“Power Unused, Power Useless” in Women’s Financial Choices, Says Jacki Zehner

Among the many impressive women I interviewed for No Excuses, Jacki Zehner stands out. The youngest woman and first female trader to become a partner at Goldman Sachs in 1996, Zehner is a founding partner of Circle Financial Group. She matches her business acumen and success with her strong commitment to philanthropy, including the Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions groups that focus on women and girls.

But Jacki Zehner doesn’t stop with making and giving money; she’s on a mission to gain gender parity in the financial industry where women in leadership roles have traditionally been few, and to encourage women to invest their money in ways that help other women get a fair shake in the business world. We both spoke at the Women’s Funding Network conference in New York in April. I was honored when she subsequently quoted my belief that “power unused is power useless” in her blog.

I had a chance to talk with Zehner about her latest endeavors to advance women through financial power. Here’s what she had to say:

GF: Women have obviously always worked–whether at home or in the paid workforce, but our work has not always been valued accordingly. Now that we are 50% of the paid workforce, what are the most important one or two things women should do in your opinion to make sure their work is valued at the same financial level as men’s work, individually or collectively?

JZ: Though we are now over 50% of the workforce, we are still the vast majority in lower paid jobs without benefits and make on average only 80% of the male wage. Women at all economic levels have to become more active players to create a better collective financial future. How they can do that varies dramatically – from organizing locally to advocate for change, to funding organizations that fight for our rights in courts, to at the most senior level women CEOS and executives taking the lead in their organizations to finally, truly, drive for talented women to be represented in critical mass. (30%) We have power, we are just not fully using it. (No excuses…right Gloria??)

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Mother’s Day Round-up



This week’s roundup not surprisingly centers on Mother’s Day. The links are to a small selection of posts I liked because each has a special take on honoring our mothers by living feminist values, proudly and with no excuses:

Viva la Feminista Gift Guide. Viva la Feminista. (Veronica Areola)

Mother’s Day should last all month. The Pink and Blue Diaries. (Deborah Siegel)

A Mother’s Day Gift: A future without violence. Ms. Magazine. (Carol King)

Make your Mom a star: send a customized video. Moms Rising.

“Its Her Choice”–Really? Heartfeldt Blog.(Ann Crittenden)

Have you written a special Mother’s Day post? Feel free to share the link in the comments section.

Have you read a Mother’s Day post that you particularly liked? Please share that too.

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Gabourey Sidibe, Jane Fonda: Two Courageous Sisters Employ Every Medium

The Women’s Media Center Board and special guests. From left to right: Jodi Evans, Jewelle Bickford, Jane Fonda, Gabourey Sidibe, Julie Burton, me, Carol Jenkins, Robin Morgan, Marlo Thomas, Gloria Steinem, Jamia Wilson, Michaela Monaha.

Before she began her remarks at the podium, Jane Fonda pointed her digital camera at the 500 women and a few men packing the Paley Center auditorium on April 20th. We’d all paid somewhere between $50 and $5,000 to see D. A. Pennebaker’s 50-year old documentary Jane.

The film tracks Jane’s dismal flop in her first Broadway play at age 23. Afterward, we were to hear the actress discuss women’s self image with Precious star Gabourey Sidibe in a panel moderated by feminist star Gloria Steinem.

But first, Jane’s blog had to be fed, so she snapped her photo. She does her own blogging and a good bit of her own tweeting, and those social media are always hungry for content. I could relate. After posting at least daily during Women’s History Month, I have not been feeding my 9Ways blog properly. Today I begin anew with a promise to post at least twice a week so we can keep the conversation about women’s relationship with power that was started with the launch of No Excuses going.

But back to the evening’s program…Widely divergent in age and race, Jane and Gabourey found their key differences to be in their relationship with power, the locus of their power (inside versus looking outward for affirmation), and their concern about body image. Most notably, Gabby expressed love for herself whereas Jane still obsesses about her weight and appearance.

As Jane reported in her blog afterward: “Gabby was really amazing. I wish I had recorded some of the things she said. So wise and strong.”

The screening and panel discussion were a benefit for the Women’s Media Center, a nonprofit dedicated to making women visible and powerful in the media. Women currently make up only 16 percent of the expert “talking heads” on news and public affairs shows, and 3 percent of the top level positions that decide what the stories will be. I’m honored to serve on the WMC board to support women employing every medium to get their messages out and change those dismal statistics to 50/50.

What stories about women do you see in the media you watch or read?

How has the prevailing media narrative affected your self-image and sense of power?

I’m interested in your thoughts. Please share them here.

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March Women’s History Madness: Thanks for a Month of Inspiring Guest Posts

I’ve been delighting as I’ve reviewed the rich and inspiring Women’s History Month guest posts here on 9 Ways and invite all 9 Ways readers to read or reread them to get the full spectrum.

Thank you Beverly Wettenstein, Kathy Groob, The Population Institute, Kathy Korman Frey, Anna North, Emily Jasper, Bonnie Marcus, Emmily Bristol, Deborah Siegel, Suzan St. Maur, Sara Messelaar, Liz O’Donnell, Linda Brodsky!

Read on and enjoy each tasty morsel…

A huge “thank you” shout out to each generous contributor–you know who you are, so please take a virtual bow.

Some of the guest posts give new insights about women you’ve heard of, while others tell stories of women neither famous nor infamous, but whose lives touched the writers in profound ways. Enjoy each tasty morsel of women’s history! And as always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Or just check in to say “thanks” for a story that moved, inspired, or surprised you.

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Maker Hero

Congratulations to our friend Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries for being featured as a “Maker Hero” on the cover of the April 2011 issue of Wired Magazine. According to Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories this is the first time a female engineer has been featured on the cover.

