Are You an Iron Lady?

by Gloria Feldt on January 20th, 2012
in 9 Ways Blog, Gender, Know Your History, Leadership, No Excuses, Politics, Power Tools, She's Doing It and tagged , , , , ,

The Golden Globe Awards this week featured the most gorgeous dresses I’ve ever seen (yes, I confess to being a fashion watcher) and Meryl Streep winning her 9th Golden Globe, for her extraordinary portrayal of the British rock-ribbed Conservative former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the first and only woman ever to serve in that post.Meryl Streep Iron Lady

The film is titled “The Iron Lady,“ a moniker the press slapped on to Thatcher and it stuck.  Ever feel like that describes you—strong enough to balance and juggle everything in your work and home life, with everyone expecting you to stay—well, tough as Iron?

The nickname fit Thatcher for reasons having more to do with her firm and some would say obstinate resolve on political issues, though the poignant story of her relationship with her very supportive husband and her twin children does weave in and out of the tale.

Image courtesy the Weinstein Group
I never cared for Thatcher’s rightist politics—she mind-melded with U.S. President Ronald Reagan whose term of office overlapped with hers in the 1980’s–and I probably wouldn’t have gone to see the movie had I not been warned that I’d be asked about Thatcher’s life and leadership by Molly Dedham, co-host of the Sirius XM radio talk show, Broadminded when I had the pleasure of appearing as a Regular Broad (Listen to the podcast here).

Know Any Iron Men?

I do admire Thatcher’s strength of conviction and her tenacity. But do you think any male political or business leader would have been so dubbed? Of course not. Men would be assumed to be strong and resolute. Only a male body builder would be called “The Iron Man.”

Precisely because Thatcher smashed through gender barriers, breaking stereotype to become a leader in the male-dominated world, she was mocked in that particular sexist way.

But here’s the rub: Instead of calling it out or joining forces with other women to pave the way for more of her gender to advance, Thatcher instead became increasingly like the men around her.

This clip shows her being coached to change her speech pattern to sound more authoritative, and she’s told to ditch her hat and pearls. As you’ll see, she’s willing to mold herself to what her image consultants advise her for the most part, though she did draw the line at removing her double strand pearls, a gift from her husband and representing her twins. And she often said that being a woman made her better able to handle multiple priorities and get things done.

She fit herself into the male culture and denied that she either owed anything to the women who had struggled for women’s rights, or that she had any special responsibility to other women to bring them along.

“I owe nothing to women’s lib,” she declared.

And as a first and one of the few women in politics in the United Kingdom during the mid-20th century, Thatcher was isolated, just as many women feel they are in the workplace in 2012.

But she also isolated herself. Many women who have been firsts in whatever realm do the same, as do even many women who are not the first but are still in the minority within their field or place of employment. As women have entered that workplace culture, if you’re the first one, or if you’re the only one or one of just a few in a department, you tend to fit yourself into the predominant culture. You may look like a woman but you start to think and act like a man.

Why do women isolate themselves?

And when we have problems at work, we hunker down, convince ourselves we’re the only ones so afflicted, and that we have to be strong enough to solve it alone. There are few models to tell us otherwise.

After all, we’re still for the most part in workplaces designed by men for men. Furthermore, by men for men who could work day and night because they had a wife at home taking care of the house and the kids. Even the water cooler banter has been male-oriented, the places workers hung out were male oriented—the golf course and Hooters–not to mention the leadership metaphors, which have been largely drawn from war.

That paradigm no longer works for anybody.

That’s exactly why women need to consciously and intentionally un-isolate ourselves and reach out with what I call Sister Courage.

Why Strong Women Need Sister Courage

Ask another woman for help if you need it. Ask a man for help if you need it too—there are many men now in the workplace who were raised by women like you. Offer help if you think someone else needs it. Have the courage to raise the issues that need to be dealt with. And when you do that and join together with your allies, you have a mini-movement that can help you achieve your career goals, or make the changes you want at work, or at home.

The Iron Lady was unbreakably strong, as the film shows, but her isolation didn’t serve her well in the end either politically or in her personal life.

You can be both strong and connected, successful and human if you use Sister Courage and the rest of the No Excuses 9 Ways Power Tools (download them in brief here).

Are you an Iron Lady? Or do you feel like you have to be one? What steps have you taken to un-isolate yourself and use your Sister Courage to create a more gratifying career? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences.

