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No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power Paperback – February 28, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
As the former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Feldt (The War on Choice) has years of experience in shepherding feminist causes. In her latest book she examines how women can move past low societal expectations, learn to embrace their ambitions to advance feminism, and achieve equality by addressing power and leadership. Feldt focuses on Hillary Clinton's campaign for president and several female business executives and entrepreneurs, illustrating how women can mobilize support to advance everyone. Her advice is sharp, well-documented, and supported by anecdotal evidence. She manages to balance a generous feeling of support with a sense of urgency; though women are moving closer to equality, Feldt argues that they remain in danger of losing their gains and offers a great deal of practical advice for women who want to be active in politics, business, or their personal lives. With heartfelt encouragement and a push for empowerment through equality (including strategies for including men in feminist causes), this guide is accessible to all.
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Feldt is one of the most motivating women in America, period. Her observations are sharp and her courage is contagiousfor women of both political parties.” Cindi Leive,
Editor-In-Chief of Glamour magazine
An up-to-the-minute, indispensable book. This book is the coach young women need.” Gloria Steinem
One of those books that has the power to change your life. It’s challenging and smart, but most important, it gives you actual tools you can use to walk in your own power.”
Gloria’s redefinition of power is exactly what the world needs today.”Peter Buffett, composer, philanthropist, and author of Life Is What You Make It
No Excuses challenges women to embrace their strength and choose power over fear.” Jehmu Greene, President, Women’s Media Center
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Gloria Feldt states the problem unambiguously: "By far the most confounding problem facing women today is not that doors aren't open, but that women aren't walking through the open doors in numbers and with the intention sufficient to transform society's major institutions once and for all." The former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (who had given birth to three children by the age of 20), Gloria Feldt offers a relevant flashback on Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), who opened a birth control clinic in 1916. Not only did she transform her convictions into actions, she did not ask for permission: she did it.
The book evolves around a very interesting analysis of the relationship of women to power. Most of the time, "power" boils down to being a demonstration of force, through attitudes, rhetorical means and the like; in other words, the word denotes a "power over" things, situations, or people. This is a vision of power with which women are traditionally uncomfortable, as it reeks of centuries of servitude and bullying. Implicitly getting back to the actual etymology of the word, Gloria Feldt exhorts women to understand the term as designating "the ability to," and speaks of a "power to..." This means: the capacity to accomplish things, and before anything else, the faculty of ridding oneself from the fear of coming across in an unfeminine fashion or a sort of "bluestocking." This latter is a term that ended up being used derisively to stigmatize educated women in the 18th century, targeting the members of the Blue Stockings Society, an important educational and social movement created in England by Elizabeth Montegu (and to which the first woman-programmer in history, Ada Byron Lovelace belonged!)
"Power-to" is the new responsibility of women. They have the responsibility to take advantage of what the fight of other women has granted them over the course of the 20th century and pursue the cause by resisting fear and speaking up -- especially as results already speak for them. Catalyst, Ernst & Young, the World Bank and McKinsey have clearly acknowledged an improved efficiency in organizations including at least 30% of women at the top.
The book provides a wide range of tactical tools and ways for women to overcome recurring demons (such as the feeling of not being "quite ready" to apply to a given job, for example) and ends up with a forceful exhortation: "Don't follow your dream -- lead it." While it may be true that women often do not have the same "track record" as men, often because the road has been more difficult for them, it's also true that they can make up time lost efficiently.
Many of the case studies are inspiring. Don't try to tread a "fine line" or compromise indefinitely, as did Hilary Clinton in many respects. Lean forward. True, it's hard for women CEO to take a long maternity leave, but at least we can decide to own our bodies, and we can decide to have kids on our own terms. It's up to women to organize to make sure that if women retreat from the workforce temporarily, we help them come back.
The nine ways were succinct and in my opinion fairly straightforward. However, the surprises in this read are the questions I am now trying to answer for myself. How can we engage more women to help others beyond their own families? Gloria Feldt pointed out many women especially single mothers and upper level corporate leaders feel isolated and compelled to endure on their own. She noted women are reluctant to donate to philanthropies as they are struggling to survive, and some believe they do not have to reach out to other women as few women reached out to them. This circular thinking can lead to further isolation. In my experience, I have many great women who have mentored, inspired, and directed me. In turn, I have paid it forward to others in my life.
In this election year 2012 with no female candidates for President coming to the forefront, it leaves me wondering how are we moving forward with women's rights. I feel frustrated that I have no answers lately. Share this with the powerful women in your life. Ask them the same questions I am asking. Let's learn how to help each other, and feel less alone.