Monday, October 11, 2010

Power Tool #9: Tell Your Story

I've been in absentia from my blog. There is always more than one reason that happens, but for today suffice it to say, one of those reasons was that I've been reading Gloria Feldt's new book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.

This is not the sort of book you are going to race through. This is the kind of book you have to put down and digest before taking more in.  To think about. To reflect. To discuss.  And if Gloria's passion for what she has made her life's work has any effect on you, will make you want to do at least one little something differently than you have been.

So that's what I've been doing for the last week. Letting it all sink in. Being reminded of all the work that was done, all the paths that were paved to make me lucky enough to be able to write and publish my own blog from the privacy of my home and say whatever I damn well please without fear of my life in question.

If you think that sounds extreme, you don't as Gloria points out in Power Tool #1, Know Your History. If you are like me, you remember how it was starting out.

I graduated high school the year Title IX was passed. Girls took Home Economics and boys took Wood Shop. They changed the dress code sometime in Sophomore year which meant we could ditch the dresses and wear pants to school. I have always liked to say that the world I was raised to live in ( think Donna Reed and Father Knows Best) was not the one I stepped into as a college graduate.  I am considered to be of the group of baby boomers that rode into the work force on the end of the second wave of feminism in the seventies.  Doors had been opened for us and we were given the heady task of walking through them.

I wore those horrid suits with shoulder pads that made me look like a line backer. With a silk bow tied  securely around high collars the message was loud and clear that if we were about to make serious inroads in business, we better look and act like the guys and throw the feminine part of feminism out the window.

In fact as I recall, we started to keep our feminist roots quiet. The patriarchal culture we were edging our way into put a negative spin on the movement. It meant you were one of those angry women and might not be a team player. The further entrenched I got in the corporate landscape the more clear it became. If I wanted to get ahead, I had to buy into the program or at least appear to. In other words be seen and not heard unless it was what they wanted to hear. And don't go bonding with the other women. No girl's club allowed, because really, there might be room for one female on the rise, but more than one? Not a chance.

A lot has changed since then. Including me. But I agree with Gloria that it's not nearly enough.

We need to strengthen what was not there when I was on the way up, a sisterhood. (Power Tool #7: Create a Movement) There were very few women I could look to as a role model or mentor when I started out. If you were lucky, you crossed paths with a man willing to be your sponsor. But their perspective would always be to play by their rules. Not yours.

Now there are women in powerful positions who can help the younger ones forge their path. As Gloria points out it is incumbent for hands to extend in both directions.

While many like to predict the end of the world is on the horizon, I align myself with those who believe all the chaos ( Tool # 5: Carpe the Chaos)  and change we are experiencing now is part of a seismic shift, one in which women and the power of the feminine will balance out the patriarchal culture we have been living in for the last two thousand years. The thing is if we are going to get this planet on the right track, we as women need to tap into our power. Gloria refers to it as the power to as opposed to the power over. I like to think of it as the power within each of us as women, the power we were told to keep turned to dim, the power that can create positive change.

Gloria's message is clear. She is a passionate activist and former President and CEO of Planned Parenthood. She speaks from her convictions. She wants to call you to action to do your part and to seize this moment in time. She offers 9 Power Tools from which to choose. Whether you lean left, right or in between, if you are a woman you should read this book. If it sparks controversy for you, (It did for me. I did not agree with every point she makes.) well than use Power Tool# 4 and Embrace it. Then you can head on over to her website and engage in the conversation. That's how change starts.


As for me, I've been reminded of how quiet I have kept my voice for most of my life. That it has taken me this long to own that I am a writer and a coach and that I have something worthwhile to say to the world. Gloria reminded me of the reasons things unfolded as they did and the choice I had in it. She would say I took the safe path and I would agree. But now I'm on another path, one not so safe but much more fun.  It uses Power Tool #9: Tell Your Story.


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