Betsy RafaelWhen GM’s new, and first female, CEO Mary Barra moved quickly and publicly to recall cars with the company’s potentially lethal ignition switch problems her predecessors had known but failed to address for a decade, you could feel the fresh air. It would be foolhardy to say her gender made her act in this ethical manner, or to assume a man would not. Still, you can’t help but notice that Barra straight-up owned the problem in a way startlingly distant from the public relations posturing typical of Fortune 500’s protecting their fortunes.

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gloria-talkingAfi Ofori of Zars Media invited me to write about my career journey and kindly let me repost it here for you.

Hi everyone, I’m Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a new nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. I’m also an author and public speaker, and former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

I got into this role out of my passion for equality for all, and in particular for women to get a fair shake. That passion has taken several forms. Take The Lead is the most recent incarnation. It began in 2008, when I discovered while researching an article on women in politics for Elle Magazine that the barriers to women in leadership — whether in the workplace, in civic life and politics, or in personal life — now have as much to do with our own ambivalence toward power as with external barriers.

I know from my own life that this can be a painful issue, so I wanted to inspire, not blame women, and to give them practical tools and tips to help them on their journey forward.

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Internships are awesome. They look great on a resume and they help you hone your craft with real-world experience. As a journalism student, I’ve heard the same advice many times: “Do as many internships as you can.” So I have done internships, both paid and unpaid, for the sake of gaining some experience while I’m still in school.intern

Within my school and other universities across the nation, it seems like full-time, unpaid internships are a common practice. For many, these unpaid internships are taken at the cost of relocating away from school (e.g. taking a summer internship in NYC) and/or paying for extra school credit. See, that’s a loophole, folks. As long as it is labeled as ‘educational’, an employer does not have to pay its intern. In reality, paying interns is not about thriving, really; it’s about surviving. Many times, a student is not even reimbursed for housing, food, or transportation.

But there’s a group going against the current, telling students to resist unpaid work. #PayGenY, an initiative sponsored by She Negotiates Consulting and Training, argues that most unpaid internships are illegal.

“We have a very simple lesson: influence for-profit employers, university and professional schools to pay interns,” Victoria Pynchon, co-founder of She Negotiates, said.

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The annual hooplah over Equal Pay Day is over. At gatherings around the country last month, politicians and activists alike decried the persistent 20% plus pay gap between men and women. Now what? Back to work with our heads down as usual?

Not if you’re Lilly Ledbetter.

The namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act—the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law while surrounded with the smart political optics of Ledbetter, bipartisan members of Congress, and other women leaders in red power suits—knows this:

  • Securing fairness and equality in compensation requires each woman to be persistently aware of what she’s worth and stand up for herself in the workplace.
  • Securing fairness and equality in compensation is a long haul process that requires changes to laws and policies so the system is fair to all.

The personal and the political are, as usual, intertwined.

Sure, negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon can coach you on how to negotiate compensation more effectively for yourself. And when I speak and teach about my book No Excuses and its 9 Power Tools, I emphasize #3—use what you’ve got—to help women identify just how much power they have in their own hands, including the power to make changes in their paychecks.

And sure, as the Daily Muse pointed out, it’s good that the U.S. Department of Labor held an Equal Pay App Challenge seeking an app to educate people about the persistent problems of equal—or rather, unequal—pay.

But clearly these individual actions, as important as they are, constitute isolated drops in the deep blue ocean of needed systemic change.

Ledbetter’s new memoir, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, takes the personal and weaves it together with the political as she describes how she became a leader in the fight for equal pay.

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Resisting the cheap thrill of calling this the “War Between Women,” I nevertheless think this dustup pitting two views of modern womanhood against one another is worth acknowledging. Do you think Rosen was right in what she said?

Politico Arena asks:

During an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen questioned whether Ann Romney was qualified to be talking about women’s economic issues since she’s “never worked a day in her life.”

On Twitter @AnnDRomney responded: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

Do Rosen’s comments advance the Democratic narrative of a GOP “war on women”?

Or is it a mean-spirted attack on Mitt Romney’s wife of 42 years that’s like to backfire on the Obama campaign and fellow Democrats?