By the way, if you happen to be in New York on January, 31, please join me for an invigorating workshop to Boost Your Power for 2012, sponsored by the wonderful women at Digitistas. You’ll leave with your own plan and theinspiration and practical tools to achieve it.

(To get a “friends of Gloria” discount when you sign up, just type in the NoExcuses promotion code.)

This post was originally published in BlogHer Career. Check it and all my every-other-week leadership Q and A columns out there. Got an example to share? Got a question you’d like me to address in a future column? Please comment here or e-mail me.

Gloria Feldt

Because power unused is power useless, please visit:

Leading With Intention

by Gloria Feldt on May 18th, 2012
in Employ Every Medium, Leadership, No Excuses, Power Tools, Use What You've Got, Wear the Shirt and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not long ago I sat down with freelance writer Corine Garcia for this interview. The article originally appeared as a blog post at Womenetics.

Years ago, as a teenage mother without a college education, one could only imagine that Gloria Feldt felt somewhat limited in career options. But with the right amount of optimism, the proper use of power and her penchant for saying “Yes” to every opportunity, Feldt paved her way to leadership success as the former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.

Now, after recently being listed as one of “America’s Top 200 Women Leaders, Legends, and Trailblazers” by Vanity Fair magazine, Feldt’s latest bestselling book “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power” offers well-founded advice to other women.

Womenetics: Vanity Fair named you one of “America’s Top 200 Women Leaders.” To what do you attribute your success as a leader?

Gloria Feldt: My grandson Michael recently interviewed me for his college essay and asked, “Grandmother, what factors do you think most contributed to your success in spite of the challenges you faced as a teenage mother without a college education when you started out in your career?”

I blurted out, “I was either dumb enough or lucky enough to say ‘Yes’ to almost every opportunity.”

It took a question from an 18-year-old to make me realize the power of optimism. In the form of saying ‘Yes’ to job offers I hadn’t sought and challenges I hadn’t imagined I was capable of meeting, I had profoundly influenced my career path. My penchant for seeing the possibility of a pony when others saw only a little pile of you-know-what in their path also helped!

But I wasn’t consciously aware of this power and that I had used it to positive effect until Michael asked his question. It’s a sea change for me to assert that my own agency — being optimistic and taking the risk to say ‘Yes,’ rather than pure dumb luck as I usually tell the story — has fueled my success. Even though I exhort other women to do just that.

I reveal this for two reasons: 1) to emphasize that it’s a lifelong process, and one can always learn new things about leadership; and 2) to illustrate that the main thing holding women back today is that we often fail to realize and embrace the power in our hands.

Womenetics: How did you develop and cultivate your leadership skills?

Feldt: Woody Allen has said that 90 percent of success is showing up. I don’t think leadership is a big, mysterious thing. A leader is someone who shows up and gets something done. After I said yes to opportunities, I showed up, studied the situations and got things done. And I learned from each experience, whether I was successful or failed miserably.

One of the nine “Power Tools” I talk about in my book “No Excuses” is “Wear the shirt.” That means to wear the shirt of your convictions. Let people know what you stand for and be accountable for what you intend to do. Telling people what I intend to do holds me accountable, so I have to face whether I did well or poorly. By wearing the shirt, I grew my skills. And I grew courage muscles too: the courage to take responsibility, the courage to put forth a bold and audacious vision, the courage to stay true to my convictions when others opposed me, and the integrity to admit if I was wrong, learn from it, and get up and try again.

Womenetics: Did you have any outside leadership training?

Feldt: I would give credit to the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute’s remarkable International Leadership Forum that I was fortunate to find just at the moment when I needed to learn from successful executives across many sectors of business, government and nonprofit organizations. I remain in touch with people I met there and who have mentored and advised me over the years. It was important to my success that I talk not only to the people in my field, but also to learn across disciplines, especially to get new insights for big and seemingly intractable problems.

Womenetics: Do you think leadership is an innate or learned skill?

Feldt: Both. Anyone who has more than one child knows how different personalities emerge from the same genetics and same environment. And anyone who has taken leadership roles knows the importance of learning every day.

Women leaders seem to have an insatiable desire to keep learning, which is a good thing. I was a teacher before I was a CEO and before I became a writer. Perhaps that’s why I’m now most passionate about teaching women in workshops and keynote speeches about how to use the 9 Ways “Power Tools” I share in “No Excuses.”

