Powertopia: Take The Lead Redefines Power For A Future of Parity

Anika Rahman (left) and Gloria Feldt discuss the notions of power for women at the recent “Powertopia” event in New York. (Photo by Alexis Buryk of City Love Photography)

Anika Rahman (left) and Gloria Feldt discuss the notions of power for women at the recent “Powertopia” event in New York. (Photo by Alexis Buryk of City Love Photography)

“What’s your leadership super power?”

It was a simple request with profound implications at the recent “Powertopia: Transforming The Nature Of Leadership” event for Take The Lead in New York.

Scores of guests including CEOS, founders, presidents, directors, executive directors, non-profit leaders, Take The Lead Leadership Ambassadors, journalists, students, financial advisors, authors and leaders from different fields responded with, “I know how to get the door open,” or “I’m the wizard behind the curtain.”

Amy Litzenberger, co-founder and chair of Take The Lead, introduced the evening to mark co-founder and president Gloria Feldt’s 75th birthday and announce Take The Lead Day in November, an initiative aimed at propelling, inspiring and activating women to take the lead in their lives, careers and communities.

From in-person workshops to online events, panel discussions, webinars and podcasts, Take The Lead and its partners on Take The Lead Day will focus on the theme of Powertopia, a world where women are equal and gender parity is achieved.  The goal is to reach 500,000 men and women in order to achieve the mission of gender parity in all leadership positions by 2025.

In November, Take The Lead Day will focus on #Powertopia, a world where #genderparity is achieved

“We are at an incredible strategic moment with the opportunity to make substantial social changes,” Feldt told the crowd gathered at the home of Anika Rahman, a lawyer and former Vice President of Development at the Rainforest Alliance and the founding director of the International Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“It’s rare for a woman to run for office simply for the power,” said Feldt. “You can change the laws and open the doors, but it doesn’t change the culture. If you break your gender stereotype, you may not be treated so nicely.”

Rahman, who also served as President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women and was formerly President of Friends for United Nations Population Fund, asked Feldt specifically about notions of women and power and how to shift the relationship women have with power.

Speaking about researching for her book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, Feldt said, “Women had developed an ambivalent relationship to power, for very good culturally learned reasons—and I want to emphasize this word over again. They are learned reasons, therefore it can be changed.”

The 9 Leadership Power Tools Feldt created for Take The Lead reframe the relationship women have with power.

The #LeadershipPowerTools Feldt created for Take The Lead reframe women’s relationship with power

“The narrative of history in the last few millennium has been a narrative of war. Power is, ‘I  can make you do stuff,’” Feldt said. “When you start seeing the power to accomplish things, the power to innovate and create and understand it’s not a finite pie, then it’s learning that power is what you make of it.”

Feldt continued, “Once you start working on that it becomes something we want, we take that locus of power back into our lives. And we can take that locus of power back into ourselves, we can set higher intentions for ourselves and we can walk through those doors.”

“I truly believe that if one generation of women keeps walking through the doors and doesn’t back out—and for all the good reasons, I do understand—but if one generation stays in, I really think it will put us over critical mass.”

The conversation between Feldt and  Rahman was followed by a lively Q&A with women asking how to manage the isolation they might find in work situations to the criticism of how they respond in emails and the need to change their style of asking.

With the goal of reaching leadership parity in all fields by 2025, Take The Lead leaders asked guests to join an action committee to support the November Take The Lead Day, harnessing their superpowers in operations, marketing and public relations. The Action Committees will meet monthly from August through November and focus on strategy and implementation to ensure the November day of action’s success.

Feldt says she has witnessed and been told of remarkable breakthroughs in the lives of women who shift their relationship to power, to be one of the power to accomplish instead of the power over something. To applause from the group, Feldt added, “ It’s not all that simple, but it is that simple.”

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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