As the absurdity of right-wing political figures’ pathological obsession with women’s uteruses continues, many people ask why this is happening now and what to do about it. In this Woman of the Weekinterview with Anna Louie Sussman for the Women in the World Foundation, Gloria speaks about how women can act, using what we’ve got (that’s Power Tool #3) to embrace our power to insist on our right to our bodies, our right to financial stability.
The article, excerpted here, was originally published January 24, 2012, and can be read in full on the Women in the World website.
Everything you need to know about Gloria Feldt can be gleaned from her email signature: “Warmest Regards and No Excuses, Gloria.” Her superlative compassion and conviction, combined with her intelligence and charisma, have carried her from teenage motherhood in West Texas to a thirty-year career with the reproductive health provider and advocacy group Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which she directed from 1996 until 2005, when she resigned.
Her most recent book, No Excuses, examines women’s relationship to power with an honesty and nuance often glossed over in media discussions. We talked with her about the current state of reproductive freedom in America and how women can transform their relationship with power.
Women in the World Foundation: What led you to this issue of women and power?
Gloria Feldt: In 2008, I was writing an article for Elle magazine about the many organizations that help women run for office. They are legion, and they raise millions of dollars, but women are still less than half as likely to even think about running for office as men. What I found was that the problem is no longer that women have a hard time running: the doors are open. Voters trust women more, women are now as capable of raising money, and when they do run, they are just as likely to win.
Today’s She’s Doing It features a guest post from Robyn Benincasa, a two-time Adventure Racing World Champion, Guinness World Record distance kayaker, full-time fire fighter and leadership expert.
After fighting back from crippling osteoarthritis hip surgery at age 41, she is launching Project Athena, a non-profit that encourages women who’ve endured life-altering medical set-backs to try athletic pursuits they have always dreamed of doing. The project pays their expenses and provides coaching and equipment for whatever sport you decide to try. It is a survivor helping survivors project with the goal of women helping women.
Here, Robyn shares what she’s learned about how to take a team from ordinary to extraordinary, her analysis of leadership styles, and how to change and/or use them effectively in business.
When we are faced with a challenge, whether it’s in sports, academic, business or relationships, many of us operate out of fear of failure.
We focus our attention and efforts on not falling short, on trying to stay just one step ahead. But the greatest team builders think differently. Sure, they are cognizant of the possibility of failure, and they prepare to deal with the things that go sideways, but their main focus is on doing what it takes to win versus simply not lose.
For Maximum Performance, Hope is a better place than Fear
When a team member gives up hope and says “it’s over. There is no way out for us,” brainstorming is shut down and entropy takes over our souls. That’s not to say we shouldn’t master the tactical agility to make a U-turn whenever necessary because that’s an important skill. But the best team builders can even position a U-Turn in a positive light, as merely a new set of challenges.
This is a guest post by a courageous leader for women globally. Jane Roberts saw an injustice and took action to set things right. On this July 11, World Population Day, join me in support of her efforts to raise awareness and money to ensure that women around the world can have healthy pregnancies when they choose and access to preventive family planning services to plan and space their childbearing.
Also on 11 July, the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with UNFPA and other partners, will host the London Summit on Family Planning, a groundbreaking convocation on family planning. The aim of the summit it to mobilize global policy, financing, commodity, political will, and service delivery commitments to support the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to use contraceptive information, services and supplies, without coercion or discrimination, by 2020.
After a week in which women debated Anne-Marie Slaughter’s contention about Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, a wave of powerful articles challenging Slaughter are finally appearing. Dana Theus says that women who are at or as near the top as Facebook COO (and its latest board member) Sheryl Sandberg and Slaughter need to woman up and “own this power they have to choose how to spend their energy, and talk about it in powerful ways that honor people’s choices, then we’ll begin to build a culture that honors, supports and encourages the ‘balance of powers‘ needed at the top.”
Census Bureau statistics cite that women on average earn about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. On Tuesday, the Senate GOP blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by Democrats to the senate floor.
This promising legislation would have bolstered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, barring employers from retaliating against workers who inquire about pay disparities.
What can we as individual women do retroactively to create a work life for ourselves in which we don’t have to resort to investigating discrimination by our employers?
In this interview, Gloria encourages women to define their own terms: at meetings, “Say the first word, say the last word and establish yourself as an authority.”
Meg McSherry Breslin: For women who feel frustrated and unable to move up in their companies, what are some concrete things they can do?
Earlier this year, I reviewed baseball historian Dorothy Seymour Mills’ book,First in the Field, a book that offers readers insight into the history behind gender-based affirmative action policies.
Today, Mills returns to 9 Ways to discuss her new book. A work of fiction, Drawing Card is steeped in Mills. trademark historical-fact-made-relevant-today.
According to Amazon reviewer Joan M. Thomas, “Mills’ extensive knowledge of history and ethnic cultures makes the fast paced story all the more real. Moreover, while the events occur during earlier times, inequities that persist today become crystal clear.”