Women must learn to use the power we have in our hands if we are ever going to get a fair shake for ourselves and make the leadership contributions of which we are capable.

Womenetics: Can you explain what you mean in your book about women redefining power? Why is this important?

Feldt: I found in my research, in interviews with women across the country and by looking into my own experience, that many women have an outdated definition of power, created by men in a traditional hierarchical world. It’s the “power over.” And that’s not functional for men or women any more.

Women would tell me they don’t like the idea of power, and I realized they were talking about not wanting power over others. Why should they? Women have borne the brunt of that negative kind of power for millenia. It implies that power is a finite pie and if I take a piece, there’s less for you.

But once we redefined power as the more expansive “power to,” I would see women’s faces relax and they could wholeheartedly say, “Yes! I want that kind of power.” Power to is not a finite pie. The more there is, the more there can be, and I believe women inherently understand that concept. “Power to” is innovation. It’s how you make life better for your family, your company, the community or yourself.

“Power over” is oppression. “Power to” is leadership. Women will truly transform the world for much better when we redefine power in this way.

Womenetics: Why are women stuck in 18 percent of leadership roles, as you claim?

Feldt: There are many historical, cultural and structural reasons why women in the U.S. haven’t reached parity. But there are no excuses not to go forward with intention to accomplish what we want. Legal barriers are down. At least one woman has shattered almost every glass ceiling, and doors are cracked enough to get through them.

We’re better educated than men, holding 60 percent of college degrees. Studies by McKinsey and Co., Ernst and Young and other experts show that more women around the decision table result in better decisions and even a better return on investment. Women have the very leadership skills the world needs right now. It’s women’s moment, but do we know it yet?

Apparently not! We keep focusing on the negative statistics, when we would be better served to focus on the opportunities. 
I don’t say it’s easy. I say it’s possible and that we not only have the capability, but also the responsibility to our sisters and ourselves make it happen. I say this not to blame women, but rather to inspire them.

Womenetics: What mediums should women use to harness more power and become effective leaders?

Feldt: The first medium is ourselves, and the power we communicate with our self-presentation and speech.

In the film “The Iron Lady,” we see scenes of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher practicing how to make her voice pleasant but strong. I’m not saying women should remake themselves or become inauthentic, but I do recall that when I was writing “Send Yourself Roses” with the actress Kathleen Turner, she emphasized that women spend a great deal of time and money on our clothing but often overlook the rest of our stage presence, and in particular our voice quality.

From the “No Excuses” Power Tool “Employ every medium,” here are a few tips to help ensure you are taken seriously, and that your voice is heard in business meetings or interviews:

  1. Be the media: Think of media not as an add-on but integral to what you’re doing, even if it’s just internal communication within a company. Use personal, social and traditional media proactively. Beyond your workplace, you can also help support groups like the Women’s Media Center that works to get fair and realistic media portrayals of women.
  2. Say the first word: Don’t wait to speak up if you have an idea to contribute. The first speakers almost always set the tone and define the whole conversation. Be poised, prepared and proactive. Don’t hesitate or apologize. And for goodness sake, don’t end every sentence as though it were a question.
  3. Say the last word: Speak it with authority and clarity. Use simple declarative sentences. Don’t hedge your words or use too many diminishing words like “just,” “maybe” or “little.” Speak as though you know you’ll be respected and believed. Sit up straight and make eye contact.
  4. Speak the language: Understand the conversational rituals that distinguish different types of communications and deploy them to your advantage. This is not about being disingenuous or inauthentic, but rather showing respect for others as well as garnering it for yourself. With men and women in the workplace, I liken this to being bilingual.

Your vision, ideas and plans have the power to shape the future, but not if you keep them to yourself or if you wait for others to set the agenda.

Womenetics: What are the biggest obstacles standing in the way of women leaders?

Feldt: While some external barriers remain, and implicit bias in the workplace still exists, the biggest obstacle is our own ambivalent relationship with power. Companies especially need their high-performing women to stay with them if they are going to be successful, and they know it.

Many women are concerned with work/life balance, for example. But many men today want the same thing, or at least enough that you can use the power tool “create a movement” to get workplace policies that allow for people to have a life and earn a living.

It’s a strategic choice at this point. My goal is to give women the inspiration, information and practical tools to stand in their power comfortably and walk with intention to achieve whatever goals they set and in the end to be able to lead unlimited lives.

