On Anne's Mind

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The Ascent of a Woman: Lessons I've Learned from Hillary

November 23, 2008
 

               It won’t be official until after Thanksgiving, but here in the U.S. we all know it's a done deal.  Senator Hillary Clinton is about to become the United States Secretary of State for the Obama Administration. 

               Initially, I didn’t believe the rumors.   Then, I wondered if Clinton accepting a Cabinet position would mean loss of the independent voice of one of the most respected women political leaders in the world.  But apparently Hillary believes she will be able to make a more significant contribution at the State Department than as a relatively junior U.S. Senator. That's good enough for me.  

                The continued ascent of one of the most remarkable women leaders of our times got me thinking down two separate tracks.  First,  I was reminded of the seemingly endless stream of gender-based criticisms and undermining comments that Clinton has endured over the years.  It reached a fever pitch with political pundits during her presidential campaign.  One of the worst offenders was Hardball host Chris Matthews who opined during the Democratic primary:  “Let’s face it, the only reason Hillary Clinton is running for president and the only reason she became a U.S. Senator is because her husband messed around.”  

                  If that’s the case, Chris, what’s the reason Obama is about to entrust her with one of the most challenging diplomatic jobs in the world?  

                Hillary Rodham Clinton has earned her place in history, but she is far from done writing her legacy.  I continue to learn lessons about the evolution of leaders from watching her.  Here are a few of my favorites:  

·         How to Take the Heat:  I can’t think of a leader who has endured and overcome more personal attacks –unrelated to her positions on issues and policies -- about her gender, her clothing, her cleavage, her marriage, her tears than Clinton.   She has a great response, telling reporters, “The saying goes, ‘if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.'  Well, I’m very comfortable in the kitchen.” 

 

·         How to Be a Team Player:  How painful do you think it was for Clinton to lick her wounds and pick herself up after her loss to Senator Obama in the Democratic primary?  It didn't take her long to swallow her pride, get back on the campaign trail and give anyone who was watching  a great lesson in how to be both a fierce competitor and a team player.  And knowing when to change gears.

 

·         How to Find Your Voice:  Remember during the New Hampshire primary when showed some emotion while speaking to a small group of women voters?  It set off a 24 hour news cycle on whether or not Senator Clinton was “tough enough” to be president.  When she won the primary, she told her supporters, “I come here tonight with a very, very full heart, and I want especially to thank New Hampshire. Over the last week, I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice."  That defining moment for Clinton reminded me of how long it takes for leaders, who aspire to truly make a difference, to develop and begin to effectively use their authentic voices.

My second train of thought has to do with Barack Obama.  The selection for such a critical appointment of one of his fiercest rival during the campaign tells me a lot about the kind of leader our president-elect will be.  He has frequently mentioned his admiration for President Abraham Lincoln, calling him “a very wise man.”  In the days after the election, Obama was re-reading Lincoln’s writings.

           No doubt he was searching for the insight behind one of our greatest president's decision to assemble “a team of rivals” for his Cabinet.   Because that is exactly what Obama seems to be doing.  A leader who is confident and intellectually curious enough to surround himself, not just with “the best and the brightest,” but also with strong, diverse, independent voices, is a leader who welcomes constructive conflict and gives me great hope for our future.

 

African Woman Political Leader Decries Demeaning Images of Women U.S. Culture Exports

November 15, 2008

As a member of the International Women's Forum, the preeminent, global network for women leaders, I have developed friendships with spectacular women from every continent.  During the IWF conference, held in Pittsburgh this October, I met Kah Walla, a young, political leader from Camaroon, Africa, who has all the brain power, charisma and eloquence to become a tremendous leader.  

I asked her to talk with me about women's leadership.  Here is our conversation, which includes her compelling plea for the United States to stop exporting degrading images of women throughout the world through our movies and music videos.  Click here to listen to the voice and insight of a leader.  

Another Hurdle: 1st Woman Named Four Star General

November 15, 2008

The United States has become a nation of female achievers.  The next frontier is for women to start flying past the hurdles to equal leadership in our nation.  I'm thrilled by yesterday's news that the United States Army has just promoted the first woman to the prestigious rank of Four Star General.  After 33 years of service, General Ann Dunwoody was named to the military's highest rank, joining only 10 other active Four Star Generals. 

Her husband, who served for 26 years in the Air Force, helped do the honors at yesterday's emotional ceremony in Washingot, D.C.  To see the historic moment and hear what she had to say about the letters and emails she has received from military men and women throughout the world, click here.   

Does Detroit "Deserve" a Federal Bailout?

