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Bullying Boys and Bystander Enablers

October 13, 2017

 

Dear Global Friends/Thinkers,

 

Are you as shell-shocked as I am by the barrage of cultural and physical bullying dominating America's mindset?  The dysfunctional, nasty and even criminal behavior is so pervasive, with fresh examples coming so fast that I barely have time to soak in the implications of one before I'm stunned by the next. Las Vegas. Harvey Weinstein. Roger Ailes. "Don't you dare 'take a knee.'" Women's health is against my religion! Charlottesville. "Fire her!" I look at major news stories in a cultural context. Not as isolated events, but as connected threads and bellwethers of the society we are weaving. I'm distraught about the direction my country is heading. Bullying, backlash, fear and male power seem to be unchecked, while millions of bystanders lacking courage or moral fiber quietly enable the dysfunction. Where are our leaders?  

 

Here a few of my thoughts on current examples of America in cultural crisis. 

  

Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Scandal. Are you surprised? I'm not. Disgusted, yes. And furious that powerful men continue to prey on young women. Whether it's Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, John F. Kennedy or sexual trafficking, domestic violence and child marriage, this has been going on for centuries.  Do I think that this scandal is a sea change? I doubt it. Instead, I see the present reaction to the Weinstein, Ailes and Cosby sexual assault scandals as very similar to our behavior following mass shootings, such as the recent massacre in Las Vegas. Big stories grab the headlines and our national attention for a few weeks, at most. But nothing will change. We'll continue allowing citizens to stockpile weapons of war, and boards of directors will continue protecting sexual assaulters who are good for the bottom line. Not until dismayed Americans DEMAND change and stop looking the other way, ignoring the rumors, doubting the victims and accepting "boys will be boys/locker room behavior," will anything change, except for one predator finally getting caught.  Sadly, our iceberg of sexual assult and hostile work environments for women is as large as the national arsenal of American citizens. 

 

Take-A-Knee --  I see Colin Kaepernick as a leader. A patriot willing to risk his career to help our nation live up to our ideals of equality. Becoming the "more perfect union" our founding fathers and mothers imagined and fought for, doesn't just happen. It takes courageous leadership.  Not just in the beginning, but always.  Athletes, beginning with other NFL players and growing to include the WNBA, high school students and entertainers who have followed Kaepernick's lead to protest police violence that disproportionately affects African Americans are not disrespecting our flag or our troops. They are taking responsibility as active citizens. Challenging, perhaps shaming us to live up to our purported values. Disrespect for our "united nation" is not taking a knee during a song. It is flying a Confederate flag, insulting a United States senator who was a prisoner of war, groping female citizens at will, tempting World War III. 

 

Quarterback Cam Newton Insults Female Sports Reporter -- I was not the least bit surprised to hear Panther QB Cam Newton's insulting response to an excellent question from NFL beat reporter  Jourdan Rodrigue. "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said, chuckling. "It's funny." No it's not funny. But the good news is that none of the other male sportswriters in the room enjoyed his joke. They met his comment with stoney silence. Then, multiple male journalists around the country wrote commentaries criticizing Newton's neanderthal behavior. Dannon Yogurt dropped him as a product spokesman.  It's not just in the world of sports where females have endured unwelcoming (and much worse!) work environments. It is only when male colleagues get "in the game" with us as vocal, active allies that our culture will truly overcome sexual harassment, misogyny and both conscious and unconscious bias. Thank you guys! 

 

Suspension of ESPN Host Jemele Hill -- Because I was one of the first female TV sportsbroadcasters in this country and helped open sports locker rooms to female reporters (1978-1984), I want ESPN host Jemele Hill to succeed. That's why I initially thought she made a mistake in calling President Trump a "white supremacist" on Twitter.  A "personal twitter feed' for a public figure is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. I thought she crossed the line between sports commenting and political commenting. But she persisted in speaking up about national issues that concerned her. Now, ESPN has suspended her for two weeks.  Raising your voice during times of crisis when too many others are silent, takes courage. So, instead of criticizing Hill, I'm wondering why a sports commentator or NFL athletes should be held to different standards than our President -- who has called for the firing of both Hill and kneeling NFL players. Keep raising your voice, Jemele.  We need you -- not only covering sports, but speaking your truth as a woman of color refusing to be silent about racism.  