Womenetics: How can women use leadership skills in other areas of their lives, aside from work?

Feldt: One of the remarkable things I discovered as I began to study women’s relationship with power is that the dynamics are the same at work, in civic and political life and in personal relationships. It’s important to be aware of that, and then you can apply the same skills in any situation.

Womenetics: Who were your leadership mentors; who has inspired you?

Feldt: I love to talk about the leadership lessons I learned from Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American birth control movement. I’m inspired by the fact that she started with nothing — no money, no supporters, and the laws were all against her — and yet she had the power of an idea that has changed everything for women. There is not a woman today in the workforce who could be there if not for the ability to plan and space her children.

I am also grateful to colleagues from the International Leadership Forum; my first boss, Mildred Chaffin, who saw in me more than I saw in myself; and my father, who always told me I could do “anything your pretty little head desires.” An unusually feminist message for a father in that time.

Womenetics: And last, do you take time for yourself and if so, what do you do?

Feldt: I exercise every day or else I become very crabby. Sometimes it’s hard to give an hour or two to working out, so I often ask people who want to meet with me to do walking meetings, which are much more enjoyable. Since I no longer go to an office daily, I languish in bed in the mornings with my husband, and that feels like a real luxury. Right now, I’m on a mission to get speaking or workshop opportunities at spas so I can combine two of my passions, fitness and sharing what I’ve learned about leadership. Any takers out there, please email me!

Corinne Garcia is a freelance writer and editor living with her husband and two young boys in Bozeman, Mont. She has also written for Women’s Adventure, Christian Science Monitor, Northwest Travel, Pregnancy, Fit Pregnancy and Fit Parent.

Women’s History Month: The Many Takes of Women in the Entertainment Industry

by Gloria Feldt on March 27th, 2013
in Employ Every Medium, Gender, Leadership, Power, Power Tools and tagged , , , , ,

Making a box-office success movie or TV series without a woman in a sexualized or type-cast bimbo role has historically been hard to impossible. (Read “Leadership Fictions:Gender, Leadership, and the Media”, Take The Lead’s special report on how media influences women’s perceptions of themselves as leaders and others’ ideas about them for some shocking statistics.)

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.

In the ’90’s Tina Fey broke ground by becoming the first female head writer on “Saturday Night Live.” Her own writing has led by example. She wrote and played the part of a woman who managed a male-dominated room of writers on “30 Rock.”

Fey has brought the idea of a successful, independent professional woman to a mainstream television audience, even as she worked against the current. Her role in the comedy world has signified a paradigm shift of feminists in entertainment—no longer are employed women on television required to be masked in a cloyingly, sugar-laden “That Girl” sort-of-way.

There are hardly any diamonds and daisies on “30 Rock” when Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, appears at work in a sweatshirt. When we start seeing the positive and negative sides of a particular minority (in this case, women in leadership roles) on television, it’s a sign women as leaders are becoming normalized in society.

Amy Poehler has not only climbed the comedy ladder like her friend and fellow funny lady Tina Fey, but Poehler now also offers her expertise to young girls everywhere via short videos and a dynamic website. Rather than giving generic or gender-stereotyped advice, “Smart Girls at the Party” gives empowering guidance on how to get through those teen years, delivered straight from Poehler’s mouth.

In her ongoing video series, she’s like the cool aunt who knows exactly what to say to our young daughters. Councilwoman Leslie Knope, Poehler’s character in “Parks and Recreation,” even helps girls by creating the Pawnee Goddesses when a boy’s outdoors group keeps out girls.

Shonda Rhimes has led the way by creating multi-faceted female characters in her wildly successful shows (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “Private Practice” to name a few) who do not fit the status quo. She’s championed the integration of black and LGBTQ characters into mainstream media, and has produced leading ladies that defy typecasting.

Many of the women Rhimes writes in are strong and independent. Her newest series “Scandal” has recently made history by introducing the first black woman lead in a prime time network television drama in over 30 years.

Then there is Lena Dunham, both praised and castigated for her writing and executive producing of “Girls” on HBO. And her acting—has she appeared nude having sex with a jerk in every show? The name of the show might be ironic or maybe it’s retro or maybe it’s just plain fun. Whatever, “Girls” definitely has been criticized for having little diversity.

For someone whose character champions Planned Parenthood, Dunham shows an oddly large number of characters having unsafe sex. Is her character Hannah what what feminist have fought for? I shake my head and leave you to decide whether this is liberation or a new version of oppressive sexism.

