Omniwomen Q&A with Gloria Feldt
If you’ve taken a look around – at news reports, books, and fresh research – you will have noticed that conversation around the gender pay gap is reaching a fevered pitch. Both men and women are talking more about why the need for gender equality in the workplace is vital to society and the world. This movement is central to Omniwomen, and we want to create an environment where everyone is welcome to debate this issue and work toward eliminating it.To that end, I’m happy to share a Q&A with Gloria Feldt, Co-Founder & President of Take the Lead, an organization working to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. Following an illustrious career as an advocate forwomen‘s issues, namely as CEO & President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for over ten years, I think you’ll find Gloria’s power tools especially useful as you set the course for the next phase of your career.- Janet Riccio, EVP, Omnicom Group Inc.
1. The missions of Omniwomen and Take The Lead are similar in their focus on increasing the number of women in leadership roles. What lesson do you believe is most important for a woman to learn in order for her to be on the right path to becoming a leader?Take The Lead’s mission is to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership roles in all sectors by 2025. From my research, interviewing women all over the country, and looking into my own heart and career, I concluded that the most important thing for a woman to learn is how to redefine power in order to embrace it authentically. When she knows the power in her own hands, she can go forward to lead with intention, confidence, and joy.Women are often ambivalent about power because we have borne the brunt of its negative aspects for millennia. Power has been defined as the power over something or someone. Once we redefine power as the power to – the positive power to accomplish good things in this world, power to thrive as an individual, and the power to make life better for ourselves, our families, our organizations, the world – we can embrace it fully. Power over is oppressive. Power to is leadership.And, very important: we must understand that becoming a leader is not about ourselves alone. Becoming a leader is a social activity. Women will succeed together or not at all. Each of us has the responsibility to bring other women through the doors with us. I call that #SisterCourage.2. Can you describe 2-3 of the most important power tools from your book No Excuses?This is hard to answer because together, the power tools form a synergistic whole for life and leadership. But if I must choose, I would say:
- Define your own terms first before others define you. As you well know, we will all be branded. How much better to determine intentionally how you will be known and seen. Who do you think you are? What will your life mean when you look back from the future? In daily worklife terms, whoever frames the debate usually wins it, and whoever sets the agenda usually makes happen what she wants. Setting a daily intention is a great way to define your terms too. It helps you focus on the important rather than the urgent.
- Embrace controversy. This is one of several counterintuitive power tools—things you’ve been told not to do, but I found that when used strategically, they are extremely effective in leading complex organizations. I learned from leading arguably the most controversial movement in the country that, controversy is your friend. It is a teacher. When something is controversial, it means it’s important; people are paying attention. It gives you a platform to discuss the issue so people clarify their thinking. If instead of running away from controversy, you ride into the wave and use its energy to propel you forward, great strides can be made to generate new solutions, ideas, and innovations.
- Tell your story. Your story is your power and your truth, your authenticity, your integrity, what makes you unique. We learn the most from stories. A good storyteller tells a good story. A great storyteller lets you see yourself in the story. The most effective leaders are great storytellers who enable people to see themselves in the story of the organization, movement, or product.
3. The Gap App is a brilliant tool for women at all stages in their careers. Can you tell us about it, or share any examples of women who have used it successfully to take that next step in their careers?I’m so glad you asked, because it gives me a chance to share one of Take The Lead’s fundamental tenets: it’s time to change the narrative about women from a focus on problems to a focus on solutions. We created the Close the Gap App as an example of that changed narrative. The App is really a process tool you can use on a computer or handheld device to plan a successful negotiation for anything.
For example, one of the first women who used it had started a business with a man who was older and more experienced than she, though she had the technical knowledge. She assumed that he would own the majority interest due to his experience. After going through the Close the Gap App, she realized the value she brought to the endeavor. As a result, she asked for and got 50%. Others have told us it gave them the information and courage to negotiate salary increases or promotions.That said, the app is good, but not yet great. We’re looking for partners to create v2.0. We need to make it a better product and market it widely. That’s a blatant invitation for anyone who is interested in helping to contact me at gloriafeldt@taketheleadwomen.