Issue 117 — January 5, 2020
My son gave me a cool gift last year called StoryWorth. I answered a question about my life (almost) every week and it was shared with my children for their comments. The company will turn all this content into a book now. Nice.
I’ve had fun looking back at my history. And the exercise reminded me that it’s not so much the facts of what happened but the meaning of those facts — how you interpret them, what you learn from them, and how all that informs one’s choices.
When you know your history, you can create the future of your choice.
As we reflect on the meaning of the past year and what’s to come in the new year ahead, it’s tempting to view life as something that happens to us. But the best way to predict the future, it’s said, is to create it. We learn from telling the stories of the past. Yet it’s up to us to decide how our stories will end.
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That’s the power of intention.
[Tweet @GloriaFeldt to tell me your intention to create the future of your choice in 2020.]
Here are my top three intentions for creating the future in 2020. I’d love to know yours.
Intention #1: Celebrate the historic anniversaries of 2020 by committing to reach leadership parity the next five years.
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, better known as the suffrage amendment that gave U.S. women the right to vote. It was a phenomenal, hard fought victory. Some women even lost their lives in the struggle.
2020 is also the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking United Nations 4th World Conference on Women— where then First Lady Hillary Clinton uttered the powerful words that “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” and the world’s nations adopted sweeping resolutions affirming the rights of women to be equal citizens globally. But the unfinished business of these two events is to transform the ideal of equality into the reality of parity in power, position, and pay.
Intention #2: Capitalize on the current acceleration of progress toward leadership gender parity by investing in the programs that multiply rather than increment toward parity.
When I wrote my book No Excuses almost a decade ago, women averaged 18% of upper leadership in virtually every sector. Now we are at or near 25% in political leadership; and according to the research group Catalyst, the average in business is 29%. Yet estimates of how long it will take to reach parity still range from 70 years in the U.S. to 300 years globally. That’s because the estimators are using the historical increments of progress.
But if you’ve ever solved the puzzle of the lily pads, you know that those calculations are illogical. Once critical mass is reached, numbers can multiply like those lily pads.
Several factors can help increase the speed toward parity if we’re smart enough to capitalize on their energy:
- The culture change potential of the #metoo movement has resulted in positions opening up for women to rise. It will be important to transform the much-needed attention to women’s voices that #metoo has fomented into an inclusive movement to implement serious culture change rather than focusing primarily on lawsuits and blame/shame or backlash will swallow up much of the progress of this important social change.
- More women are motivated by political concerns to run for office than ever before.
- Women’s initiatives in many companies are making an important transition from Employee Resource Groups that look inward on their problems to focusing on leadership development and demonstrating how they add value to the bottom line.
- Companies are experiencing pressure from customers and shareholders to walk the walk of the fine diversity talk on their websites. We can seize this moment to bring custom training and coaching to the women, and increasingly men as well, to help them accelerate the trajectory toward gender parity in power, pay, and position.
Intention #3: Learn the lessons of the suffrage movement and don’t repeat them.
First, women’s advancement must be melded with that of other underrepresented groups. There is power in joining together. Further, this makes clear the connection between deep seated cultural racism and sexism. It can amplify the effects of both implicit and overt biases and help organizations address those culturally learned barriers to equality of opportunity across the board.
Second, understand that no victory marks the end of the struggle. It isn’t over even when it’s over. We must always be proactive with initiatives and an agenda to keep people mobilized toward the goal of gender parity.
As suffragist leader Alice Paul warned, “When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row.”
The suffragists thought that once the right to vote was embedded in the constitution, their work was done. In truth, it had only begun, as the fact that women are only halfway to parity in elected office 100 years later and the Equal Rights Amendment, written by Paul in 1923 as a way to maintain the momentum toward true equality for women, is still not the law of the land.
If we’re not stepping forward with new initiatives to advance women’s equality and gender parity in leadership, we will most likely be pushed back.
Wishing You a Powerful 2020
To be sure, there are economic, social, and political trends that influence our ability to create the future exactly as we might want it to roll out. We’ll be challenged. We’ll trip up. We’ll have health or family issues we can’t control. We are living in a time when the opportunities to make life better with technologies are expanding exponentially, even as the problems of climate change and global instability threaten to put an end to life as we know it. Still, the choices are always ultimately ours.
Just remember: whatever your history, wherever the story of your life started, you get to decide how your story ends when you use the power of your intention to create the future of your choice.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet @GloriaFeldt.
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 Lead. People 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.