These four women represent some of the many ways feminists are taking hold and reshaping the entertainment industry. For girls and young women today, seeing a diverse range of women’s roles portrayed in mainstream media can only help empower them to live by the late playwright Nora Ephron’s advice to the 1996 Wellesley graduating class:

“Always be the heroine of your life, not the victim. Because you don’t have the alibi my class had.”



She’s Doing It: Women’s Golf Evangelist Joan Cavanaugh

by Gloria Feldt on August 8th, 2012
in Create a Movement, Leadership, Power Tools, She's Doing It, Tell Your Story and tagged , , , , , , , ,

I get the power of golf.  That’s why I took it as my physical education in college. And I garnered the only “C” in my life. I’d have failed had it not been for the written final exam that brought my dismal playing score up from the tank.

So I chuckled when I received this e-mail from Joan Cavanaugh, former Dominican nun, creator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recorded tours, teacher, entrepreneur, and the founder of the Boardroom Golf Institute:

“I listened to you on the Takeaway and thought this is a woman who should and would enjoy the benefits of the golf game…I would really like you to join me next Thursday at the business golf workshop. Golf is a great strategy for making new business relationships with men as well as women. It will be a fun packed day and you will go away educated about the game, elevate and empowered to play the game.”

Oh, if she only knew, I thought. I politely declined and thought that would be that.

Instead, she wrote back, and I discovered one of the most fascinating women around.

Her second epistle began cheerily, “I just opened a fortune cookie at lunch and I think the message has always been my mantra. ‘Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world. It beats money, power, and influence.’”

Her enthusiasm infuses everything she says.

She’d ordered No Excuses because she connected its messages with her motivation to help women grasp the importance of “getting out on the playing field where they will be visible to gain status and power.”

Golf, she declares over and over, is not an end in itself but a means to an end.

“The hub of American business is the golf course. It is not a game for women who like golf, it’s a game they should and could play to take them to parity. It offers limitless opportunities to rise to the top.

Granted it’s not the only way but I find women are intimidated by this simple game by the very excuses you speak of. They are afraid to be front and center with men.”

Joan grew up on the south side of Chicago in an Irish Catholic family with three brothers, which forced her to learn how to hold her ground early in life.  When I asked when she knew she had the “power to,” she launched into describing her “skinny 6-year-old” self.

Her father nurtured her love of reading by taking her to the public library each week. She especially loved biographies and was inspired by reading about people like Susan B. Anthony, who accomplished great things. So she created a lending library in the family’s basement, charging children a penny a day to borrow a book.

A take-action kind of natural leader, she noticed stars in windows of some homes at the end of World War II. When she learned this represented families that had someone fighting in the war, she organized neighborhood children to ring doorbells of homes with stars and say how happy they were the soldiers would be coming home.

Moved by the gesture, people gave her money. This scandalized her mother, but reinforced for Joan the value of reaching out and making community.

Going straight from high school to thirteen years as a Dominican nun, she was propelled always by her joyous sense of community and responsibility.

Then she left the order and moved to New York.

“I was married young and naive at 30 and it only lasted three years because of the infidelity of my then husband. I spent thirteen years as a potential candidate for “Sex in the City” although the producers were unaware of my existence. I started a successful publishing company, met my soul mate (an avid golfer) and helped raise his three teenagers.”

That’s when she discovered the benefits of golf to herself as a business owner and soon became passionate about promoting the game to other women to help them rise to the top “where they should be.”

Women, Joan believes, have the very skills that make them excel at what golf is really about.

Ten percent of its value has to do with skill. The rest has to do with building relationships, communicating in a key social environment where you see personalities and learn to trust other players. You bond in a way that doesn’t happen in any other format in the business world.  “You’re branding yourself, networking, decision making.”

Women, she says, must understand that anyone looking to promote someone is looking for more than skills; he or she is looking for what you can see on the golf course–strategy, humor, personality.  And the proximity to powerful people in a golf game setting makes it more likely that you will be the one chosen.

Quoting Plato, Joan says, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. And I say to women, your next up is not who you work with but who you play with.”

Now a widow with five grandchildren, Joan presents golf workshops to give women her E-Z Business Golf method.  She’s writing a book entitled The Game of Business, Ascent to the Boardroom to get the message to more women.

