For every man who receives a bachelor’s degree this year, three women will do the same. Yet there is still a 20% pay gap between men and women, and women represent only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
What’s wrong with this picture?
In her fantastic new book NO EXCUSES feminist icon Gloria Feldt answers this question and gives nine power tools to help women (re)claim our power. As the former CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Federation, Gloria is no stranger to power. After extensive firsthand research Gloria’s conclusion: “Nobody is keeping women from parity – except themselves.” In NO EXCUSES (view the book trailer here) Gloria argues that we women limit ourselves by adhering to outdated social structures and by succumbing to pressure to conform to society’s standards. Fascinated by (and totally identifying with) her conclusions, I asked Gloria if she’d share a few more thoughts with us…
Gloria, What motivated you to write NO EXCUSES?
I became an activist for women 40 years ago… But I got a wake-up call during the 2008 elections, when it seemed the first woman president might become reality. I interviewed experts… and studied the data on why women do (or, it turned out, don’t) run for office for a magazine article I was writing.
I was shocked to find women often resist power or forge ahead only to step back. And on reflection I had to admit I’ve done it myself. At the rate women are going, it’ll take 70 years to get to parity – in business where women hold only 18% of the top positions, as well as politics. Since I can’t live that long, I decided I’d better do something to speed the process.
What are the top three messages you hope women take away from NO EXCUSES?
1. This is an amazing moment for women, a hopeful and historic moment—but only if we make it so. Historic moments don’t last forever–so it’s up to women individually and collectively to keep the trajectory going in a positive direction.
2. There are many reasons why women aren’t at parity – external barriers of discrimination and internal barriers of fear and insecurity – but there are no excuses any more. We are fully capable of owning the responsibility to walk ourselves through the doors now and to take other women with us. My purpose is not to blame but to inspire women to be intentional about their lives in a way that we have not usually been socialized to be.
3. That’s why in No Excuses I give women “The 9 Ways”—a set of specific power tools and inspiring stories they can use to lead unlimited lives… (for instance) Embrace controversy as your friend. Define your own terms first, before someone else defines you.
What do you know today about power that you wish you had known 20 years ago?
I recently made a speech about women and power at the University of Missouri Kansas City. Afterward, a woman said to me, “I wish I’d had a Gloria Feldt when I was 15.” I replied, “I wish I’d had a Gloria Feldt when I was 15 too.” I wish I’d realized that what I need to accomplish my goals is always there if only I am willing to see it and have the courage to use it…
To unleash your inner Gloria Feldt, visit her 9 Ways Blog, where each week Gloria will be discussing a different aspect of the 9 power tools – and asking women to share their stories, questions, and ideas.