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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. 

On the Eve of Significant Leadership Change

April 20, 2016

I know. I know. I've heard from quite a few of you who have been wondering why it has been several months since I was last in touch. The answer is in this photo. Her name is La Brava (spanish for brave female), and she was my Christmas present to myself. Brava is now five months old, house-trained and beginning to calm down a bit. So, I can finally begin turning my attention to more than simply integrating the "new baby" into my household.  

The other reason for my blog silence is that I haven't felt that I had anything new to say or compelling enough to share with all of you. My lens on the world is that of a journalist. I'm always looking for "the story." What's new? Where are the cultural edges? Based on USA news coverage for the last few months, you'd think there was nothing else happening in the world other than the incessant verbal abuse that Republican and Democratic presidential "wanna-bes" have been hurling at each other. All I can say about the present state of the U.S. presidential campaign is simply this: "I can hardly wait to see the TV debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump!"

Finaally Some News Worth Mentioning: We're On the Eve of Significant Change. The cultural tide carrying talented, skilled women leaders to positions of significant power and global influence is about to come in. I've sensed for some time that a gigantic wave of change was beginning to surge. Because the old narratives about women and leadership are as worn-out and as irrelevant as those 1980's "dress for success" female bow-ties.

You know the platitudes: Needing to fill the talent pipelines. Fixing women to fit in to Neanderthal work cultures and master male behaviors. Walking the tightrope between being too passive or perceived as a bitch. And, of course, being realistic about work/life balance. Men can be both high-achievers and good parents;women, however, must choose. We could sense that times have been "a changin'." But finally, there's evidence that enough women (an emergent critical mass) have achieved executive leadership positions to be successfully leading transformational change. 

The Everest Project is an unprecedented study of how women are successfully leading change and innovation in corporate America. Its first report, "Eve of Change: Redefining Corporate America," has just been released. I was alerted to this ground-breaking research by personal friends at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), one of the study's sponsors. Everest Project Co-Founders and study authors Pamela Carlton and Lily Tang call the compelling insights revealed by their findings, "A call to action to CEOs, senior executives and all women executives (1) to examine opportunities for leading change and creating cultures of innovation and (2) to fully support women executives who in many respects are leading the way." Here is how Carlton and Tang summarize several of their Key Findings.  

Finding 1: Women Lead Transformational Change. Women executives who are effectively leading -- aka "Everest Women" -- are actually transforming companies, through not only their own behavior as role models, but also as catalysts for collective behavior change in corporate America.

Finding 2: Women Embrace Smart Risk. "Contrary to popular belief," the authors report, "women often take significant risk on behalf of their organizations." In my book, POWERING UP!I call this leadership skill the ability to Drink at Dangerous Waters. It includes everthing from having the courage to voice a contrarian opinion, even when you are the only woman in the room, to being willing to throw assumptions about "how we've always done things" out the window.  

Finding 3: Humility is the New Power Tool. But be careful, Carlton and Tang advise. "Confidence and credibility are prerequisites for leading with humility, which is all about the delicate balancing act between signaling leadership presence without being perceived as too agreessive or arrogant." The gender tightrope that women leaders must walk is a little wider thesse days, but navigating it well still takes skill. 

Finding 4: Collaboration is Not Consensus. Everest Women take the view from ten thousand feet across the organization, communicate well, are open to new ideas and encourage healthy debate. But they also understand that it eventually falls to take the critical step forward.   

Finding 5: Difference is More. I wrote an entire chapter in POWERING UP! about the leadership skill I call "Womaninity," to explain why leading as a woman is no longer a weakness to be overcome; it is a strength to be leveraged. Everest Report authors Carlton and Tang agree. "Because of their difference, women are multidimensionally competent," they report. "Women who have figured out how to use their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and cultural background as part of their leadership toolkit, bring far more to the table for their corporations and teams." 

This is fascinating and actionable insight. I urge you to download the report, read it and share it.

