It has been an absolute privilege talking to Gloria Feldt, a New York Times best-selling author, speaker, commentator, and feminist leader who has gained national recognition as a social and political advocate of women's rights.
We explore with Gloria her 2012 book, "No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power", which offers 9 Power Tools in bite-sized takeaways women can use at work, at home, or in their civic and political life. Gloria also gives us an insight into Take the Lead, the non-profit she co-founded and presides over, which has an incredibly ambitious objective, to achieve leadership parity in all sectors by 2025. Take the Lead aims at changing the way women think about power and equip them with tools to propel them to the top echelons of leadership in the private, the public and the not for profit sector as well.
Despite the fact that 57% of University graduates are women, they are really thinning out at the top. Only 4,6% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women, and only 14,2% of top leadership positions are held by women. We at the WorkLife HUB are particularly invested in exploring the barriers to advancing women in leadership, and speaking to Gloria definitely opened new lines of thinking.
I ask Gloria teasingly, whether women can have it all? Her response? In her typical frank and straightforward style her reply was:
Having it all is the silliest expression in the English language. Nobody can have it all. Everybody has it some.
How can we collectively build on the current momentum advancing towards gender equality? There are 2 parts to the equation: firstly we need to change the laws and make policies to allow for women to move into leadership positions, and secondly by challenging the ingrained culture. Even today, both women and men have still have in their minds an archetype of a leader that is male. We need to challenge our collective narrative around success, authority and leadership, and use the media and any opportunity that arises to form a new picture, in which also women take their share of responsibility and power. We have all the research evidence that shows this makes absolute business and societal sense. The right thing to do meets the profitable thing to do.
Companies that offer flexible working hours, leave and return policies, opportunities for work-life balance are able to attract and retain talent, they have a much broader talent-pool to chose from too. By offering greater flexibility, companies can have a more loyal and satisfied workforce, the cost of recruiting people and retraining them is very high, and this cost can be avoided.
One last gem of wisdom to finish our conversation?
Women are not the question, but the answer to the question.