“Keep calm and carry on?” I don’t think so. Be bold and carry out!
(Thoughts about Madeleine Albright, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and You)
Issue 195— March 28, 2022
The first time I gave a speech where I said “Be bold and carry out!” was to an audience of probably 1000 or so at the annual conference of WICT, Women In Cable Telecommunications. Smart, ambitious, accomplished women. And yet they still held no more than 20% of the top leadership positions in their industry.
I’d been studying how women are socialized — and actually get rewarded — to put their heads down and do the work but to have lower intentions to claim recognition or leadership than men. And I was pissed!
So the passion just poured out of me.
Sending Ketanji Brown Jackson Powerful Energy to #BreaktheBias, Make History, and Take The Lead on the Supreme Court
Last week watching Ketanji Brown Jackson get bullied and yelled at by self- righteous men who couldn’t stand to see a smart, accomplished Black woman get the @SCOTUS appointment for which she so obviously had done the work and was clearly qualified set me off with that same fury. I wanted to jump through the television and tell those pompous men off — to say all the things Brown Jackson felt she could not lest she lose support for losing her composure.
I thought of all the times I had hidden my anger at being dismissed or disparaged for achieving while female. How I was told not to be a “brassy broad” and to smile more if I wanted to be heard. It’s ten times worse for Black women who have the intersectional double whammy of race and gender.
As Dahlia Lithwick writes for Slate: “If you have been subject to abuse, bullying, and intimidation, what you really don’t need to hear from people in power is that they think you are ‘brave,’ or that you’re modeling perseverance and grace. What you really want is for someone to stand beside you and take a punch — or throw one.”
Which brings me to Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State, who died last week.
Albright, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was renowned for her diplomatic skills — knowing when to throw that punch or hold it. May she rest in power, for she definitely knew how to use it. I had the opportunity to meet and work with her on several occasions, including walking together on the frontline of the March for Women’s Lives in 2004. The over 1,000,000 marchers behind us created so much pressure that we had to start the March earlier than planned. Her strength and passion for women’s rights were palpable. I think often of how she had to “uncover herself” (see my book Intentioning to understand) to know herself as a leader because her family had hidden their Jewish identity.
She also spoke of how she had interrupted her career path for her children and was obviously successful in getting back on it later. So hopping in and out of the career trajectory worked out quite well for her. And honestly, it should become an accepted norm, not an aberration in our workplace. Judge Jackson should not have felt the need to make an apology for her parenting to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Albright’s much-quoted admonition, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women” became controversial during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign when some tried to weaponize it by claiming she only meant to support women who shared her beliefs. The popular narrative of women not helping other women actually contributes to holding women “in their smaller place.”
Yet research data, as compared to individual anecdotes, finds that it is power not gender that correlates with people being less kind and supportive of others. This is not to disregard individual anecdotes but to say popular narratives usually serve a social purpose of maintaining the status quo. And the status quo is that women have less power, pay, and leadership positions than men. Individual women can break through those barriers — that’s exactly what I teach them to do in my courses. Importantly, if we intentionally work together, we can remove those barriers for all women.
So back to that WICT speech, I told the woman assembled not to keep calm and carry on, but to be bold and carry out.
Because you know, if you’re going to be judged unfairly anyway, you might as well put your pedal to the metal and be your authentic brilliant self, aiming as high as you want and taking no guff from those who don’t have your best interest at heart.
Be bold and carry out.
You’ll free yourself to be yourself.
What a relief!
Your energy will flow so you can do your work with so much more ease, so much more joy. You deserve every bit of it.
Sometimes when I speak at events, I realize I’m also telling myself what I need to hear. I get so much good energy from interacting with incredible women and men who are partners in the work for gender equality. And if I can inspire even one woman to go for higher Intentions than she ever thought she could achieve, then it’s all worth it.
P.S. I’m excited to share these thoughts with Women With Insight when I’ll be their closing Women’s History Month speaker this week.
If you’re exploring themes of power, intentioning, and gender equality at your next event, I have a few more spots in my booking. Head to my website to contact me with your inquiry. And let’s be bold and carry out together.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Her signature 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career online course is described as “life changing” and “jet fuel for my career” by participants. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.