My Response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WomenGirlsLadies made a return visit to UMKC last week, thanks to the invitation from Women’s Center Director Brenda Bethman. Rather than a single event, this year’s Starr Symposium featured a series of community conversations about the “Work/Life Balance in a Woman’s Nation. Deborah Siegel, Courtney Martin, Kristal Brent Zook, and I kicked off the event with our WomenGirlsLadies panel, where we provided intergenerational perspectives on work and life choices.

“Nobody loves you better because you have used yourself up for them,” was just one of the points that resonated with the crowd.

Immersed in conversation about when we felt powerful

Here’s what Rita Arens has to say about the event over on BlogHer:

I tend to lack a governor. I would write myself into an early grave if it weren’t for my family.

Balance, which I’ve written about before, is tough whether or not you live with other people. I don’t think for one minute that single people don’t have balance issues — in fact, if I were living alone, I would actually have more balance issues than I do now, because I would have to depend on myself to tear me away from the blinking screen . . . I am trying lately to avoid using myself up.

Rita came up to me after the panel and told me that she wished she had had someone like me to talk to when she was 15. I told her that I wish I had had Gloria Feldt to talk to when I was 15!

Here’s what Talyn Helman has to say in her Young Feminist’s Point of View.

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PunditMom Joanne Bamberger hosted a very fun get together for DC area bloggers last week. I had a chance to tell them about No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power and to ask for their publicity suggestions and their support in getting the word out. This guest post appeared Friday, September 17, 2010 Friday, September 17, 2010, on I’m Not the Nanny, a blog written by Thien-Kim aka Kim. I was so touched by it that I asked Kim if I could re-post her comments here on Heartfeldt. She kindly let me share her post with you.

In the midst of diapers and runny noses, sometimes I forget that a world outside of mothering exists. I have gone days without reading or watching the news. (Thank goodness Twitter keeps me in the loop.) Some days I don’t even try leaving my apartment. It doesn’t seem worth the fight to get the kids dressed and the snacks packed to go on a outing.

Those days I forget that I am more than a mother.

I forget about me.

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[caption id="attachment_1548" align="alignright" width="122" caption="Debjani Chakravarty"][/caption]

This is the third and last (for now at least) of Debjani Chakravarty’s series exploring work life balance through the lens of economic and political culture. in this post, she asks the question of whether work life balance can or should be gender neutral. Debjani is a graduate student and artist, currently pursuing a PhD in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Arizona State University. She has worked as a journalist and social worker in India.

Rebecca is a grad student, and she works part time at Starbucks. She is getting a degree in social work, hopeful of pursuing a career she’s passionate about. She also works as an editor and ghost writer on the side. When I ask Rebecca about work life balance, she says, “Strange I never think about it. My parents never went to college and they never left their little Ohio town where I grew up. For them, my life’s a dream come true, and they are hopeful that someday I’ll be able to do all those things that they only planned about, travel, work a respectable job, buy a big house. Work life balance, let’s see. For me it’s about taking the occasional Adderall, so that I can keep working. My life’s on hold right now, work is all that matters.”

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[caption id="attachment_1551" align="alignright" width="122" caption="Debjani Chakravarty"][/caption]

Here’s part 2 of Debjani Chakravarty’s essay on work life balance. A PhD in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Arizona State Debjani ChakravartyUniversity who worked as a journalist and a social worker in India, Debjani is also an artist. You can view her beautiful artwork here. Comments below will thrill us both.

Neo traditional discourses and the media constructed mommy wars point at the fallacy of women having too much on their plates. The answer lies in choosing one role set, preferably home and child bearing over paid work. Motherhood is aligned with a discourse of citizenship and duties by the state. The question of a mother’s rights is articulated only by feminists in this post feminist era where women’s problems are framed as having solutions in increased consumption. The solution can range from taking a work life balance quiz in Cosmo or Oprah to setting up a home office with the latest technological gadgets. The question of work life balance becomes a project of the self, with the issue state and workplace policies not considered by the very women oppressed by multiple role expectations, smarting under immensely demanding gender identities.

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