Dec 042013

American women are leaning in. We now earn more degrees, hold more managerial and professional positions, and in many cities earn more money than do men. And yet we still make up only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress, lead only 3.6 percent of the Fortune 500, and earn only 77 cents for the same work that earns men a whole fat dollar.

What’s up with that?

In this panel discussion from the 3% Conference, I humbly submit that women’s failure to bust through the glass ceiling is not for want of leaning in. Instead, it’s because many men are failing to relinquish the levers of power to their abler female counterparts.

And so the the time has come for women not to lean in more, but to lean on men, urging them to break the glass ceiling from the other side. To avoid messy accidents, men could also just open the doors and let us in, already, to the board rooms and corner offices they still control. Although women have made great strides across the economy, men still rule the upper echelons of our institutions. Without men’s help, women will never completely ascend to the heights for which we have repeatedly proven ourselves  qualified.

Don’t believe women are fit to lead? Well. All the more reason for you to watch this discussion, titled “How Women Lead.” In it, CEOs Daina Middleton (Performics), Dianne Wilkins (Critical Mass), Wendy Wallbridge (On Your Mark), and I talk with Kelli Robertson (Goodby, Silverstein and Partners) about the unique strengths of women leaders. And we’re not just talking out of our hats. We present compelling evidence and personal stories illustrating how women uniquely motivate employees, connect with markets, innovate solutions, and make the pie bigger for everyone (mmm…pie).

This panel discussion was part of one the coolest events I’ve attended this year: the 3% Conference, so named because only 3 percent of creative directors in advertising agencies are women–even though women make 85 % of all consumer purchases. Founded by creative director Kat Gordon (Maternal Instinct), the conference brings together men and women to discuss how to get more Mad Women into the marketing mix. It’s an annual extravaganza, so stay tuned to learn the where and when of next year’s event.



Oct 042013

I was chuffed to give a talk about CLASH! at the inaugural TEDx Pacific Palisades, whose theme was “From_____ to _____.” I shared, among other things, tales of my harrowing transition from working-class Memphis to Yale, a photograph of my grandmother with 17-year-old me, and the story of how I got mixed up with Hazel Rose Markus in the first place. Kindly stab yourself and pass the dagger (which is an old British adage meaning “take some for yourself then pass it on”)!

Feb 042009

LUSHOTO, TZ–When rolling through the hinterlands of Africa, shrink-wrapping one’s womanly form in Lycra just won’t do. As it is, a white person is cause for much discussion in these parts. “Mzungu,” people announce when I walk by, using a Kiswahili word that roughly means “whitey.” A mzungu on a bicycle elicits even more comment, as people see the bicycle as rather lowly transport for the purportedly wealthy mzungu. Women on bicycles are likewise as rare as rhinoceroses.

And so a white woman on a bicycle is an event not unlike the circus pulling into town. Children rush out of schools to greet me. Women drop their chickens. Men marvel, and then discuss among themselves.

Mind you that all of this goes down in a really friendly way, with people smiling and calling out, “Jambo!” (Hello!) and “Karibu!” (Welcome!). Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to attract any more attention, or any less wholesome attention, than I already am.

And so I’ve settled into my modest Muslim cycling kit–loose mountain-biking pants or cycling shorts worn under a black cotton skirt, coupled with long-sleeve cotton shirts that I picked up at FabIndia in New Delhi when I visited Lucy a few years ago.

My demure dress probably makes me a bit more approachable, as I am clearly (and for once) not some half-nekkid wench come to upset the social order. But the question remains: am I an inspiration to the ladies to take up their bikes and lay claim to the highways, or a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t marry well? My guide, Jerome, (pictured here) and fellow-traveler, David, reckon that the answer is the latter, and suggested that we complete the scene by hanging a sign around my neck that says, “Woman for sale.” I recommended that they add “Long legs! Strong teeth! Good SAT scores!” to the sign.

Meanwhile, the people I roll past seem to admire my exertions. “No way I can do,” said a woman my age carrying about 50 pounds of firewood on her head. “You must be very strong,” several men have speculated. But the surest sign of respect is the term of address they use when I’m on my bike. On foot, I get called “dada”–that is, sister. But when I’m on two wheels, I become “mama.”