Women's Leadership Expert

Never Eliminate Yourself

The Doyle Family, 1971
Anne Doyle and family, 1971

My interest in women achieving their full potential began decades ago. I am the big sister of seven, blessed with highly-educated parents who raised their children to work hard and treat others as equals. My father's mantra was the same for his daughters as his sons: "Never Eliminate Yourself." He told each of us, "The world is a competitive place. If you aren't the best one for the job, for the team, or maybe just because you look different, it will eliminate you from opportunity. But whatever you do, never eliminate yourself by hesitating to pursue your goals."

And my mother modeled the courage necessary to follow our Dad's advice. We witnessed her repeatedly (and effectively!) standing up to authority. And if everyone else was doing or wearing something, that was exactly why the Doyle kids weren't!

Moving into high school and college, I chafed under the blatant gender bias that limited my life options compared to those opening to my brothers. Studying at the University of Madrid, in Spain, and earning my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, I became increasingly aware of gender barriers. I sensed the cultural quicksand that seeps under our female skin, grips us to stay in place and resists our efforts to emerge to new and higher ground.

But I was also lucky enough to come of age at a time of tremendous social change. I witnessed the Civil Rights struggles and progress of the 1960s and 70s and marched for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which is still not part of the U.S Constitution. As I was finishing college, laws were changing and doors of opportunity cracking open for women and people of color ambitious and courageous enough to step through. It was a time of "firsts," in every profession once exclusively the domain of men, from doctors and lawyers, judges and senators, astronauts and athlete to journalists and scientists, fire fighters, police officers and soldiers.

Change Agent

Campaigning with former Southfield Mayor and US Representative Brenda Lawrence
Campaigning with Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence who taught Anne the art of political door-knocking

As a TV news and sports reporter/anchor, I was not only ambitiously pushing the edges of opportunity for women in journalism, I was also on the front lines of dramatic social change, covering the dramatic forward steps and frequent backlashes. I witnessed first-hand the strength, tenacity and courage of national leaders and championship athletes, from Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm to Reggie Jackson, Billie Jean King and Magic Johnson.

My leadership education continued during my nearly two decades in global business, writing speeches for legendary Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta and working side-by-side with business leaders on four continents as a Ford Motor Company executive. I was nearly always the only woman at the table.

When my son Kevin was seven years old his father died, leaving me a single parent with sole responsibility for our small family. As Kevin was entering his teenage years, I took an early retirement from Ford Motor Company. That's when I did what I had been urging other women to do for years. I ran for political office and served in local government.

Anne discusses sistering: leveraging the collective power of women to support growth in women's leadership.

At the same time, I began researching the women's leadership conundrum: Why haven't women moved into leadership roles in the record numbers that we entered professions once limited to men? During my working lifetime, I had witnessed the USA and other developed countries become nations of women High Achievers.

But despite pipelines now bursting with three, unique generations of highly-educated, professionally-seasoned women ready and itching to lead, the leadership locker room doors still signal, "No (or few) Women Allowed."

So, I did what any reporter would do. I started investigating. I began by pouring through all the research on structural and cultural barriers, as well as conscious and unconscious gender bias, that ambitious women inevitably run up against. I also did original field research, interviewing hundreds of diverse women leaders from vastly different professions, cultures, generations and countries.

I wanted to know what the rare women who had made the leap to leadership had learned along the way.

What did I learn?

Well, read my book! -- POWERING UP! How America's Women Achievers Become Leaders. But here's a taste:

Powering Up! How America's Women Achievers Become Leaders

Women today are like a sports team that is loaded with super stars but has never won a championship. Why? One key reason – but not the only -- is that despite all our individual achievements, we haven't learned to play as a team. I identified and wrote a chapter on each of the three very different generations of aspiring women in the workplace today -- Pioneering Interlopers (Baby Boomers), Influential Insiders (Gen X's) and I'll-Do-It-My-Way Innovators (Millennials). We need to understand our differences so that we can begin supporting one another and leveraging women's collective power. Every woman for herself is a losing strategy.

POWERING UP! also describes seven critical skills that high-achieving women who believe they are leadership material must master next. They are the graduate work for women who have already "leaned in." They are: Discover Your Purpose; Raise Your Voice; Break the Rules; Claim Power; Drink at Dangerous Waters; Get Back in the Saddle; and Womaninity. POWERING UP!, published in 2011, is now in its 3rd edition.

My work as an Author, Keynote Speaker and Workshop Leader has taken me to nearly every state in the USA and over 30 countries. My clients have included many Fortune 500 companies, including General Motors, PepsiCo, Dow Chemical, Chevron, EY, KPMG, Accenture, U.S Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. I've been invited to lecture and engage with students at top universities, including Barnard, Northwestern, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Oakland and the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State, as well as the University of Madrid, and ESADE Business School in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain.

Global Citizen

Visiting Saudi Women and Journalists
Anne's global assignments for the U.S. Department of State included teaching leadership and communications skills in Saudi Arabia

My global leadership experience was deepened through several years of work for the U.S. State Department. I was sent to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Spain and Trinidad & Tobago where I was asked to teach leadership skills and engage with journalists, doctors, community activists, academics, students and embassy leaders. Executive Women at State invited me to be their Keynote Speaker for International Women's Day in Washington, D.C.

Most recently, I host the POWERING UP! weekly podcast with my Millennial niece, Monica Doyle. It is a cross-generational, cross-cultural conversation about women and power. What it looks like; why it's important; and women of all generations are claiming it -- individually and collectively.

In addition to my work as Principal of Powering Up Women, I have served on multiple boards, including the Detroit Sports Hall of Fame, the Women's Economic Club Advisory Board, the Auburn Hills Planning Commission and the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) Board of Directors.

I am currently the president of the Michigan chapter of the International Women's Forum, a by-invitation, prestigious global network of 7,000 women leaders from 37 countries. My involvement with IWF has further enriched and deepened my leadership experience through engaging with preeminent leaders from all over the world at 15 global conferences, including in Amman, Jordan; Johannesburg, South Africa; Stockholm, Sweden; Tel Aviv, Israel; Montreal Canada and every major U.S. city.

Parent

Anne with Son, Kevin
Anne and son, Kevin Doyle Farrell

Of all my leadership laboratories, there is no question that the most intense has been parenting (yes, parenting!), but also the most rewarding. I have held many challenging jobs, but the position of Mother is the only one that led me, at times, to fear that I would not succeed. (Oh, those teenage years!).

Having raised my son as a single parent and the sole support of our family, I understand the pressures and demands of trying to be a great parent, while also succeeding at work.

My fantastic son, Kevin, is now 27 years old and launching his own life journey. He didn't teach me everything I know, but he taught me humbling lessons in the art of leadership that I would never have mastered without him.

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