November 14, 2008

Many of you know that I worked in the automotive industry, for Ford Motor Company, for 13 years.  My brother, Vince, has been in the industry for over two decades. The American automakers, GM, Chrysler and Ford Motor Company, are on the verge of collapse.  GM is just months away from bankruptcy.  Currently, they are appealing to the federal government for a "Loan" to get through the current crisis.   I cannot improve on the words of my brother on this dire situation, so I share them here:


Dear Friends,

Most Americans don't appreciate what an amazing technological and industrial resource the American Automobile industry is. Most only know about a car, a dealer, or a manufacturer that failed them personally and so forevermore they deserve to suffer and fail.

That spiteful view diminishes the importance of an industry that represents one of humankind's noblest endeavors and a vital American industry that today is on the brink of collapse.

I strongly believe that the loan the automakers are requesting it is in the interest of the Nation, to assist the car companies in this time of crisis. I could go on and on about why. But that may come across of self serving and argumentative.  

For those of you who don't live in Michigan or aren't directly dependent on the domestic auto industry. I am asking that you take my word for it, and support the government loan currently being considered.   

What's in it for you?

If the automobile industry fails (and it is now on the precipice of collapse) we're all screwed. Me, you and America in general.

Now the global financial crisis may have already written our economic epitaph and this loan may not actually save American industry, but I am convinced that without it America's way of life will change immediately and I think irreversibly.

If you disagree, do nothing. (And pray that you are right.)

If you think there is any measure of truth in this, please contact me and I can give you more of my rationale.

If you agree, then it is incumbent upon you (as it is me) to persuade your friends, family and countrymen to support vital American industries like automotive with financial liquidity to help bridge the economic chasm before us.
 Below are some links sent to me by others to register your point of view with your U.S. Representative. Please help now.

Please contact your U.S. House of Representatives member and U.S. Senators and ask them to support the proposed bridge loan to help the U.S. auto industry weather this economic environment.

The following websites provide all of the information you and your employees need to either call or email your U.S.Representative and Senators:To call your elected officials, please go to http://capwiz.com/ford/callalert/index.tt?alertid=12188421. To send an email please go to http://capwiz.com/ford/issues/alert/?alertid=12190901

Sincerely,

Vince Doyle

Latcha+Associates

A RAINBOW COALITION OF WOMEN: THE ELECTION DECIDERS

November 11, 2008

 


     What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the most transformational election of my lifetime?  It has been a week to savor.  The election of Senator Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States sent a signal heard ‘round the world that the times they are a changin’ in America.  

 

     We’ve all been hearing for years that the U.S. was becoming a multi-racial nation, as Hispanics, Asians, Indians, Arabs and many other immigrant populations have steadily grown.  But I believe the 2008 presidential election was the moment when Americans, as a people, turned a corner and began to embrace the diversity of our country as never before.  From the perspective of leadership, the significance of this election goes way beyond WHO was chosen as the 44th president. WHO did the choosing was equally significant.

     A highly diverse coalition of voting Americans came together to smash the old paradigm of what a president of the United States “looks like.”  Obama won young voters (2/3rds), older voters, college educated, working class, red state, and blue state.  But the largest cohort group behind Obama's victory was women, who supported him(56%) in bigger numbers than men (48%).   Obama was supported by: 

• 96% of African American women
• 68% of Latina women
• 46% of White women

African Americans and Women Have Always Risen Together:  The night of the election, one of the most profound insights I heard came from an African American, male, Harvard Law Professor speaking on National Public Television.  While everyone around him was focusing on the significance of the ultimate leadership racial barrier being smashed, he pointed out that Obama’s election was equally significant for women.  Why? 

     He eloquently reminded viewers of how inter-twined African Americans’ and women’s progress has been in our history.   It was women’s activism, in the late 19th Century, during the Abolitionist Movement to end slavery that led to the Women's Suffrage Movement and, finally, the right for women to vote in 1920.  It was women’s activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s that led to the fight for their own legal rights during the Women's Movement of the 1970s. 

     And in 2008, it was a rainbow coalition of women who came together to help sweep the Harvard-educated son of an American and a Kenyan into the White House and the most powerful leadership position in the world.  

U.S. Trails 68 Countries For Women Elected Leaders:  The United States is ranked 69th of 188 countries ranked for the percentage of women elected to their national parliament or legislature.   The African nation of Rwanda is first with 56.3%.  Sweden is second with 47%, while the U.S. lags behind 68 countries with only 17% of women in our Congress.  

     But change is in the wind.  I believe -- and hope -- that this amazing election is just the beginning of a dramatic expansion of America’s ability to tap the full potential of our greatest natural resource:  our people.  ALL of our people.  

