Friday Round Up : As Pink Headlines Declare End of Feminism (Again), World’s Women Leaders Keep Moving Forward

by Gloria Feldt on October 28th, 2011
in 9 Ways Blog, Create a Movement, Gender, Leadership, Workplace and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Want to have a little cognitive dissonance?

First watch this video of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a keynote address at the first-ever Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Summit 9/16/11 in San Francisco CA, essentially saying that women are the key to the world’s economic future.

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And for good measure, take a gander at the latest “50 Most Powerful Women in BusinessFORTUNE‘s annual ranking of America’s leading businesswomen. and this calculation of the rise in female Fortune 500 CEO’s.

Got the picture? Feminism is alive and propelling women toward parity in all sectors of society.

Now hold onto your head before it explodes when you read this inane USA Today article entitled (in pink font no less) “As NOW Marks 45th Year, Is Feminism Over the Hill?

So who do you believe? Are women the question or the answer? Which is more compelling: the proof of the pudding when women are serving increasingly in leadership roles? Or a tired old media narrative once again declaring feminism if not dead, at least so long in tooth that we might well grab our Depends and go home.

To get to the heart of new feminist work being done, here’s a recent study by McKinsey and Company’s Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee. “Changing Companies’ Minds about Women” says about the work left to do: “Leaders who are serious about getting more women into senior management need a hard-edged approach to overcome the invisible barriers holding them back.”

No program or initiative can be the “silver bullet” to advance women into senior roles.
Rather, the whole organization must change. That’s hard work; it will take years and, potentially, even a generational transition. This goal requires a serious commitment from busy leaders, whose natural tendency is to discuss the issue, create a plan, and hand it off to HR. And it requires real engagement up and down the line, including engagement from women.

Similarly, She Negotiates principal Victoria Pynchon pushes corporate leaders to quit mealy-mouthing around and take bold steps to ensure diversity, including gender diversity in their top leadership in her article “Why No Mention of Diversity in HBR’s Response to OWS?

By the way, I’d appreciate your comments on my latest Blogher Career leadership advice column highlights the unsought leadership of Anita Hill and asks what workplace sexual harassment issues leaders still need to address.You’ll find it here: “Unsought Leadership:How Anita Hill Called Out Workplace Harassment and Changed Everything.

The late Congresswoman and proud feminist Bella Abzug was fond of saying, “Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.”

Yes, much has changed, thank goodness. And, yes, much remains to be done.

Here’s the comment I wrote to emphasize those points on that offensive USA Today pink-headlined post (and I might add to counter the anti-woman screed of many of the other semi-intelligible comments):

The young women who observe that feminism won and now we can do anything are right. That is actually good news though it is reported as though it were bad news.

The negative spin placed on that fact by this article is all wrong, but it unfortunately reflects the prevailing media narrative.

Here’s the underlying problem: a movement has to move. Power and energy come from moving into new spaces, not from standing still and fighting to preserve what has already been won. I don’t see nearly enough initiatives coming from the women’s movement these days. That’s what’s missing and why the inaccurate negative narrative is able to continue unchallenged.

It’s a good idea at middle age for an individual to take a new job, get a new wardrobe, move to a new town, or do something to shake things up. Same for a movement. There are always new injustices to fight, new problems to solve, new legislative initiatives to start. If the existing feminist organizations fail to do that, they will become museum pieces. Heroic museum pieces, but museum pieces nonetheless.

So I say, let’s get going.

What do you say?
How about it, shall we begin again?

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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