“When I see the research that says women are still not in the inner circle, I say the inner circle is available to you. Now let me tell you why it’s so important for you to be there, and how playing golf can help.  Women offer excuses. It’s not as difficult to play the game as you think it is.  Get in the game and then change the game, move up the ladder. Go where things are and make them yours.”

Friday Round Up: What Kind of Education = Girl and Woman Power?

by Gloria Feldt on September 30th, 2011
in 9 Ways Blog, Gender, Inspiration, Leadership, No Excuses, Politics, Workplace and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MathGirlsAutumn has officially arrived, and with it back-to-school education talk has been a big topic this week. Today’s Friday Round Up explores the power of education in general, and its power to foster gender parity specifically.

President Obama gave his traditional Back-to-School Speech on Tuesday at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington telling students their achievements are a critical part of a secure future for the United States.

“Soon enough, you’ll be the ones leading our businesses and our government; you’ll be the ones charting the course of our unwritten history. All of that starts this year. Right now. So I want you all to make the most of this year ahead of you. Your country is depending on you. So set your sights high.”

First Lady Michelle Obama pointed the education discussion toward girls and women this week as well and voiced the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for young women while at a visit at the National Science Foundation. The NSF was announcing their 10-year plan to increase workplace flexibility in the STEM fields to encourage women and girls to enter these career fields.

First Lady Michelle Obama“And if we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, then we have to open doors to everyone. We can’t afford to leave anyone out. We need all hands on deck. And that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

And it starts with lighting the spark for science and math in elementary school and grade school… so encouraging girls early not to lose heart in those fields, and encouraging them through high school is important. But it also means making sure that these young women can keep pursuing their dreams in college and beyond.”

AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman attended the event with Ms. Obama in recognition of the AAUW’s renewed commitment to building successful local programs to attract girls and women to STEM fields.

“We welcome the administration’s recognition of the vital role the federal government plays in removing occupational barriers to women in these fields. AAUW’s work in this area shows that even small improvements can make a big difference in retaining the best minds in the science and math fields.”

AAUW’s 2010 research report “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” provides compelling evidence of the environmental and social barriers that continue to limit women’s participation and progress in those fields.

Girls in ScienceIn Columnist Anna Holmes piece in the Washington Post “Technically, science will be less lonely for women when girls are spurred early” highlighted a story of Maresa Leto, 19, a sophomore at Michigan State who is taking her first computer science course this semester.

“I think it’s just part of what teenage girls are taught, which is to act dumb and cutesy so they don’t intimidate guys,” says Leto, whose older sister Lauren, a tech entrepreneur, urged her to give programming a try. As for the computer science class she’s taking, Leto says that she is one of a handful of women in the class. “No one has commented on the gender disparity, but I am conscious of it. I try to seem smarter than I actually am, just to prove I belong there.”

And even the method of teaching of students was in the news. In Kelly Wallace’s post on iVillage “Girls Rule in Math & Science (Okay, They Don’t Yet But Maybe Someday!)” spoke to the ways young women are taught STEM subjects and seeing some of the old stereotypes crumbling. Wallace profiled a school in Queens, New York that by using the all-girl classroom approach is seeing success.

”The motto at the school is “Girls Rule.” Laura Mitchell, the school’s principal, said with a chuckle, “We like boys but girls rule.” So what’s the message behind “Girls Rule,” I asked? “Empowerment, self-esteem, confidence, and whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve it.”

Women in ScienceBut a contrary view, “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling” was published recently in the journal Science by researchers at Arizona State University. ScienceDaily article “Single-Sex Schooling Does not Improve Academic Performance and Can Lead to Gender Stereotyping, Study Finds.” explained a bit about what the research has found so far by the ASU team, including comments by Richard A. Fabes, the director of the ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics and one of the numerous authors of the study.

“Is it ever good to segregate on the basis of race, income or age? I think the answer is no,” Fabes said. “There is no good evidence that it is ever a good time to separate and segregate. Any form of segregation undermines rather than promotes equality.”

There was a rousing debate about this subject on KPCC’s AirTalk that featured Lynn S. Liben one of the co-authors of the ASU study and Dr. Leonard Sax, Director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.

I’m conflicted–what do you think? Is “separate but equal” a step ahead or a step back when it comes to women and STEM education? If you are a professional in a STEM field, what’s the right solution? Would love your thoughts!


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Copyright 2010 Gloria Feldt