I'm Celebrating:

  • Roberta Gibb's 50th anniversary as the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon.  
  • Harriet Tubman about to replace former slave owner Andrew Jackon on the $20 bill. 

I'm Watching:

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advocating for male engagement in gender parity at this year's Davos World Economic Forum 
  • Confirmation -- HBO's excellent new movie on the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas showdown that held our nation spellbound 25 years ago and deepened our understanding of sexual harassment. 

I'm Reading:  

  

Next month, I'm travelling to Tel Aviv to participate in my 12th global conference of the International Women's Forum, one of the preeminent networks of women leaders from every continent. As the newly elected president of the Michigan IWF chapter, this will be the first time that I will participate in the President's Council sessions, as well. The content is always cutting edge and this year's theme is, "Seek, Solve, Soar." I promise to take great notes and to share the most compelling insights and stories  . . . SOON! 

Spring Greetings from Motown - a city beginning to rise again.  Anne 

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!

 

Relentless Incrementalism

August 10, 2014

As a long-time journalist, I'm always looking for the "edges" of cultural change and fresh thinking. Here are several items related to women's leadership and the global gender gap, which have caught my attention recently. 

 Relentless Incrementalism -- Compelling two words that a U.S. State Department Foreign Officer recently shared with me over a cup of cofee in Washington, DC. They are her mantra for making a positive difference when working in a new culture and country, which is her life's work.  "First, you have to look for and understand where the cultural "edges" are," she told me. "Then, you try to steadily move them in a positive way. That's relentless incrementalism." I love the image -- two very powerful words that can be a great mindset for just about anything you're trying to accomplish. 

The Confidence Gap -- Atlantic Magazine recently published an article that made my blood boil. Here's the subtitle: "Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence." I'm sick to death of articles on "what's wrong with women" compared to men. There's NOTHING WRONG WITH WOMEN. We've spent nearly five decades educating ourselves, learning the rules of every professional arena (written by and for men) and acquiring the professional seasoning and savvy that centuries of women were denied the opportunity to learn. Here's the Atlantic Magazine article that had me ranting.  What do you think? Would love to hear your reactions. 

Having It All -- Matt Lauer asked GM CEO Mary Barra whether she could be a both a good Mother and an effective CEO. And Indra Nooyi, long-time CEO of PEPSICO, was asked the same question at the Aspen Institute's recent Ideas Festival. This question has been put to women leaders ad nauseum! It's time to start asking this question of male leaders. When a male CEO recently spoke up about this issue, his frankness made national news. 

Diversity Toll -- Did you hear about the research just released by the University of Colorado, which found that women and people of color can pay a “political price” for aligning themselves and leading around issues of Diversity & Inclusion?  But guess what.  White men earn points for taking the lead on diversity and inclusion! The news made the Wall Street Journal.  This doesn't surprise me, but confirms my believe that the the engagement of men is the "Leadership Missing Link" needed for us to make significant progress. And as for "the price" women may pay for speaking up about the gender gap -- remember Mother Teresa's mantra: Do It Anyway! 

Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX). Finally, here's the most exciting development I've come across in months.  Sallie Krawcheck, former Wall Street SuperStar and now owner of Ellevate (fomerly 85 Broads) has teamed up with Pax World Funds to create a stock mutual fund that invests in 400 of the top female-focused global corporations, including Blue Chips such as Microsoft, Nestle, Xerox and Lockheed Martin.  I recently interviewed Joe Keefe, CEO of Pax World Funds, who told me, "If you don't put your money to work in support of your values, you are leaving your most powerful arrow in your quiver."  Here's the segment that the PBS NewsHour did on the new fund, including interviews with Krawcheck and Keefe. Women’s fund seeks share of prosperity for female-focused firms.  I'm planning to invest. Hope you'll consider doing the same and share this news with your network.

Finally, just for fun, here's a photo with Sloan, a big, powerful, fabulous mare.  Horsin' Around is my favorite way to re-charge my batteries.  

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