14 Next Steps: Women in Leadership Transforming Action Into Change

Take The Lead President and Co-Founder Gloria Feldt demonstrates how to employ power to accomplish something.

Take The Lead President and Co-Founder Gloria Feldt demonstrates how to employ power to accomplish something.

What’s next for women leaders in all spheres of business, entrepreneurship, policy and non-profit organizations who want to see change and movement regarding women’s rights as human rights?

Yes, the intentionally non-partisan demonstration of women’s leadership that began as The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. was a measurable success around the world.

More recently, thousands of men and women protested in airports around the country last weekend to register outrage against the executive order for a travel ban  on those entering the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Following those two major actions, where we as women leaders go from here is critical. No one intends to be all walk and no action.

Where we go from here is critical. No one intends to be all walk and no action. #womenleaders

For the next 100 days, organizers of the Women’s March have outlined 10 actions every 10 days to make a difference.

Offering printable “Hear Our Voice” postcards to download or print professionally, the first step was to: “Write a postcard to your Senators about what matters most to you – and how you’re going to continue to fight for it in the days, weeks and months ahead. You can go it alone, or consider inviting some friends, neighbors and fellow marchers over for a drink or dinner sometime in the next 10 days to talk about your experience and fill out your postcards,” according to the site.

“I think that taking all of the momentum from the march is important,” said Melanie Kahn, a digital campaign director at a Maryland Girls and Women rising event last week hosted by the League of Women Voters, according to Your4State News.

“It’s not enough to just show up to those kinds of things.  Now we have to talk about what we do next,” said Kimberly Weichel, CEO of Peace X Peace.”Step forward, find ways to express our voices, let’s not be shy. It’s too important that we step forward together.”

Following the march, “Tresa Undem, a partner in the polling firm PerryUndem, said that several years of convening focus groups had convinced her that women’s issues can translate into political momentum,” according to the New York Times.

What may also help to contextualize the importance of the recent march in the larger timeline of history is offered by Rachel Vogelstein writing in the Council on Foreign Relations about the landmarks in the global history of women in leadership in women’s movements, beginning in 1792.

“The English writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft penned a widely-distributed treatise entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but rather lack education. The essay suggests that women should have equal access to co-educational schooling and that women’s participation in society is essential to any nation’s wellbeing,” Vogelstein writes.

Fast forwarding to the recent Women’s March on Washington, D.C., Vogelstein writes that it was “the largest international mass demonstration in support of women’s rights. Affiliated marches ranging in size from several dozen to several hundred thousand people were held in towns and cities around the world, including Accra, Bangkok, ParisNairobiBelgradeBuenos AiresKrakow, and even Antarctica. Many marches were accompanied by training sessions for women seeking political office, youth initiatives, and discussions of issues ranging from wage inequality to freedom from violence.”

Here is a list of 14 next steps culled from a variety of sources.

  1. Be alerted, informed about upcoming bills before Congress votes. Sign up for issuevoter.org. where you can: ” Track your rep’s activity. We tell you how your rep voted, how often your representative agrees with you, and whether or not they’ve attended a vote. Encourage open discussion. You can share an issue on your favorite social network, without revealing your personal opinion. Act on issues that don’t make headlines. We don’t only tell you about what is breaking the news; we check for updates every hour to make sure you have the latest information. Become an informed voter. Using IssueVoter year-round informs you before elections and keeps money’s influence out of your opinion. Only re-elect reps who truly represented you.”

  2. Write, show up, call your state representatives. Women’s March organizers are asking you to express what matters most to you and drop it in the mail. Planned Parenthood asked volunteers to call their representatives. Other interest groups are asking people to show up in the offices of their representatives to express concerns.

  3. Register for Take The Lead leadership programs. Learn how to shift the notion of demonstrating ”power over” to employing your “power to” through seminars, core programs and training to become a Take The Lead Leadership Ambassador and put to work the 9 Leadership Power Tools.

  4. Tell your story.Momsrising.org is asking people to drop off a book of personal stories in the local offices of elected officials about how the Affordable Care Act has helped families, said executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner,” according to CNN.

