muriel

A few days ago, I went to the best funeral I’ve ever attended.

It’s unusual to say that about an occasion normally considered sad and somber. But the memorial service for Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, a well-known finance executive in the U.S. and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, goes down in my book as a perfectly delightful send off.

Mickie founded her brokerage firm, Muriel Siebert & Co, Inc. which became part of Siebert Financial and went public in 1996. She also served as New York State’s Superintendent of Banking (referring to herself in her 2008 autobiography Changing the Rules as the S.O.B.). Mickie’s career has lessons for all women, no matter their occupation:

  • Have a dream and go for it.
  • Start your own game if those in power won’t let you into theirs — or even if they will but you prefer your vision of how things should be.
  • No matter how high you climb, help other women rise and keep them close to support you.
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Consider this your Women’s History Month bonus post. In the heated contemporary debate about whether Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s exhortation to women to Lean In will help women in less elevated positions, Ruth Nemzoff, Resident Scholar at Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center and author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family reminds us that this dispute is hardly new. You could substitute “Sandberg” for “Friedan” in most of Nemzoff’s article. And the takeaway lessons for women remain the same too.friedan-collage

Let’s not waste our time denigrating Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique because it focused only on the problems of affluent women, rather, let us praise her for starting a revolution.

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Sally Jewell is a one-woman powerhouse. The REI CEO has just been approved by a bipartisan United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 19-3, according to the New York Times. Her next stop—a full review by the U.S. Senate.

“She is going to give each member of this committee her ear and her expertise that comes from having managed to pack a host of professional careers – petroleum engineer, C.E.O. and banker, to name just a few – into just one lifetime,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, told the committee.Jewell

Jewell’s diverse experience has made her a unique contender for the job. In comparison to her possible predecessor, former Senator Ken Salazar, Jewell has no government experience. However, just as Salazar made a historic impact by becoming one of the first Hispanics to earn a spot in the Senate, Jewell’s confirmation would make her the second woman to hold the Interior Secretary position.

An avid environmentalist these days, Jewell, 56, is not afraid to say that she started off as a petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil. Her range of experience provides her with a widened perspective. She has worked as a foreman for drill crews, an investment banker, and is now the CEO of a highly successful outdoor sports corporation. She’s a Jane of all trades—a banker, a boardroom member, and a mountain climber. She takes heed to both economic fronts and conservation efforts.

“She knows the link between conservation and good jobs,” President Obama said during Jewell’s nomination earlier this month. “She knows that there is no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress.”

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Making a box-office success movie or TV series without a woman in a sexualized or type-cast bimbo role has historically been hard to impossible. (Read “Leadership Fictions:Gender, Leadership, and the Media”, Take The Lead’s special report on how media influences women’s perceptions of themselves as leaders and others’ ideas about them for some shocking statistics.)

That’s why women today who create media by producing, writing, and directing are of the utmost importance to creating the future of our choice.

Some women in leading roles on and off screen—like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, and Shonda Rhimes—use their writing to make women the protagonists of their stories. Their takes on what those roles mean to women and feminism, however, are quite diverse.

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I remember how excited I was to discover Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the early 1980’s. She was one of the few females writing about leadership and organizational change management. I hungrily devoured The Change Masters as a relatively new nonprofit CEO navigating roiling changes in the healthcare and political landscape while learning to lead a complex organization toward continued growth.Kantor

This distinguished Harvard Business School professor’s influential theories about change in the workforce have permeated much of the thinking about organizational change. And unlike the men writing and teaching about it, Kanter infused her work with a lens on one of the biggest workplace changes of the 20th century: women breaking through workplace glass ceilings.

Kanter, former editor of Harvard Business Review and author of 18 books, has been named one of the “50 most powerful women in the world” by the Times of London, and the “50 most influential business thinkers in the world” by Accenture and Thinkers 50 research.

Her groundbreaking book Men and Women of the Corporation—I mean, who had ever mentioned “women” and “corporations” in the same book title?—remains a classic analysis of power distribution within organizations.

Kanter told the hard truth about women in the workforce, after conducting a five-year study on the American manufacturing company. She explained how women were tokenized to work in clerical jobs rather than management; and how even though there were plenty of women in large organizations, they rarely ran the show. She observed that the first women breaking through to leadership roles were still tokens in a male dominated workforce.

