The Whole World Is Getting a Spring Cleaning.

I was never much of a housekeeper. “Shmutz,” my husband lovingly calls me while he cleans up the place. I long ago decided I’d rather spend my precious time changing the world than vacuuming it.

But even I have to admit spring cleaning brings a special lightness to the spirit. This spring, in particular, feels like the whole world is getting its closets cleaned, as women speak in their liberated #metoo voices and transform their newly found #powerTO into a quest for — no, a Time’s UP demand for — equality, including leadership parity everywhere.

Seems everyone has finally realized that sexual harassment and abuse are actually about power, and more specifically imbalance of economic, social, and legal power between men and women.

And so our spring cleaning this year is about creating or restoring (depending on how back in history you go and whose rendition of it you believe) a new balance of power, one where women are not just seen but also heard and not just doing but actually leading. And we are finding all sorts of crevices and closets to clean out.

There’s nothing like a tinge of anger to make you sweep out those dust bunnies of discrimination from every corner of every social institution. They were built for men by men who had women at home taking care of, well, just about everyone. When I saw the 82 deliberately intersectional women the likes of Cate Blanchett and Ava DuVernay leading the charge for more recognition in the film industry, I reminded myself just how pervasively culture has bound our brains. The women chose the number 82 because it represents the number of female directors who have had films in the main competition — compared to 1600 films by men. As if only the male gender has something to say. No more. Net-net? A pledge by the Cannes festival and its two main sidebars to bring in more films by women.

Once recognizing the inequities, we are on a mission to vacuum up those implicit biases that continue to mess up our heads long after we changed laws that either ignored women completely or made us second-class citizens. “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head,” Sally Kempton famously said. This is the mental detritus that saps women’s confidence, lowers our sense of self-value, and makes us spend inordinate amounts of money on beauty treatments on the impossible task of perfecting our bodies. And voila, the notorious likes of Uber open up to sunshine disinfectant by getting rid of mandatory arbitration in alleged sexual harassment cases.

The spring cleaning extends to calling for body shaming no more by outing made-up ways of judging women’s appearance such as selling cure for cellulite.

We are sweeping up the shards of glass from the ceilings broken by brave and visionary women who could see themselves in the leadership story even when others could not, and who made it past that thick layer of men at the top to claim their rightful share of powerful positions. Rightful share, I said, not all leadership positions. Bella Abzug said famously, and said only slightly tongue in cheek, “We want it all but we’ll take half.”

Half would be amazing. Earth-shaking. So revolutionary that the very idea terrifies many men and even some women who feel safer under the protection of Big Daddy, frightened and angry.

But women have never aspired to take over the world, only to have the same opportunities to succeed or fail on their own merits as men have.

That’s why we’re scrubbing all vestiges of male privilege from the crevices of the culture during this spring cleaning session.

I mean the kind of privilege that bullies and harasses and abuses women, and less powerful men too. And I mean really scrubbing it with a fine brush and disinfectant. Even from places hailed as advances because they are showing women as strong warrior types.

At the same time, we are taking the strong soap and water to our own culturally learned penchant to ask for and accept less money than men for the same job, to stay in the secondary sidekick role, or to fail to see ourselves as the capable leaders we are. As one woman in a 50 Women Can Change the World program declared at the end of it, “I now have the courage to admit I am ready to lead my organization.”

Profound change is in the air and it smells like lilacs and freshly bathed babies.

Things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime are happening every day. Christiane Amanpour has replaced the eponymous television anchor and everyone’s (formerly) favorite celebrity interviewer, Charlie Rose.

Male politicians, comedians, and businessmen, felled by their own privilege-powered inability to behave in ways that every kindergartner has been taught are appropriate, are falling at warp speed and being replaced by women so often that Take The Lead feels the wind under our wings. It’s hastening our mission of leadership party by 2025. Nobody believed when we started that we would make it by 2025. Now I think it could happen even sooner.

“If we want to change the world, we should invest in the women who already are,” Melinda Gates has said.

Powerhouse gathering: Gloria Steinem, Teresa C. Younger (Ms. Foundation), Ava DuVernay, and Tarana Burke

I’ll take that affirmation for world-changing over vacuuming and encourage all my sisters to persist as well. This current brand of spring cleaning is actually fun.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Networking When You Hate It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do?

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

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

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

The Future is Female

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That sounds a lot like me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ava Duvernay and Rhea Beddoe
Ava Duvernay and Rhea Beddoe

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

How to Keep Women from Leadership Parity

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

She’s a highly skilled communicator who presented terrific content. Her elegant attire and direct but modulated self-presentation perfectly mirror how women are advised to look and speak to succeed in the business world. I know she’s passionate about advancing women in leadership and I was eager to garner some tips from her.