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There is No Future in History

No this is not an April Fool’s Joke, give that 9 Ways has just spent a month talking about the importance of knowing our history. Rather, it is an intriguing contrary point of view about the less than salutary effects of history from Linda Brodsky M.D. Read it and let me know what you think.

During a Brit family sitcom on NPR last week, a great line popped out of the addled grandfather’s mouth when his grandson told him he was studying history at university: “There is no future in history.”

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Bella Abzug and Florence Feldt: Contrasts in Women’s History

Since we’re wrapping up Women’s History Month, this tribute to my mother, Florence Feldt, and feminist icon Bella Abzug–two very different women from the same generation who died on this day in 1998–seems a fitting close.

I hope that you’ve been inspired by this month’s posts, and that they help you create the future of your choice!

My mother Florence Feldt died March 31, 1998.

Me, my cutie pie sister Candy, and our mother, Florence

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Ma McDonough Was No Ordinary Woman

Another great guest post. All of them have made this my best WHM series ever. Today’s post is from Liz O’Donnell from Hello Ladies. I hope you enjoy reading about her great-grandmother as much as I do.

I live in the house where I was raised. Some may think of me as a “townie,” one of those New England creatures who never leaves home. And when they look at my house, I’m sure they see a place that needs lots of work. The yard needs landscaping, the upstairs bathroom needs plumbing, and the kitchen has a gaping hole in the ceiling over the sink (see upstairs bathroom). But what they can’t see is the foundation. Not the cement that supports the frame of the house, but the history that holds me up.

This Women’s History Month. While I honor the women who have, should or will make the history books – Rosa Parks, Lilly Ledbetter, Hillary Clinton and so many others, I find myself thinking about my personal history and one of the women who shaped my life. The National Women’s History Project writes, “Learning about women’s tenacity, courage, and creativity throughout the centuries is a tremendous source of strength.” I know this is true.

Eighty years ago, my great-grandmother Ma McDonough bought the house where I live. At that time, women didn’t purchase property, but Ma McDonough was no ordinary woman.

My great-grandmother came from a well-to-do family in Ireland. As was the tradition then, her older brother was set to inherit the family farm and she would inherit nothing. So Ma McDonough left for Boston, rather than be dependent on someone else. She married, raised four children and somehow managed to save money. When her husband died, she moved out of the city and bought herself and three of her then adult children a new house in the suburbs. It was the Great Depression and the builder had run out of money. Ma McDonough had cash and moved in.

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Indira Gandhi: World Leader or Witch?

The late Bella Abzug used to say that we would know women have made it when a mediocre woman was as likely to be promoted as a mediocre man. Similarly, we know women have made great strides as leaders when we have to acknowledge imperfections at the same time that we celebrate elevations to power. Thanks to The Daily Femme writer Sara Messelaar, whose thoughtful piece asks important questions about how women leaders–or any historical figures–should be judged. Be sure to read to the end of it and then share your thoughts!

Just around the corner from my home here in Berlin, the tram stops at the intersection of Berliner Alley and Indira-Gandhi Street. For a long time, whenever the voice in the tram announced “Indira Gandhi Straße,” I thought: “she must have been a really great politician.” That feeling of her “greatness” quietly settled into my subconscious–the very reaction public memorials are supposed to foster in the first place. Mission Public Remembrance Accomplished. Woman’s History Month finally got me to take a real look at Gandhi’s story. I’m really glad I did, because Gandhi’s story is a complicated, unsettling, shocking chapter in women’s history.

Gandhi (who is not related in any way shape or form to Mahatma, by the way) served as the Prime Minister of India for four terms—longer than any other female Prime Minister in the world. Her position as the leader of the world’s largest democracy was especially impressive, since even today women in India struggle for equal treatment. As Cristen wrote, women are so disregarded in India that they don’t even have adequate public bathrooms for them. Gandhi, however, never let any of that get in her way.

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Would you expect a circus elephant to work this hard?

England’s reigning Queen Elizabeth holds a place in my history. My family bought our first television set and allowed me to stay home from school to watch her coronation. We cheered the new queen from Temple TX. For years after that, I had a recurring dream that Queen Elizabeth was coming to dinner and I had nothing prepared. I would awaken in a cold sweat after trying unsuccessfully to cobble together a dinner from leftovers I found refrigerated in my grandmother’s multicolored Pyrex dishes.

After reading this lovely piece by Suzan St. Maur, I think I would not stress so much over an unexpected visit from the queen, but rather would order in Chinese and look forward to a chance to chat with a hardworking woman who prepares her own breakfast cereal. Of course, I’d want to ask her about the upcoming royal wedding and what advice she’d give to the soon-to-be princess Kate. What would you ask the queen if she came to have dinner with you?

Although this old lady lives in comfortable surroundings, she is nearly 85 years old and still works a full week from 9 to 5 plus several evening shifts and on weekends. She has to be nice to thousands of people every week, shake hands with hundreds of them, share her mid-day and evening mealtimes with dozens of them, and look absolutely perfect at all times no matter what.

She’s been doing it since 1952. And she has to travel thousands of miles every year to gigs in far-flung places where she’s expected to be charming, and perform.

An inhumanely overworked elderly circus elephant, perhaps? Nope. She’s the Queen of England.

Or to be more correct, she is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, (titular only) Head of State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland plus 15 other Commonwealth realms. Those realms include Canada and various Caribbean nations plus Australia, New Zealand and some further nations in the south-west Pacific.

Of course the British Republicans sneer and snort, waving anti-monarchy banners and saying how dare a woman like Queen Elizabeth complain about her workload when she lives in several different palaces and doesn’t have to worry about paying bills or maxing out her credit card.

Well, I don’t care what the Republicans say: this woman, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, to my mind is a huge inspiration to all of us who value the work ethic.

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