In 1979, she wrote:

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Today’s U.S. Congress is made up of less than 20% of female members—18% to be exact—a far cry from the parity we strive toward. Any conversation about Women’s History Month must include the rather dismal representation of women in American politics across the board.nhwomen

The Congressional delegation from New Hampshire are the exception to that 20% barrier. Last November, two women won Congressional seats, joining the two women who already held New Hampshire’s two Senate seats. To top it all off, the state’s governor, speaker of the State House, and chief justice of the State Supreme Court are all women as well.

These women have made history by making New Hampshire the first state with an all-female Congressional delegation.

The senators include Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R). The new Representatives are Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Ann McLand Kuster (D). Let’s not forget about Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), the only female Democratic governor in 2013, state speaker Terie Norelli (D) and State Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis.

While this should be celebrated as a historic win for women and women’s rights, the beliefs of these women are diverse, to say the least. On one hand, there’s Carol Shea-Porter, who stands with EMILY’s List and the National Women’s Political Caucus, among other feminist organizations. And then there’s Kelly Ayotte,

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A very interesting conversation between InPower founder Dana Theus and myself led to this upcoming webcast. I hope you will join and put in your two cents worth. Women are making history every day. But we don’t always realize that. On the other hand, we do love to analyze ourselves, and the topic of intergenerational communication about feminism is always a hot one. See all the details and join up for the live broadcast or via replay!

 

Join this Cross Generational discussion about where Feminism is and where it’s going. LeanInWebinar

Our Panelists include YOU and:

Gloria Feldt– Past President of Planned Parenthood and Author of No Excuses: 9 Ways WOMEN Can Change How We Think About POWER

Emily Bennington – Author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World?

Eva Swanson – Student and Women’s Advocate at the College of William & Mary

Dana Theus – Founder, InPower Women (Moderator)

Questions we’ll explore:

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This Women’s History Month, I want to pay special attention to women leaders who are making history today. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is one woman who is not only making history; she is consciously and deliberately doing so—and telling the story.sonia

In January, Justice Sotomayor released her memoir, “My Beloved World,” which provided an honest look at the life of an American leader. While her role in the government is often sanitized, and many people have no idea what the life of a Supreme Court justice is like, Sotomayor reminds her readers that she, too, is a human being.

Sotomayor comes from humble beginnings. As a young girl from the Bronx, she had to administer her own insulin injections. Both of her parents emigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico, and she lost her father at nine years old. At Princeton, she advocated for Latinos by setting up an action group for Puerto Ricans on campus and by lobbying for Latino professors to join the Ivy League’s ranks.

Even though her job requires her to remain dispassionate about her work, Sotomayor comes off a bit more emotionally in-tune than her colleagues. As the third woman and first Hispanic to join the Supreme Court, her individuality in the courtroom sets a positive example. Understanding her own significance allows her to advocate for the progress of other women and other Latinas who need someone of high authority to be in the public scope, to be visible—to be a role model who can inspire others to achieve as she has done.

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Smart Women Take The Lead monthly global webcast by Smartwomen Smartconversations (SWSC) and Take The Lead for women in the workplace to launch Friday March 15 at 2:30 pm EDT

smartwomenPerhaps you want a promotion, or a raise, or you feel ‘stuck’ in your career?

Maybe you’re going on maternity leave or returning to work after a few years?

Or perhaps you want to talk to your boss about flexible working, or you want to get on the fast-track for a leadership position?

SWTTL is a live monthly webcast and community for women who want to get ahead. Our aim is to help accelerate effective change for women in the workplace by addressing key issues and creating real breakthroughs!

And our two organizations are modeling the kind of collaboration we think women individually and women’s organizations collectively must if we are to move the dial of leadership parity forward for women.

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 Women’s leadership, or not, is the hottest topic of the moment, thanks to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s terrific new book Lean In.  It prompted CNN.com to ask me to write this commentary.Sandberg

They changed my title and last line (I wrote “Leaning In together…” which I thought more apropos than “Striving together…”). And they edited out my fun opening reference to the grey umbrella party favors with the Bloomberg logo that were presented to each guest as we exited into the snowy night, and a few other fun details of the AAA list Lean In launch party. Start reading here, click to the full article on CNN.com, and share your comments here and there (tweets and reposts will be appreciate too):

(CNN) — At the launch party for Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial new book, “Lean In,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained only half jokingly that the book — which hit Amazon.com’s best seller list well ahead of its March 11 release — is doing way better than his book did. Then he introduced Arianna Huffington, who introduced the woman of the moment.

And this is unquestionably a moment.

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