Another Step on my Book Writing Journey

November 11, 2008

In my soul, I am a news reporter.  Naturally nosey and always looking for "the story."  So, when I decided that I was going to write a book on women's leadership, I began by interviewing fascinating, accomplished women from all over the U.S. -- and even some global leaders.  To date, I have interviewed nearly 100 inspiring women leaders.  And in the process, I found "the story."  The story is that we are now a nation of female achievers.  But when it comes to leadership, American women are still "leadership underachievers."  Some bristle at that label, because we Americans like to think of ourselves as "the best in the world" -- in everything.  But the truth is, American women's progress has stalled in recent years.  And, women in other countries aren't waiting for us to lead -- instead, they are surging ahead.  For example, the U.S. is ranked 69th in the world on a global list that ranks countries on their percentage of women in their national legislatures or parliaments.   The African nation of Rwanda is number 1, with 56.3% of their national representatives women.  Sweden is numer 2, with 47%.  And the U.S. lags way behind 68 countries -- with 17%.

But, I predict that American women are on the verge of another surge forward.  This time, the frontier is leadership.   One of the big hurdles for writing a book is to convince a terrific agent to represent you.  I am thrilled to have just signed with Betsy Amster, a highly respected and well-connected agent.  Here is a profile from the American Society of Journalists and Authors:  

The Power of Perseverance

November 2, 2008


       Every “Top 10” list I’ve ever read of the essential qualities for success  always includes Perseverance.  Whether the goal you’ve set for yourself is in politics, business, sports, mastering a skill, or getting through tough days in a personal relationship, there is nothing more essential than perseverance and tenacity.  You know what I'm talking about.  That good old “never, ever give up” determination to hang in there and overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way. 

      This has been one of the toughest qualities for me to master.  Not because I'm a quitter or give up easily, but because I'm an Explorer -- one of those people who is always looking for the next challenge.   It has taken me years to learn to distinguish between an obstacle that needs to be overcome and a brick wall. Billie Jean King, one of the greatest athletes of our times and the only woman to have a major sports facility named after her, has just written a new book, Pressure is a Privilege.  Here's what she has to say about handling the obstacles we find ourselves up against.  "To enjoy life and make the best of it, try to recognize when it's time to try a different approach, and when it's time to just walk in a new direction."  

       Here are three examples from my experience of the difference between those two: 
 
 Sports:  Years ago, when I was hired by CBS-TV in Detroit as one of the first women TV sports broadcasters in the U.S., I knew that one of the obstacles I'd have to overcome would be achieving the same access to sports locker rooms as the male journalists I'd be competing against.  But when Tiger General Manager Jim Campbell told me, "Over my dead body you'll go in our Tiger Clubhouse," I didn't see his attitude as a brick wall.  Why?  Because I knew it was pure gender discrimination and I believed that the courts would eventually find the policy illegal.  And that's exactly what happened. 

       By early 1979, the Detroit Tigers and professional teams across the country were give a choice:  let all journalists -- female as well as male -- into your lockerrooms for interviews, or keep everyone out.  I was privileged to be part of pushing past that obstacle, not only for myself but for little girls who dreamt of future careers as sports broadcasters.  But the day also came when I realized I was pounding my head against a cultural brick wall that stood between me and my next career step:  covering sports for one of the national networks.  In the mid 1980's, the networks were still years away from "being ready" to hire women to cover sports.  When you run into a brick wall that tough, unless you are willing to keep pounding your head against it for years, it's time, as Billie Jean says, "to walk in a new direction."   

Corporate Business:   When I joined Ford Motor Company in 1987, it was one of the largest and most successful corporations in the world.  The 1990's was a golden decade for women in the auto industry.   Engineers, designers, lawyers, plant managers and even a few senior executives pushed up against the "steel ceiling" in huge numbers, overcoming obstacles that had blocked opportunities for women for decades.  My favorite story is one told by my friend, Kathleen Ligocki, who is now CEO of GS Motors, the automobile division of Grupo Salinas in Mexico.  When she was hired as the first woman manager at a manufacturing facility, the plant manger told her, "If you're going to be part of my management team, then you're going to have to wear a tie, just like the guys."  Ligocki's response?  "I'll start wearing a tie when the men wear a bra!" Another obstacle overcome.  The time came, however, when opportunities for women to continue to progress in the auto industry slowed to a trickle.  Automotive News reported in 2006, "Female Execs Bail Out of Detroit 3."  I was one of dozens who decided we had finally run up against an industry brick wall not worth pounding against. 


 Writing a Book:  Today, I'm writing my first book.  It may be the hardest thing I've ever done.  For nearly two years, I have been researching, interviewing, thinking and writing.   At times I've felt as if the mountain I decided to climb was just too tough.  Other times, I felt the exhiliration of learning from the nearly 100 fascinating women of all ages, professions and cultures who have taken time to do interviews and share their wisdom with me.  Writing a book is lonely work.  The rewards await far in the distance.  On those days that I get discouraged, I remind myself that my obstacles are self-created.  This is not the time to seek my next career opportunity.  This is the time to test my own tenacity -- to see how well I can practice what I preach. 

Next time you find yourself facing an obstacle that feels like a crossroads, before you make your move, ask yourself the question one of the great leaders of our time asks, "Is this time to try a different approach?  Or, is it time to walk in a new direction?"    


 

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