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It's Time for Women to Start Talking About the Elephant in the Room

April 17, 2009

Although I've liked to think of myself as an educated, evolved woman, it's only in the past few months -- as I've delved deeper into cultural differences among women -- that I've begun to grasp how oblivious I've been to the huge divide that separates Caucasian or Anglo American women from women of color. 

I've been stunned to discover that research studies show the percentage of women of color who feel they can trust Caucasian women is as low as 22%.  

Within the past month I experienced powerful, visual confirmation of the cultural divide between women when I had the opportunity to hear two of the most influential voices of my lifetime speak:  Dr. Maya Angelou and Feminist leader Gloria Steinem.  The lectures were four weeks apart in different performance halls, but they both spoke to sold out audiences in metropolitan Detroit. For Dr. Angelou, I would estimate the audience was over 90% African American women.  For Gloria Steinem, the racial mix was exactly the opposite:  closer to 95% Caucasian women.  

Since then, I've begun to interview experts who know much more than I do about this great divide between American women of different cultural backgrounds and socializiations.  One of my first conversations was with Dr. Anne Litwin, pictured here, a human and organizational development expert whose life work has focused on helping women in organizations to bridge differences and learn to support one another.   The first thing I learned from Dr. Litwin is that Caucasian women need to begin to educate ourselves about this "Elephant in the Room." The differences are deep.  But the payoffs for reaching across the divides will be huge. 

U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently said that we are "a nation of cowards" when it comes to talking about race.  Courage is one of the essential qualities that differentiates leaders, who help move society forward, from those who are simply individually successful achievers.  Courage is something you build -- like a muscle -- with repeated effort.  If you're interested in beginning to talk about this particular Elephant, I invited you to listen in on my conversation with Dr. Anne Litwin.  I hope it will get you thinking new thoughts, having courageous conversations -- and that you'll share this inteview with others.  

It's Not Augusta National but Another Venerable Barrier Falls

April 15, 2009

When it comes to golf, St. Andrew's and Augusta National have plenty in common.  Not only are they considered the "elite" golf courses of the world, neither club allows women as members.   Now, St. Andrew's has a dilemma.  The two previous presidents of St. Andrew's University were named honorary members of the venerable club that makes the rules for the world of golf.  But now, Louise Richardson -- the first non-Brit, non-Protestant and, egad!, woman -- has been named president of the University.   The Irish-born, Catholic, Harvard-trained, naturalized U.S. citizen isn't making an issue of the golf question, although it has the town all abuzz.  Dr. Richardson is more interested in, as the New York Times put it recently, "an accelerated evolution, not leading a revolution."  Click here for a fascinating look at Old Barriers Crumbling.  


The Taliban Aren't the Only Threats to Women's Human Rights

April 8, 2009

The public flogging of a teenage girl in Pakistan by the Taliban and a new lAfghan aw that gives Shiite men the right to rape their wives have triggered International outrage and brought the issue of the growing attacks on women's human rights to public consciousness once again.  But it's not just Afghanistan and Pakistan where women continue to be second class citizens.  It is EVERY SINGLE NATION IN THE WORLD, including the United States.  

According to the Global Gender Gap Report, published annually by the World Economic Forum, the United States is ranked a disturbing 27th in the world for women's gender equity.  The Nordic countries, Norway (1), Finland (2), Sweden (3) and Iceland (4) have closed 80% of the gaps between men and women's equality in their countries, but still have a ways to go.  The report is fascinating reading and provides insight on why the U.S. is ranked so low.

Here in the U.S., a woman's human right to make decisions about her own body, particularly related to reproduction, remains very fragile and under constant attack.  This morning, I discovered a fantastic interview on this topic -- with two internationally recognized women leaders, advocates and authors.  Dr. Riane Eisler, author of the classic, The Chalice and the Blade, talks with Gloria Feldt, the long-time CEO of Planned Parenthood and author of Send Yourself Roses, with actress Kathleen Turner.   The interview was done before the 2008 presidential election, but the messages are as relevant and urgent as ever. 

Click here to listen. 


Interview with Dr. Judy Rosener, National Expert on Gender and Leadership

April 3, 2009

Why This Crisis is Good for America is the title of a fascinating article in this week's Time magazine.  Written by author Kurt Anderson, the article makes the point that we've arrived at ". . . a spectacular moment of global consciousness."    Anderson goes on to say, "... this is the moment for business to think different and think big." In other words, never waste a good crisis.

That's one of the many reasons why I believe that women are on the verge of another tremendous surge forward:  this time into leadership positions.  Not only is there a critical mass of women achievers in the U.S. workforce today, there seems to be growing willingness to consider that perhaps we might not have gotten into quite the mess wer'e in if we hadn't left nearly all of the major decision making in the hands of only half of the human brainpower.   Now that women are close to 51% of the workforce (81% of the layoffs have impacted men) and have been earning more college degrees than men for two decades, the next frontier is for a critical mass of women to move into leadership roles -- in ever professional sector.   Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Judy Rosener (pictured here), a nationally recognized expert on gender and women's leadership.  She's the author of several books, including:  America's Competitive Secret: Women Managers.  Her Harvard Business Review article, "Ways Women Lead" is a classic.  Click here for Dr. Rosener's most recent thoughts on how greater numbers of women can begin to "power up" to leadership.       

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