Consider this your Women’s History Month bonus post. In the heated contemporary debate about whether Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s exhortation to women to Lean In will help women in less elevated positions, Ruth Nemzoff, Resident Scholar at Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center and author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family reminds us that this dispute is hardly new. You could substitute “Sandberg” for “Friedan” in most of Nemzoff’s article. And the takeaway lessons for women remain the same too.
That’s why women today who create media by producing, writing, and directing are of the utmost importance to creating the future of our choice.
Some women in leading roles on and off screen—like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, and Shonda Rhimes—use their writing to make women the protagonists of their stories. Their takes on what those roles mean to women and feminism, however, are quite diverse.
I remember how excited I was to discover Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the early 1980’s. She was one of the few females writing about leadership and organizational change management. I hungrily devoured The Change Masters as a relatively new nonprofit CEO navigating roiling changes in the healthcare and political landscape while learning to lead a complex organization toward continued growth.
This distinguished Harvard Business School professor’s influential theories about change in the workforce have permeated much of the thinking about organizational change. And unlike the men writing and teaching about it, Kanter infused her work with a lens on one of the biggest workplace changes of the 20th century: women breaking through workplace glass ceilings.
Kanter, former editor of Harvard Business Review and author of 18 books, has been named one of the “50 most powerful women in the world” by the Times of London, and the “50 most influential business thinkers in the world” by Accenture and Thinkers 50 research.
Her groundbreaking book Men and Women of the Corporation—I mean, who had ever mentioned “women” and “corporations” in the same book title?—remains a classic analysis of power distribution within organizations.
Kanter told the hard truth about women in the workforce, after conducting a five-year study on the American manufacturing company. She explained how women were tokenized to work in clerical jobs rather than management; and how even though there were plenty of women in large organizations, they rarely ran the show. She observed that the first women breaking through to leadership roles were still tokens in a male dominated workforce.
Today’s U.S. Congress is made up of less than 20% of female members—18% to be exact—a far cry from the parity we strive toward. Any conversation about Women’s History Month must include the rather dismal representation of women in American politics across the board.
The Congressional delegation from New Hampshire are the exception to that 20% barrier. Last November, two women won Congressional seats, joining the two women who already held New Hampshire’s two Senate seats. To top it all off, the state’s governor, speaker of the State House, and chief justice of the State Supreme Court are all women as well.
These women have made history by making New Hampshire the first state with an all-female Congressional delegation.
While this should be celebrated as a historic win for women and women’s rights, the beliefs of these women are diverse, to say the least. On one hand, there’s Carol Shea-Porter, who stands with EMILY’s List and the National Women’s Political Caucus, among other feminist organizations. And then there’s Kelly Ayotte,
A very interesting conversation between InPower founder Dana Theus and myself led to this upcoming webcast. I hope you will join and put in your two cents worth. Women are making history every day. But we don’t always realize that. On the other hand, we do love to analyze ourselves, and the topic of intergenerational communication about feminism is always a hot one. See all the details and join up for the live broadcast or via replay!
This Women’s History Month, I want to pay special attention to women leaders who are making history today. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is one woman who is not only making history; she is consciously and deliberately doing so—and telling the story.
In January, Justice Sotomayor released her memoir, “My Beloved World,” which provided an honest look at the life of an American leader. While her role in the government is often sanitized, and many people have no idea what the life of a Supreme Court justice is like, Sotomayor reminds her readers that she, too, is a human being.
Sotomayor comes from humble beginnings. As a young girl from the Bronx, she had to administer her own insulin injections. Both of her parents emigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico, and she lost her father at nine years old. At Princeton, she advocated for Latinos by setting up an action group for Puerto Ricans on campus and by lobbying for Latino professors to join the Ivy League’s ranks.
Even though her job requires her to remain dispassionate about her work, Sotomayor comes off a bit more emotionally in-tune than her colleagues. As the third woman and first Hispanic to join the Supreme Court, her individuality in the courtroom sets a positive example. Understanding her own significance allows her to advocate for the progress of other women and other Latinas who need someone of high authority to be in the public scope, to be visible—to be a role model who can inspire others to achieve as she has done.
Women’s leadership, or not, is the hottest topic of the moment, thanks to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s terrific new book Lean In. It prompted CNN.com to ask me to write this commentary.
They changed my title and last line (I wrote “Leaning In together…” which I thought more apropos than “Striving together…”). And they edited out my fun opening reference to the grey umbrella party favors with the Bloomberg logo that were presented to each guest as we exited into the snowy night, and a few other fun details of the AAA list Lean In launch party. Start reading here, click to the full article on CNN.com, and share your comments here and there (tweets and reposts will be appreciate too):
(CNN) — At the launch party for Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial new book, “Lean In,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained only half jokingly that the book — which hit Amazon.com’s best seller list well ahead of its March 11 release — is doing way better than his book did. Then he introduced Arianna Huffington, who introduced the woman of the moment.
Malala Yousafzai is living proof that leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, genders, ethnicities, nationalities, and ages. We usually think of history being made by people with some years on them, but this courageous young woman demonstrates that anyone of any age can be a history maker.
In 2009, Yousafzai began sharing her stories under a pseudonym for the BBC. Yousafzai documented the drop in attendance of girls at her school after an increased concern over safety. Just after her blog ended, the Taliban temporarily banned women from going to jobs and to the market. In Pakistan her and her father received death threats in person, in newspapers, and online.
Despite the dangers associated with reaching out to press, Yousafzai continued to talk to media to advocate equal education. She could be the poster child for No Excuses Power Tool #8: employ every medium [link].
In 2012, the young activist was shot by members of the Taliban in the Swat district of Pakistan, while returning home from school. Yousafzai was targeted after being recognized in Pakistan for advocating education for all girls. Even though Yousafzai was shot at point blank range, she lived to tell the tale.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women has New York hopping with powerful and, yes, ambitious female leaders from around the world this week. Each is making women’s history in her own way.
Today, I share just a few images of events I’m attending.
Are you attending? If so, please share your impressions.
Television anchor and entrepreneur Joya Dass and I celebrated the launch of IMPACT 21 Leadership with its founder Janet Salazar. Joy and I both participated in a lively panel discussion of women’s emerging power globally and locally.
But unfortunately, lately she’s made history in the negative. The strides she made in her own career could soon be overshadowed by steps backward she’s made for other women—and men too, as it turns out.
The first sign trouble was brewing in paradise came even as Mayer was being lauded for bursting through the silicone barrier while demonstrating women have both brains and uteri. Apparently she forgot a few chapters of her own history when she said in the recent PBS “Makers” interview:
“I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist…I don’t I think have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that…There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women.”
Umm, how does a female a CEO of a Fortune 500 company think she became one? And even if she doesn’t want to throw a nod to the feminist movement that opened doors for her, is she completely oblivious to any female “first’s” responsibility to help other women advance?