Elisa Parker, this week’s She’s Doing It, is the visionary co-founder, president and host of the award winning radio program, See Jane Do.
An activist for women, social justice, and the environment, Elisa’s work takes her around the world to discover and share the extraordinary stories and solutions in each of us.
She hosts her weekly show for nationally acclaimed radio station KVMR and is the co-founder of the Passion into Action™ Women’s Conference. She is an alumna of the Women’s Media Center Progressive Women’s Voices program & The White House Project’s Go Run program.
Elisa holds a BA in Communications from SF State and a MA in Organization Development at University of SF. She lives in the Sierra Foothills with her husband and two daughters.
I’ll be privileged to speak at the 3rd Annual Passion into Action Women’s Conference Oct. 12th-14th, 2012 in Grass Valley, CA, along with musician Holly Near, author activist Frances Lappe, Girl Scouts Rhiannon and Madison (of Roots and Shoots), and many more inspiring speakers.
Gloria Feldt: In No Excuses, I asked, “When did you know you had the power to_____?” What have you learned about your power to) during the past year or so?
Elisa Parker: I knew I had the power to be the solution from a very young age. Social justice has always been very important to me and I’m generally the one that will stand up for the underdog. I’m not one to hang on the sidelines but to go for the front line instead with the attitude of “if not me then who”.
Of course my Pollyanna attitude often creates a surge of anxiety for my husband. He’s never sure what I’ll do next. Considering that women still have a ways to go when it comes to gender parity, it’s not surprising that I’ve taken on the challenge of standing up for women just like myself.
I was recently reminded of one of my defining be the solution moments when I interviewed my long time hero, Lily Tomlin. I told Lily the story of how as nine year old girl the film 9-5 left quite the impression on me. I decided (in my 4th grade kind of way) to make copies of the 9- 5 lyrics and hand them out to every kid in my school. I was determined to spread the story of everyday women in the workforce, women who were taking matters into their own hands.
Over the last two years during the development of See Jane Do I’ve taken the inspiration of that nine year old and put my passion for media, organizing, social justice and storytelling into action. I’ve learned that being the solution doesn’t mean doing it on my own. Quite the contrary, I’ve discovered that in taking on my part others have felt compelled to do the same.
One of my favorite quotes from a Girl Scout from South Africa who presented at the 2012 UN CSW was “I stand up for what’s right even if it means standing alone in the dark.” I discovered that when you stand up for what’s right you won’t be alone for long. We are recognizing that we all have the power to be the solution.
As women we can no longer sustain a movement without moving forward together. See Jane Do has begun to partner and collaborate with other like-minded organizations like The White House Project, B-Lab, Habitat for Humanity, Moonrise, US Women Connect, CAWA, Gather the Women, World Pulse, Women in the World Foundation and others. It’s been an incredibly exciting year for women and I feel we are very close to the tipping point.
GF: Was there a moment when you felt very powerful recently? If so, please describe the circumstances, what you did, and why you were aware of your power.
Was there a moment when you felt powerless recently? If so, please describe the circumstances, what you did, and why you felt your lack of power.
EP: Over the last year I’ve experienced tremendous growth opportunities where I felt both powerful and empowered. Last August I was selected to participate in the Women’s Media Center Progressive Women’s Voices class in Washington D.C.
What an experience to work with and connect with fifteen incredible female leaders. What I found most surprising was that initially it seemed many of us were downplaying our accomplishments and talents.
The Women’s Media Center did a fantastic job of working with us to share our passions effectively and feel that every woman is an expert.
Power Moments also extend to our new partnership with NC Habitat for Humanity on their Women Build program (an area that I am not an expert in). We are helping to spread the can do attitude by encouraging women to build together. It was extremely powerful to have over 70 women show up to our first Women Build Soiree, throw down the hammer and show their support for Karrie, the recipient of the home we are going to help build. Karrie shared her personal story at our event…a single mom who had left an abusive relationship. Now that was powerful.
GF: Which of the 9 Ways Power Tools have you used or do you particularly resonate with?
EP: I love the power tool Create a Movement! See Jane Do’s vision is to co-create a movement for women where each of us feels empowered to put our passion into action.
One of my favorite quotes by Gloria is that “a movement isn’t a movement unless it’s moving”.
Moving forward is going to require that each of us recognize that we are the solution. It’s realizing that we can all be activists and heroes in our own life. See Jane Do is providing the tools for women to achieve this and mobilize them together through events like Passion into Action.
GF: For the first time in history, gender parity at work, in civic life, and in personal relationships seems possible—if we choose to make it so. That’s my take. What’s yours? What are the signs that tell you I’m right, or that make you think I’m overly optimistic?
EP: Recently when I interviewed Shelby Knox at the Women in the World Summit she commented that a revolution generally takes at least 100 years to sink in (it took women the over 90 yrs to gain the right to vote). She figured we were about 60 years into the journey.
We have seen significant shifts for women in the past couple of years and while the numbers of women holding executive leadership positions or elected office positions haven’t changed much in ten years women are definitely coming into their own power. For example, more women are completing college and starting their own businesses.
I just think we will and are doing it differently than the guys. It’s up to us as women to create new models for the next generation. In order to achieve gender parity we need more women in office to create policies that support caring economics.
Also remember ladies that as women have the power of the pocketbook…we just need to use it more effectively.
GF: What other observations about women’s relationship with power or leadership do you want to share?
EP: Of the hundreds of women I have interviewed not a single one of them have been motivated by their ego but a situation or issue they deeply cared about that required them to act. They are humble, passionate, supportive and extraordinary women who are just doing their part.