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Dare to Raise Your Voice MORE in 2015

Friday, January 09, 2015 @ 5:31 PM

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Paris and the controversy in the USA over the movie, THE INTERVIEW, I've been thinking a lot about leaders and the importance of continuing to raise our voices, even in the face of push-back, disdain and threats.

Sometimes those threats can mean life or death, as in the case of the French journalists or Martin Luther King, Jr. and the thousands who marched with him in Selma, Alabama (the topic of a powerful, new film). Often, it can mean social ostracism and disdain as Susan B. Anthony and the American Suffragettes faced for decades as they fought for the right to vote. 

Or, it can be as subtle as well-intentioned, but insidious, career advice. I'll never forget the Ford executive who told me, "Anne, you've got to stop always seeing things through the eyes of a woman. People are getting really tired of it!" The "people" he was referring to, of course, were all men, many of whom would have preferred I always saw things their way, or at least stifled myself more often! 

My 2015 message is simply this: BE COURAGEOUS. Dare to continue raising your voice to make a positive difference. Everywhere we look, the human family is crying out for the mothers of the world -- women -- to step up and take an equal role in shaping the economic, cultural, educational, military and public policy decisions that impact all human possibility. 

I love the words of Admiral Michelle Howard, vice chief of U.S. Naval Operations, who is raising the Navy's game. She recently told a Washington, DC audience, "My definition of leadership is 'Not standing around and doing nothing while watching everything go to hell!'” Everywhere we look, things are going to hell. Pick your passion. Then put your shoulder to the wheel and let your voice be heard -- particularly if you are the lone voice who brings different perspective to decisions.

Leadership is rarely easy. I draw courage from watching or reading about others in action, such as the movies: Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay; Iron-Jawed Angels and Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. Or, pick up, "Race Across Alaska," the fascinating book on Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the 1,000-mile Iditarod dog-sled race. Plus, right before our eyes, fabulous examples of powerful, brave and wise women are rising up and taking action. For example: 

  • United States Congress. We now have 100 women (out of 535) elected to the U.S. Senate (20) and House of Representatives (80). That's nowhere close to what it should be. Two of our newest Congresswomen, Brenda Lawrence and Debbie Dingell, are from Michigan and pesonal friends. Here's a fascinating articles on the women who led the way in the ultimate "boys club" and the sexism even U.S. Senators still contend with.
  • DC's Matriarchy - For the first time in history, the Mayor, Police Chief and School Chancellor of an American city are all women -- and two are women of color. It's time for the rest of America to catch up!
  • Women of Africa Rising -- Kah Walla, a courageous political leader I met years ago at a global conference, is running for president in Cameroon. Her TedTalk is a must-view primer on this critically important continent. 
  • Marissa Mayer and Silicon Sexism - 2014 brought fascinating revelations about the blatant sexism in Silicon Valley. In Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! author Nicolas Carlson blames Mayer's Oscar de la Renta shoes !!!) instead of Silicon Valley culture for any sexism she faced. The recent review in NY Times magazine is worth your time.
  • Actress and activist Geena Davis continues to raise her voice on behalf of girls and women. She is partnering with Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Walmart to host a film festival promoting women and diversity in movies. 
  • Hillary Clinton -- Yes, of course she is running for president in 2016. And she will be elected. Let me know if you want to help!

The Instigators are Watching Us. We need to start innoculating and preparing our next generation of girls much younger to successfully navigate the toxic cultural waters they must wade through on their way to embracing all the possibilities of Womaninity. Over the holidays, a dear friend and fabulous "Innovator" entrepreneur invited me to get to know her beautiful daughter, part of the generation I call "the Instigators." This young Instigator show her Mom and me that even 8 months old isn't too young to start learning to "power up"! 

Remember: There's nothing to fear in this moment. And this moment is all there really is. 

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