Today’s guest blogger, Dorothy Seymour Mills, is the personification of what it means to embrace Power tool #1, Know Your History.
In researching women’s baseball history, I discovered that at least two female baseball players had been signed to minor-league contracts but didn’t play. That’s because the Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw M. Landis, canceled their contracts as soon as he learned that they were women. Landis scoffed at the idea that women could play baseball, just as some baseball men do today.
Personally, I think, most people, male and female, would love to have this high-powered woman’s problems (She was the first female director of policy planning at the U. S. State Department and is currently a Princeton University professor, author, and public speaker with a professor husband who shares child raising responsibilities).
All of life is about making choices. Everyone struggles. So I wish Slaughter, and others who lay the responsibility on women for difficulties we didn’t create, would quit whining already and tackle the real problems like pay inequity, implicit gender biases, and the need for structural change in the workplace so everyone can have a life and earn a living.
That’s why I’m impressed with an extraordinary group of women venture investors and entrepreneurs at She Means Business. They’ve launched a new campaign that when funded will do far more to create new solutions than Slaughter’s public angst about her personal life choices.
Mitt Romney recently described contraception coverage and abortion rights as “shiny objects” used by Democrats to distract voters from “more important” issues. At a moment in which women’s reproductive rights are being dismissed by America’s Republican presidential hopeful, it is important for us to know our history! For me, the advent of the birth control pill accompanied a defining moment in which I realized my “power to.”
SUSAN TOLLES: Welcome to Flourish Over 50. I’m just so excited that you’re here, and I want to talk about your lifelong passion for really empowering women.
GLORIA FELDT: I first had to empower myself. I didn’t start out knowing much about this power stuff. I grew up in small towns in Texas in the 1940-50s, where girls were not encouraged to get an education, have a career, or have real aspirations for themselves. I mean, my family actually did expect me to get educated, but only in order to be a better mother, a better mate, etc. So I really didn’t start out thinking that I had power and agency myself; I grew thinking that the agency was outside of myself. I had to learn by trial-and-error along the way, and I am still learning it.
SUSAN TOLLES: Right, we all are. It’s always a work in progress.
GLORIA FELDT: It is a work in progress. So I’ll give you the real quick rundown of what happened: I was a teen mom; I got pregnant, married my high school sweetheart when I was 15. I had three children, bing-bing-bing, and then I was 20 years old. I think it was the combination of maturity and the advent of the birth control pill where I just woke up. That was one defining moment.
I realized two things: Firstly, I had three children, and although I had a husband who was earning a salary, I kept thinking, “What if I have to support these children?” I had no employable skills whatsoever. Secondly, I was starting to get a little bored and I realized that this life was not as much fun as I thought it was going to be. I, in fact, had a brain and I was eager to go to school.
And so, I finished high school by correspondence, and then the birth control pill came along. It was that defining moment that allowed me to see that I could create a life for myself. I could plan. If I wanted to have more children, I could have them by my own choice at whatever time I wanted to. But if I didn’t want to have more, then I had that option, and it meant I could go to college. I would say that was the first big defining moment for me. There were a series of other moments.
So I often ask people when I speak, “When did you know you had the power to _______?”
One of the best things about writing a book about women’s relationship with power is that I get to talk with so many interesting people about it. And since it seems that everyone is using my No Excuses Power Tool #8 – “Employ Every Medium” – by being the media these days, I have the opportunity to appear on many web-based radio shows, emanating from anywhere, and available for listening, often along with an accompanying blog post, at any time of the day or night. Media that simply could not have existed in years past.
EGG is a platform for executive women (both corporate and entrepreneurial). And it’s a ‘real world’ connection, not an electronic one, hosting a by invitation only conference call weekly, on Fridays from 4pm ET to 5:30pm ET. The website provides support to the group and allows the members to connect one on one, ask and answer questions, and to benefit from one another’s expertise.
I caught up with Chicke for our interview on her cell phone.
Last summer just about this time, I received an e-mail out of the blue asking me to be interviewed by someone I’d never heard of for a women’s lifestyle website that hadn’t yet been created.
And by the way, would I have lunch with Claudia Chan—who described herself as a women’s lifestyle expert and entrepreneur and former co-owner of a Shecky’s Girlfriend events company I’d never heard of—to learn more about this chimera?
How could I refuse after I read Claudia’s vision, included in the e-mail?
By profiling influential women and sharing their experiences and advice, my mission is to ignite today’s generation of women to thrive both personally and professionally by creating mission-driven lives they love—as well as inspire their necessary participation in, or contribution to the global advancement of women and girls. There are so many amazing causes, nonprofits & companies doing great work for women (domestic and abroad) so we’re targeting many interviewees with these affiliations & passions. They set the example for our next generation that women must help women.