 

Bernie Sanders Opening Speaker for Women's March Conference --  I don't get this. If your slogan is, "It's Our Time to Lead," why would you not model your own motto? Of course men are essential allies in the fight for women's equality. When Susan B. Anthony opened the very first National Conference of American women in Seneca Falls, NY in 1948, Frederick Douglas and other men were with her. But Anthony and other suffragists led the convention. Bernie Sanders is one reason why the historic opportunity to elect the first woman president slipped away; perhaps for my lifetime. So, I won't be at the Women's Conference to hear him speak, although it is being held this month here in Detroit. Instead, I'll be in Houston at the World Leadership Conference of the International Women's Forum. And guess who we'll be inducting into the IWF Global Hall of Fame? Hillary Clinton, a leader who has done more to advance women and girls all over the world than Bernie Sanders has ever thought about.  

 

Battle of the Sexes. Finally, if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go see Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone as the legendary Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as self-described "male chauvanist" Bobby Riggs.  It's great! And take a few Millenials with you (my 24-year-old son, Kevin, loved it.) Hopefully, the movie will inspire them to pick up the torch of women's equality. Millenials are my greatest hope for once again hearing women Roar. 

 

Raise your Voice!  Anne 

It's Time for Women to Stop Being Politely Angry

September 11, 2016

I just returned from a fascinating, yet challenging, one-week assignment in Trinidad & Tobago for the U.S. State Department. The U.S. Embassy there asked me to lead three days of workshops on both islands for local NGO leaders and change agents working to address gender-related, civil society issues. Rape, incest, domestic violence and religiously-sanctioned marriage of girls as young as 12 top their URGENT list.

This "Scourge of Abuse," as the banner in this photo correctly calls the crisis, has gone unchecked for centuries.  It is now a full-blown global epedemic with females of every age vulnerable to attack at any moment, be they citizens of a tiny, 2-island West Indies nation or the most powerful democracy on earth. There is not a country in the world where female members of the human race are safe from the ever-present threat of sexual harassment, physical abuse and violent death, often at the hands of their own family members.

Babies and very young children -- victims of incest. Wives of every social class -- violently abused and often murdered by their own husbands. Gang rapes in India. Nigerian school girls kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Rampant sexual trafficking of young girls and child pornography. Women of any age, from puberty to senility -- raped; in their homes, on college campuses and while serving their country as soldiers in the military. The statistics are staggering and sickening.  

Add to that shameful list the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits that languish, forgotten for decades on crime lab shelves while serial rapists continue on their perverted paths of human abuse. 

I didn't go to Trinidad & Tobago bearing the gift of solutions. I wish I had them to give. I went seeking fresh insight for solving the "Scourge of Shame" we all rail against, as I went to lead workshops on collaboration and building allies for social change. 

One of the gifts I received was meeting U.S. Ambassador John Estrada. A native of Trinidad who came to the U.S. as a youngster and rose to become one of the highest-ranked officers in the U.S. Marines, Estrada is publicly raising his influential voice -- in speeches, in the news media and with government officials -- in opposition to child marriage and all types of gender violence. For him, it's personal. 

When he dropped by my workshop to show his support for the NGO leaders working for social change, the Ambassador didn’t just stick his head in and wave. He pulled up a chair and shared intimate memories of watching his mother being beaten by his step-father when the future Marine was too young to protect her. And he told how his own sister recently confided to him that she was sexually abused as a child by a relative. "Hurting females is a sign of weakness, not strength is what I want men to understand," he told us. 

I'm inspired and receive an injection of hope when I meet deeply committed male allies, such as Ambassador Estrada and Embassy Public Affairs Officer Stephen Weeks, who sponsored my visit. But I wake up in the middle of the night wondering, "Why is half of the human race still so passive as to allow our own tribe to be violently preyed upon day after day, year after year, century after century -- in our cradles, our homes, our campuses, our offices, our communities, our countries?  

At the beginning of the 21st Century, women throughout the world have achieved unprecedented levels of education, empowerment and leadership -- as individuals. But we are in kindergarten when it comes to leveraging our collective influence to fix the mighty wrongs still inflicted upon our half of the human race. 

We are naive if we believe gender violence will decline and women's influence will rise without a mighty fight. As Frederick Douglas, the former American slave who rose to become one of the greatest thought leaders of his time wrote, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Are you still "politely angry" over the rampant violence, sexism, outright mysogyny as well as lack of EQUAL POWER to shape the human condition of the human family? 

I'm done citing research and statistics until I am blue in the face, hoping logic and facts will trigger the long overdue, gender tipping point.  