During the Q and A, Sarah, I’ll call her, was asked how to handle male colleagues’ informal gatherings — golfing, going out for drinks or afternoon coffee. Sarah acknowledged that these groupings are where relationships are formed and business decisions often made and that when women are excluded, it can mean they also lose out on promotions. At a minimum, it keeps them from being recognized as full partners on the work team.

She gave the example of several men in her department who go for coffee every afternoon and never invite her, despite officing in the same hallway. She rolled her eyes and said, “Whatever. I don’t let it bother me. Occasionally, if I have something I want to discuss, I’ll invite myself along. They never reject me — they just don’t think about including me. I don’t think they have ill will. It’s more like they don’t quite know what to do with me.”

I cringed, wishing she had let it bother her and had done something to change the dynamic. Because the first way to keep women from leadership parity is to keep them excluded from the informal relationship web.

I made a mental note to share with participants my friend Nathalie Molina Nino’s technique. She worked globally almost exclusively with men senior to herself in age and position. When she was excluded from the men’s golf games, she didn’t learn to play golf as many women are counseled to do. (Not that there is anything wrong with golf; some women play for business relationship building because they like the game. I myself would have failed golf in college had there not been a written test.)

Instead, Nathalie staked her position on the team by doing something she enjoyed and inviting the others in. Before business travel, she researched restaurants, cuisine, and wines of the area. She planned a memorable dinner and invited all the men. This positioned her as a leader, not a follower begging to be let into the cool kids’ circle. She became the cool kid everyone wanted to be with. Sharing meals, and a little excellent wine, opened lines of communication; the men then felt more comfortable working with her as an equal in other settings as well.

The second burning question from a participant was whether she should join the women’s workplace affinity group at her company. Sarah advised against it, saying it pigeonholes you as a “woman professional” instead of merely a “professional.”

No one countered that advice, whether from intentional complicity, that pesky niceness that women are socialized to exhibit, or lack of awareness that she had implied women are less valuable than men.

And here, Sarah had just excused the men in her department for going off together as an all-male group for coffee! Men have been doing this forever and been applauded for it. This is in fact how most business gets done.

Again I cringed. During the break, I told Sarah that I would be giving a different point of view because I didn’t want her to be surprised. She was most gracious about it and I intend to continue the conversation with her since as a professor in the business school her influence can be widespread. The second way to keep women from leadership parity is to avoid joining with other women in order to advance us all.

I asked the participants to think through why employee affinity groups were formed in and what their purpose is — mutual support and to make up for the disadvantage of being a member of a group that has been traditionally less privileged or discriminated against. No one says LGBTQ people shouldn’t join affinity groups — and look at the progress they’ve made in bringing equal treatment to their colleagues in the workplace in a relatively short time.

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

Like Valerie Brown’s story of using her role as chair of the African American affinity group in her company to differentiate herself and get the promotion she sought. She set the group’s agenda around how demonstrating their value to the company by bringing in business and making sure they got credit for it.

We are what we are, and we are at our best when we can be authentically ourselves. Declining to join a women’s network out of fear of being pigeonholed as a women is as ludicrous as men declining to wear pants because it might pigeonhole them as men.

Why would women so undervalue themselves that they would decline to join with their sisters to help each other, and themselves, out? Because the third and most effective way to keep women from leadership parity is to undervalue ourselves even though the rest of the world recognizes their leadership value, not raise our hands, not stand out as women to leverage the unassailable data that women in leadership are good for the business bottom line.

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

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

3 Things I learned this week (and one sneak preview)

Did you know that only 2% of women’s businesses crack the $1,000,000 revenue mark?

I learned that this week when I had the pleasure of speaking at Kristi Hall’s 2% club mastermind group.

While it’s not easy for any entrepreneur to build a business, according to a study by EY, businesses owned by men are 3.5 times as likely to reach that million-dollar threshold.

Kristi, founder of Conscious Connections, an 8000-member strong network of “business-savvy women who lead first with heart, consciousness and the unwavering belief that everyone is destined to find and profitably do their right work,” had invited me to share some tips with the group of women who have been meeting together for two years to support and learn from one another.

Because I know entrepreneurs have to be scrappy innovators, the Power Tool I chose to share with them was #3: Use what you’ve got. The resources you need are almost always there if you have the wisdom to see them and the power to use them.

