Lean in…With Support!

The cat just looked at me as though I’m from Mars.

Wilber eats dinner every single day at 5PM. On the dot. When I served him his evening meal on this first day of daylight savings time, he was utterly confused.

To him, it was still 4PM. He walked away without even a lick of his Fancy Feast!

How’re you adjusting to the time change? Hope you’re easing into it better than Wilber ;-)

I just returned from New York City where I met with a number of Women on Fire, which is always so uplifting. I love hearing about your hopes and dreams, challenges and struggles, and sharing what is easier to do together than alone.


Lucky me in the middle of this Women on Fire sandwich with style consultant Holly Getty and finanical expert Manisha Thakor, who was featured in last month’s Women on Fire membership CD package. (Photo by Meredith Schoenberger)

While in New York, I also attended a conversation with Gloria Steinem and women who created Makers, the inspired stories of women trailblazers.

(I invite you to check it outWarning: once you go down the slippery slope of watching and reading about these fascinating women, you can’t stop! My favorite so far is Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon. You can’t believe what happened.)

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Gloria Steinem, who is 78,  in the center of conversation about the 50-year history of the Women’s Movement with producers and subjects in the “Makers” series.

Nearly everywhere I went last week, including in the conversation with Gloria, people were talking about two women in the national news: Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg.

Marissa Mayer, the chief executive officer at Yahoo, made headlines when she  announced her company would end the worker-friendly practice of telecommuting.

Her reasoning is that it is bad for a collaborative company to have so many employees losing out on interacting and participating in experiences “that are only possible in our offices.”

I see her point. Still, if a male CEO (other than Microsoft’s Bill Gates or Apple’s Tim Cook) banned telecommuting, I doubt it would have been news.

Then there is Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. She has a big week ahead: she is on 60 Minutes, on the cover of Time Magazine (with the sexist perpetuating headline ‘Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Successful’) and on Tuesday her new book is released.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead explores what is keeping women from rising to the highest echelons of power.

“We hold ourselves back, in ways big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” she proclaims.

This 43-year-old working mother of two small children believes that women underestimate their abilities and “lean back and sit on the sidelines.” She herself admits to times of fear and holding back, and urges women to “lean in.”

Critics accuse her of making women feel as though failing to get ahead and achieve at the same rate as men is their fault. Others attack her because she is a billionnaire and don’t believe her advice resonates with the average woman.

I am eagerly awaiting my copy of the book.  But after reading pre-publication excerpts and interviews, I whole-heartedly support her.

“The time is long overdue to encourage more women to dream the possible dream and encourage more men to support women in the workforce and in the home,” she says.

Well, that is for sure.

Check out this brief video of what she hopes the book will inspire and tell me what you think? You also might watch her famous 2010 TEDx talk  about why women are not making it to the top anywhere in the world.

In her ideal scenario, “I believe this world would be a better place if half of our companies and half our countries are run by women and half our homes are run by men.”

When I think of leaning in, I also think how easy it is to tip over.

So, I also applaud Sheryl Sandberg for creating a foundation for Lean In Circles to support “a program for professional women that encourages them to review social-science research, share stories, receive instruction on career development, and “lean in” to (as opposed to opt out of) their careers.”

I can certainly buy that, too.

At Women on Fire, we’ve been doing just that for 10 years.  We’ve leaned in, listened, supported, shared information, resources and opportunities, and cheered each other on. We know how it works for you to have your dreams. Now it’s time to spread it to the world!


For a decade Women on Fire have shared and cheered each other on in circles of support. Pictured at a New York City gathering last Friday: Janina Sebesky, Holly Getty, Elle Celeste, me! Miriam Posner, Shannon McCaffery and Meredith Schoenberger.

Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are blazing trails by igniting conversations that need to take place about women in the workplace.

Billionnaire or no, it takes a lot of guts to stand up and be criticized for leaning in to speak their truth.

Maybe one of them might even become powerful enough to ban Daylight Savings Time. ;-)

 

7 Ways My Eyes Were Opened

I am stuffed – and writing to you from New York City after finishing the yummiest brunch at Nice Matin, one of my favorite restaurants.

Edward Beck Debbie Phillips Holly Getty and Ellen Wingard
My uplifting and treasured friends Ellen Wingard, Edward Beck and Holly Getty. (Thank you, random person on street who took this wonderful photo!)