I am too sickened by story after story of girls and women as victims. Too outraged over example after example of only TOKEN female representation in positions of power -- be it moderating presidential debates or taking our rightful seats in Congress and corporate Board Rooms. Too disgusted with criticisms of one of the most admired and accomplished women in the history of the world being picked apart, nibble by nibble, over trivialities. 

Change begins with our voices, our votes, our money -- and leveraging them collectively. Women have never been stronger; yet we are far from together enough to DEMAND and FORCE POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGE. 

As you rise, I hope you will also challenge yourself to INSIST that your Global Sisters rise with you. Not someday. But now . . . on our watch. 

Death By A Thousand Cuts

April 8, 2015

Dear Thinkers, Friends, Global Citizens, 

The “fire in my belly” is focused on helping to create a world where women and girls can achieve their full potential. It fuels my work as a Keynote Speaker, Author and Voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is also the area of greatest opportunity for human evolution. Because, at the beginning of the 21st Century, our greatest untapped natural resources are the brainpower, talent and wisdom of the female half of the human race.

 But I also care deeply about protecting and respecting the safety of the world’s children, the health of our planet, and the right of every individual, as our U.S. Constitution affirms, “to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That is why I am dismayed and grieving, along with millions of Americans, over a stunning event that just occurred in our nation. A fleeing male, African American U.S. citizen was shot in the back eight times by a white, male, South Carolina Police Officer. Because someone was courageous enough to capture those terrible moments on cell phone video, the officer has been fired and charged with murder. The video is difficult, but important, to watch. 

In every corner of our globe, humans are the only life form that attacks its own for inexplicable reasons. This is one of those days when I stagger under the weight of another tragic commentary on our species.  My response is an even deeper commitment to do everything in my power to help bring balance to the decision-making of the human family. We must CLOSE THE GENDER LEADERSHIP GAP. Let’s not leave it for others to do.  

On My Mind – What else am I thinking about?  

 

Spain- I spent the month of February in Spain and was privileged to teach at ESADE Business School in Madrid, as part of PROMOCIONA -- an Executive Women’s Leadership Program for women from top companies in Spain. Here’s a photo of these fabulous, young leaders just after they received copies of my book, POWERING UP! 

 • Ellen Pao and Sexism in Silicon Valley. Reddit CEO Pao may have lost her case but her conviction in confronting VC firm Kleiner Perkins has turned up the heat on hostile, frat-boy work climates that are driving women out of STEM fields in staggering numbers. Here’s one of the best articles I've read on the ongoing impact. 

• Women in Tech Experiencing Death by 1,000 Cuts. Those are the words of Ellen Pao. Here's a terrific Harvard Business Review article on the facts behind Pao's compelling claim. Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers. 

•  A Woman's Place is On the Money. Momentum is building in the U.S. for the first woman to be featured on our paper currency.  African American Shero Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit in the back of an Alabama bus symbolizes the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the USA, is the leading vote-getter to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Here’s the link to vote. 

• London Women's Leadership Conference. I’m thrilled to have been invited to be one of the Keynote Speakers at the June Women Mean Business Conference in London, co-sponsored by the Women’s Leadership Network and the UK’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills. My theme: Invite Yourself to the Leadership Dance! 

• Jimmy Carter Raises His Voice Against Religious Sexism. The former U.S. president and deeply-spiritual Christian has just severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention over church leaders re-newed insistence on the subservience of women to men. Here's his compelling explanation of why he has taken this painful but powerful step. I’ve long admired and appreciated the decades of contributions President Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, have made to lifting the human family. I highly recommend his most recent book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. 

Cool Upcoming Events: 

 Global – Johannesburg, South Africa. The Global Cornerstone Conference of the International Women's Forum, one of the preminent global networks of women leaders, will be in South Africa this year. Over 600 inspiring and accomplished “Sisters” from nearly 40 countries will gather to learn, discuss and consider, "Legacy & Inheritance: Journey Into the Future." I’ll be there.  

USA – New York City, April 22-24. Women in the World Annual Conference is one of the BEST I have ever attended. Big Names; Powerful Content. If you haven't attended, add it to your bucket list -- this year or next! 

• USA – Detroit, Michigan, April 28. Women of Courage & Achievement Awards, hosted by Michigan Women’s Foundation attracts over 800 movers and shakers. Great networking. See you there!  

 USA – SE Michigan, April 30. WONonder Women Awards, annual event hosted by the Women Officials Network (WON), which is committed to increasing the number of women in office. I’ll see you there, too!

 

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