan Swartz, who blogs at Juicy Tomatoes, notes, “It’s not just the warbling of a choir boy who believes that sex should only be for procreation and wants to turn the country into a theocracy. It’s a growing roar against women with one wild-eyed effort after another to attach new laws to women’s bodies.”

Hillary Clinton take at the Women in the World conference in New York recently was, “Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.”

Have women finally stopped playing nice about all these “power over” affronts? Here are three signs that tell me the answer is a resounding YES!

  1. Individuals aren’t waiting for someone else to tell them to take action. They’re just doing it. Like Sandra Fluke—who now says she’d consider running for elected office. Go, Sandra, you’ve sure got my vote!
  2. Pro-woman legislators, previously silent, are filing in-your-face bills that smoke out those cruel and unjust measures that shame, blame, and make women barefoot and pregnant again. The antidotes? Requiring men seeking Viagra to first have a cardiac stress test and rectal exam or watch videos of treatment for prolonged erections to one that would restrict vasectomies to men who are at imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.
  3. Between the spontaneous petitions, thousands of smart-ass but well taken questions on TX Gov. Rick Perry’s Facebook page (“What kind of tampons do you recommend, Gov. Perry?” “I’ve been researching chastity belts and would like your opinion.”), and constant chatter about the issues, I haven’t heard this decibel level of righteous anger since early 2001.

In my book No Excuses, I urge women to redefine power from the oppressive power over, rightly resisted by many women, to the expansive leadership implied by power to.

So yesterday on my Facebook page, I asked: “Are women finally getting angry enough to embrace their power to?”

Hong Kong spa director Shoshana Weinberg asked in response: “Why does it have to be anger? Can’t love get us there?”

My answer was:

Love without using our power to stand up for ourselves got us into this pickle. Anger is a good motivator to action. But you are right, anger isn’t enough. After we get riled up by anger, we need aspiration. Aspiration to use the “power to” for good. For me, that’s another, more intentional word for love.

More on aspiration in another post. But for now, I want to know:

What about you? Are you angry enough to embrace your power to? How?

And PS: Want to talk about the concept of power to and the Power tools in No Excuses? Join me this Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern for a chat on my Facebook page. It’s easy! Full info and instructions here.

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

NO LESS THAN SIX — Take Action to Make “Super Committee” 50% Women

sixIt is coming down to the wire and you voice needs to be heard! Republican Speaker John Boehner, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are making their choices to select a 12-person bipartisan “Super Committee” to decide upon critical issues that came to the forefront when the debt-ceiling measure was passed.

The Women’s Media Center has a place where you can sign a letter to each of these lawmakers raising your voice that it is critical they appoint an equal number of women and men to this powerful body. Click HERE to send your letters now.

It is imperative that women are at the table and that women’s voices are heard in equal numbers to men’s voices. The “Super Committee” will be tasked with making critical judgments that will likely affect social programs that women disproportionately depend on – like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The positions, priorities, and perspectives of women need to be heard.”  The Women’s Media Center

Another ACTION opportunity is with the Women’s Campaign Forum and sign their petition for “no fewer than 6 women” chosen for this powerful role in America’s future. Click HERE to sign the petition.

Has what happened in Washington these last few weeks has made you angry to take action?? “No Excuses” Power Tool #7: Create a Movement shows us the time is now to act so the changes made in Washington are made with equal voices! DEMAND NO LESS THAN SIX!!

But do it right this minute–rumor has it that announcements could be made today. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60980.html