When I am surrounded with supportive friends who make me feel loved and cherished like Edward, Ellen and Holly, I believe I can go out into the world and do anything.

Who in your life makes you feel this way?  Whoever cheers you on and helps you move forward, I hope you have a date on your calendar to spend time with them!

I am in New York City because I was invited to attend the 3rd Annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek/Daily Beast  Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown.

The summit was a convergence of 2,600 women from around the world and a showcase for some of the world’s most dazzling women change-agents – Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Leymah Gbowee, Gloria Steinem, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Christiane Amanpour, Sheryl WuDunn and many, many more.

After three days of immersion into the hopes, dreams, conditions and status of women and girls worldwide, I so wish I could give each woman who presented her due.

Instead, I will share the 7 Things That Opened My Eyes.  These were awarenesses that inspire me to want to be part of the solution for a better world.  In some instances, I’m not sure exactly how to help so I will take our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call to action as a roadmap.

“What does it mean to be a woman in the world?” she asked. “It means never giving up. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.”

There are many terrible things going on in the world that affect women.  The conference was not about politics, not about women vs. men, not about casting blame.  But rather how can we all join forces — no matter age, religion, political party, nationality — and find solutions.

This was, however, a call to action for women to use our gifts and talents, many unique to our gender, and help to solve our world’s problems.

Here are some topics that opened my eyes:

1) Child marriage is a horrific, pervasive problem in this world – and even in our own country.  25,000 girls under the age of 18 get married globally each and every day, some of them as young as 8 and 9.

In the United States, it is legal (with parental or court permission) to get married at age 12 in West Virginia and age 14 in New Hampshire.   Girls who marry at these tender ages face cascades of lifetime issues from lack of education and health to abuse and poverty.  Laws, customs and family traditions must be changed.

2) Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at age 74, is an outspoken and powerful advocate for women.  Addressing the Summit, she made no bones about her opinions:  To people who say, “there are not enough qualified women (for elected office and top-level positions), that’s one of the biggest bullshit things I’ve ever heard!”

And, she will always hold a special place in my heart for her most famous quote: “I think there should be a special place in Hell for women who don’t support other women.”   You go, Madam Secretary!

3) Women are exquisitely and uniquely qualified to lead the world’s police and security forces. They bring different and needed gifts to this profession, which is increasingly more and more complex locally, nationally and globally.

Women are “lionesses” when it comes to protecting their families and communities,  innate skills and instincts for creating secure environments, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano pointed out.

Case in point: Washington DC’s Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, a single mother who entered law enforcement to make a better life for her son, is now celebrated for significantly reducing violent crimes in that city.  It has occurred because of her commitment to communication and outreach into the community.

4) “Women are too politely angry,” warned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, in discussing the power of women in conflict zones to replicate her success in toppling a corrupt government and violence in Liberia.  Pray The Devil Back To Hell is a stunning documentary (and one of my all-time top movies) detailing how women joined forces and conquered the violence in their country.

5) Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, two 20-something entrepreneurs shared their invention “SOccket Rockets.”  The device brings electricity to impoverished communities around the world and works when kids kick a soccer ball! One out of 5 people in the world don’t have power.  30 minutes of play gives 3 hours of power!

6) Former presidential daughters Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Bush, in separate forums, championed new generations of change-agents.

Barbara highlighted astounding success of her Global Health Corps.  What Teach America has done for education, Global Health Corps is doing to solve health issues and enlisting an entire generation of young people in making it happen.

Chelsea celebrated The Digital Lives of Girls and highlighted innovative young women who are harnessing technology to prevent bullying, to develop self-esteem and supportive communities for leveraging issues that are important to them.  Inspiring to see how Barbara and Chelsea contribute to the world.

7)  Women can change the world. Not that I did not know this going into the Summit.  Walking out, I know it for sure and am ready to take more of the need “on my back,” as Hillary would ask.

And, as she put it so beautifully, ““Women with help from their friends can make a difference.” She urged us to be  “fearless, committed and audacious.”  And, then she sent all 2,600 of us out into the world to make that difference:

“So let’s go for it, and make it happen!”

As we move forward into the next months, I will be asking your opinion for ways that Women on Fire join forces with other women in the world to bring about change, healing and peace to all.

Until then, is there a situation that you want to correct in your life, in your community, in this country or in the world?

You are only one step away from making a difference.

Have an absolutely wonderful week and keep me posted on how you want to make a difference in any aspect of your — and our world.