  5. Write an oped for your local newspaper or digital outlet. The OpEd Project (where I am a senior leader) offers core seminars around the country, but also has open-source information on how to craft an op-ed on important issues in your community. The site also offers submission and editor information for opeds and letters to the editor for more than 100 sites. Once published, share your work on social media.

  6. Fund women’s innovation. Look into connecting with groups such as Golden Seeds,“an early-stage investment firm with a focus on women leaders and creating lasting impact.” The firm with 275 members has invested more than $90 million in 85 companies since 2005.

  7. Volunteer for and donate to causes you believe in. Glynda Carr, co-founder of New York-based Higher Heights, a national organization that seeks to harness black women’s political power, told NBC that the real work must happen when attendees get back to their communities. She encouraged them to donate their voices, talents and financial resources to fight for causes they believe in. “Higher Heights is marching forward, and we are going to mobilize and engage. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be organizing a series of salon conversations about what we need to do to unleash black women’s political power.”

  8. Consider running for office. As Take The Lead president and co-founder Gloria Feldt writes in Huffington Post, many women in leadership are “signing up for political campaign training. But the proof will be in how many of these women actually run for office. We need these nascent office-holders and we also need more women sitting on corporate boards, women taking on CEO, CFO and other leadership positions.”

  9. Work to make your workplace fair. “The first change that will empower professional women is the increasing availability of actionable information related to companies’ gender practices. Salary information that allows women to measure their personal gender pay gap is already available from GetRaised, Payscale, ZipRecruiter, and Comparably. Hired takes it one step further, offering a marketplace in which companies bid for talent. That can serve to close the gender pay gap pretty quickly. These solutions are not perfect, but they are a start,” writes Sallie Krawcheck in Harvard Business Review. Krawcheck is the author of Own It: The Power of Women at Work, and CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, chair of Ellevate Network and the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund.

  10. Move beyond the bubble. At thisismyoath.com, as women in leadership, you can pledge to organize around an issue you care about deeply, and the site offers resources and steps to help you get involved in specific issues. You can choose to educate, donate, participate and communicate. “It’s all about how to bridge the divides in this country—which can only happen if we leave our personal comfort zones and try to understand why this election ended the way it did, and what we need to do about that now,” according to the site.

  11. Join in more marches and protests. According to the United State of Women, Muslim Girl Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh grew the site “into a platform that raises the voices and narrative of Muslim women in society, while also providing fire content and resources like the Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women. And if you’re looking for ways to get involved today, check out this list of city-by-city protests against the Muslim Ban.”

  12. Take a class, webinars, training sessions for leadership. VoteRunLead, is a New York nonprofit that grooms women for public office and “supports the aspirations of women who want to transform our country and democracy through their participation as leaders.”

  13. Network and build community with in-person gatherings, meetings. Social media momentum is great, but meeting in real life in person can be more effective. Christen Brandt, cofounder/CPO of She’s the First and women’s self-defense instructor, told Forbes: “My resolution is to light as many fires under others as humanly possible. I started Next Steps Salon, a platform to make it easy to host gatherings geared toward thoughtful conversation and concrete action. Through Next Steps Salons, my self-defense work and everyday conversations, my goal is to put together and support a veritable army of people working for the rights of the marginalized.”

  14. Hashtag Activism. “Connections made between activists from across the country in these spaces are likely to last and flourish, especially in the age of social media,” writes Adele Stan in American Prospect. “Women, especially women of color, have been organizing successful protest movements for centuries. (Anybody remember Rosa Parks?) For this feminist, part of the beauty of Saturday’s march was the number of men who turned out for a march organized by women—women who brought together all segments of the progressive coalition.”

Continuing with the momentum sparked by the day of marches and a week of public protests is key for so many women in leadership.

Continuing with the momentum sparked by marches is key for women in leadership #ActionForChange

Nancy Kaffer interviewed some of the marchers for the Detroit Free Press. Kaffer wrote: “I’m just not going to shut up,” said Cynthia Pickens, 62, of Northville, a retired mail carrier and owner of a catering business. Wyandotte resident and Episcopal preacher Colleen Lough, 59, used nearly the same words: “I will not sit down, I will not shut up. I will be heard.”


About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com