Here’s one of the exercises we did — try it out and get deep into appreciating your own points of power.

I learned this week that the gentlemen in Congress finally realized that they had better not mess with Mother Nature, and especially not with human mothers in their midst. In a rare bipartisan general consent vote, newborns under one year are allowed on the U. S. Senate floor AND can be breastfed there.

Michele Weldon, Take The Lead’s Editorial Director, has written this piece for our newsletter next week — Power of New Working Moms: Beyonce, Pulitzer Winners, Political Leaders Shine — and I want to share it with you in advance because the title is everything. From New Zealand to Coachella and to the Senate floor, women are taking on a new power to get things done. Michele points out how that while women in the spotlight can afford things like childcare, these activist moms are “are also shedding light on the need for paid parental leave policies and adequate, affordable child care so that all working mothers can achieve their goals and fulfill their creative and professional ambitions.”

Can I love this hashtag via Elisa Kreisinger’s Pop Culture Pirate newsletter any more? (And you should totally subscribe.)

#RealBabiesBeforeManBabies

As CNN reported:

llinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who gave birth this month to her second child, becoming the first US Senator to do so while in office, spearheaded the push for the rule change and applauded her fellow lawmakers who she says helped to “bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work.”

Um hum. And perhaps we should ask: what would our institutions look like if women had created them? It’s not like having babies is anything new. We would have figured out how to manage childcare and work a long time ago.

I couldn’t resist tweeting this only slightly snarky response to another example of women figuring it out.

This week I relearned the power of the cohort to capture imaginations and move women farther faster to leadership parity.

I met with Take The Lead AZ’s Leadership Council and briefed them on the progress of our #50WomenCan Change the World programs for women in nonprofits and Media and Entertainment, plus the equally exciting ones upcoming for women in healthcare leadership, Human Resources, finance, childcare policy, and tech.

(If you are an AZ friend and want to know more about our one and only local chapter Take The Lead AZ, tweet me @GloriaFeldt and I’ll connect you. )

Wow, we were immediately off and running with ideas to do them for women in education, entrepreneurship, executives across sectors, and on and on.

Leadership parity moment is now and making it happen is just my cup of tea. (This photo courtesy of my lovely daughters and sister who took me for a birthday tea at the iconic AZ Biltmore.)

I hope it’s your cup of tea too because my sneak preview is to get ready for Tiffany Shlain’s 50/50 Day. I’ll be sharing from their feeds all day and Take The Lead is proud to be among the many sponsors and partners. You can learn more and join up here.

Till next week, power TO you!

“You had the power all along, my dear” — Glinda the good witch to Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ.

But as Dr. Susan Wilder, founder of Lifescape medical practice said at the mastermind, “You have to believe you deserve to commit. “

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Voting Power 2014

Shirley Chisholm

When Shirley Chisholm broke both racial and gender barriers to become the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and later the first Black woman to run for U. S. president, she leapfrogged over more barriers to power than any woman considering a run today can even imagine.

Was she conflicted in her relationship with power? Just the opposite as the quote above indicates. How did she get that way and what can we learn from her on Election Day 2014?

My systematic research into many women’s ambivalent relationship with power began during the 2008 election season, when I wrote an article for Elle magazine about why women do—or as I came to find out, more often don’t—run for office.

Though women constituted 53% of the voters in 2012, Congress is less than 20% female and state legislatures are not much better.

At the rate women are advancing in Congress, it will be 60 years before gender leadership parity is reached. But more astounding is what I found in 2008 that stopped me short: it’s no longer external, structural barriers, though some do still exist, but internal ones that hold women back from fully embracing their political power. And there are far more similarities than differences in how this dynamic plays itself out in the seemingly divergent realms of work, politics, and personal relationships.

Image via Rutgers
Image via Rutgers

The personal is, was, and always will be, political.

I wanted to learn more: to understand what internalized values, implicit biases, assumptions, and beliefs about ourselves we as women haul around, like worthless cargo, hindering the full attainment of our potential as leaders and doers—what intricate personal and cultural constructs of power, the silent sinews that bind not only our political intentions, but our work lives and even our love lives.

vote_todayParadoxically, I’ve spent most of my adult life working for justice and power for others—African Americans, poor kids, other women. Not, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I feel blessed to have been able to make my life’s passion for social justice into my life’s work. And my path is not so different from gendered behavior regarded (and rewarded) as laudable—being nice, putting the needs of others first.

Which is the point. Fighting for others seemed worthy. Fighting for myself, or something I wanted, did not. And many younger women today tell me they experience similar reticence, even as they seek role models and mentors to teach them differently.

Yet all effective leadership is rooted in the language of power and the willingness to embrace the power one has. If women are ever to complete our staccato journey to equality, we must join the discourse and become deliberately fluent in power’s meanings and nuances.

While the men around us operate as though they own the world—because, for the most part, they do—women have to work consciously to assume that place of intentional power and agency. Women’s inner struggles parallel the pushme-pullyou history of our social and political advances.

It’s this relationship with power—almost a spiritual factor, rarely acknowledged by the metrics or even the philosophers, which I’ve witnessed in myself and countless other women—that fascinated me and propelled me to undertake writing my book, No Excuses, ultimately leading me to cofound Take The Lead. For until we redefine our relationship with power, we will stay stuck in our half-finished revolution.

And that matters for two reasons.

First, we will remain able to excuse and justify our lack of progress by pointing outward rather than owning our part of the responsibility to take the harder road of pushing forward courageously as Chisholm did.

Second, until we can stand confidently in our own power, we won’t be able to lead ourselves or others with intention. If we allow that to happen, both women and men will remain constrained within lives of limited gender stereotyped possibilities, lives that keep us all from achieving our full human potential.

The Right Honorable Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada (and the first head of that nation’s government), put it this way: “Look, power exists. Somebody is going to have it. If you would exercise it ethically, why not you? I love power. I’m power-hungry because when I have power I can make things happen, can serve my community, can influence decisions, I can accomplish things.”

Why not you, indeed? Why not any one of us?

And if a courageous woman like Shirley Chisholm could blast through seemingly impermeable barriers to run for president half a century ago, surely each and every one of us can at a minimum honor her memory by voting today and every Election Day.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

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.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Are Leadership Messes Women’s Opportunity?

BirdsFemale leadership firsts are trending. Especially when an organization is in big trouble, it seems. Often the choice of a woman appears to be an act of desperation. Fix us, clean up the mess and make it all work. Call mommy to doctor a skinned knee, soothe the troubled waters.

Marissa Mayer at Yahoo for instance, was brought in to stop the bleeding at Yahoo and set it back on a path to profits — when she was pregnant no less.

Chaotic moments can be enormous opportunities for women to move into leadership positions at organizations that have been impervious to women’s advancement due to what Secretary General of the Council of World Leaders Laura Liswood dubs a “thick layer of men” rather than a glass ceiling.

But the ugly underside occurs when women are called in as a Hail Mary pass after previous leaders have so messed up the system that the opportunity can be a set up for failure:

  • When the old systems, or leadership thereof, are corrupt as General Motors. Mary Barra didn’t have much time to celebrate her ascension to the first woman CEO of a major automobile company before she was faced with righting egregious safety wrongs, a moral bankruptcy more likely than economic bankruptcy to do the company in.
  • When an institution is shrinking like the vaunted Riverside a Church in New York which recently appointed its first woman senior minister, Dr. Amy K. Butler.
  • When scandal catapults a woman to a leadership role and being dubbed by Forbes the fifth most powerful woman in the world as it did Christine Lagarde, who became head of the International Monetary Fund in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrogant sexual behavior.
  • When a tanking economy causes companies to shed higher paid men and take on or retain women who still earn comparatively 25% less than male counterparts.

That’s why women going into these situations need a special set of tools to help them succeed. 

I started writing this post from the ship Isabela II in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. While observing first hand natural selection and evolutionary adaptation at work, I’m also reading The Beak of the Finch, a beautifully written narrative of how Charles Darwin and other less known researchers developed their scientific theories of change in the natural world. The tale is told through the work of professors Rosemary and Peter Grant who studied the finches extensively a century after the nondescript little brown birds first prompted Darwin’s idea of evolution of species.

Upon careful observation, the finches turned out to have at least thirteen different beak adaptations, each an exquisitely evolved tool enabling the birds to access the various seeds available in order to survive the harshest island environments.

Similarly, anyone going into an organization in dire need of change will benefit from having specialized tools to clean up the mess while righting the culture and creating a new strategy.

Stepping up to such challenges first requires courage. The courage to embrace power in ways few women have historically done. I’m heartened when pop culture celebs like Kerry Washington encourage women to take more risks. Her “badass” message applies regardless of sector.

Being courageous in an intentional way requires employing practical leadership tools to leverage the opportunity–to “carpe the chaos”—one of the power tools I’ll teach in my
9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career certificate course. It’s a four-week course, entirely online so you can do the work at your convenience, starting July 16. I’d love to see you there. (You can still get the early bird price for a few more days.)

The course is packed with helpful specific tools and tips. Plus the big bonus is the support and insights you get from and give to other women. We make the online platform surprisingly human.

Let’s face it, if women are ever to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors as Take The Lead’s mission Intends, we must step up, even if the opportunity is rooted in chaos and the risk of failure is high.

If you have taken on a leadership challenge during a time of crisis and chaos, or are considering doing so, please tell us about it. Your story will inspire someone else. For each act of courage makes the path easier for the next woman.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

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.

 

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Jill Abramson and Gender Bilingual Communication

Jill AbramsonWith hindsight, this 2013 article all but predicted Jill Abramson’s unceremonious fall. Though according to the New Yorker  rendition, her demise was precipitated when Abramson, the New York Times’ first female executive editor, confronted her boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., after learning her pay was significantly less than her predecessor, I point the finger of firing fate much toward implicit cultural biases that influence behavior much more than any of us want to believe.

Daily Beast columnist Keli Goff asked me whether I think Abramson’s firing will deter women from seeking top jobs. I have in the past made the naïve assumption that once doors are open, women will inherently want to walk through them.

But I’ve come to realize that women have been stuck at under 18% of top leadership positions across all sectors because we too often resist the hard knuckle fray or don’t even apply for positions for which we’re technically qualified because we lack the confidence to do so. We literally speak a different language from the men who make up the majority of the prevailing corporate culture and have learned that when we ask, we are less likely than men to get, and thus it’s safer not to ask.

Even though we’re all speaking English, there is cultural and linguistic gender bilingualism. Women typically use more words than men, for example, more adjectives, more body movements, less directness. And while men might (and often do) complain about that language pattern, the truth is that when women violate the familiar norms, they are treated even worse. Wise insights about this reality in journalism are offered by Newsweek’s first female Senior Editor Lynn Povich.

Not adhering to that stereotype, not being willing to play the nice girl, was Abramson’s real Achilles heel. I seriously doubt that Sulzberger even knows what he doesn’t know about his own biases. His privilege runs so deep that he has never needed to understand them.

Tech journalist Kara Swisher describes a deep-seated problem for the Times if these gendered biases are not openly addressed, however.

Let me see if I can say it more simply than Sulzberger: She was a real pain in my ass and so she had to go.

I can relate, to say the least. As one of the few top editors in tech journalism who is a woman and, even from my many years of reporting before that, I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been called a pain in the ass for my aggressive manner. Silly me, but that kind of tonality is exactly what makes for a successful journalist — you know, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted — and what is more often than not needed in the sometimes rough-and-tumble world of media.

Take The Lead blogger, Susan Gross nailed the grey lady to the wall with this relevant bit of research:

Abe Rosenberg was the top editor of The New York Times for 17 years. The Times own obituary of Rosenberg described him as an “abrasive man of dark moods and mercurial temperament,” who had a “combative and imperious style” and was known for “driving his staffs relentlessly.”  Yet there was never any move to force him out. Instead, when he retired Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, then the publisher of The Times, declared that Rosenberg’s “record of performance as executive editor of The Times will last as a monument to one of the titans of American journalism.” The abrasive Rosenberg got plaudits. The abrasive Abramson got the sack (emphasis mine).

So what’s a woman to do? To speak the language of leadership, women still have to navigate the double-edged sword. The plain truth is that the group with less power always has to learn to speak the language of the group with greater power. You have to know the rules of the game before you can change them. While it is exhausting to be relentlessly pleasant as women are often advised to do, we always benefit more by respecting others’ communications patterns and “languages” than not.

But we won’t succeed by trying to “go the way of the man” as a colleague recently described those women who adopt male characteristics to be heard and promoted. To the contrary.

We must remain aware that all those little mincing steps we learn as women–the suppression, silence, overcompensation that are so deeply ingrained–are cultural ways of controlling women and keeping us in a subordinate space. And we must not let anything stop our full expression of who we are and what we want. Authenticity in the end draws people to you and allows you to demonstrate your unique value. The solution is to be smart and strategic and unleash our authentic selves while speaking in tongues others can understand.

Write on, Jill, and speak on. I believe the media firestorm this episode wrought has created an inflection point, and that if women keep speaking up now, we’ll keep on moving up, thanks in part to your willingness to self-advocate. My guess is that though you might think being executive editor of the New York Times was the pinnacle of your career, you’ll soon find a higher peak, right around the next switchback.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

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?

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.