SharpAlice Book Summary & Review:

When did you last read a book that got under your skin? A book that made you reconsider your views and actions? That is the experience we had whilst reading Gloria Feldt’s “No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

We chose to read and review this book in our quest to help us women overcome our own internal barriers to leadership. However, this book did much more than that, as Gloria Feldt looks at these barriers through the lens of the women’s movement. By doing so, she opened our eyes to the fact that despite the many advances towards gender equality, many internal barriers still hinder women from taking on leadership roles at an equal rate to men. Or as Gloria puts it:

“All the intelligence, education, opportunities, anti-discrimination laws, and open doors in the world won’t change a thing if we, as women, don’t see our own potential and seize what’s ours for the taking, to unlock the next set of doors and then go through them to the next level”

Here are four key insights we had from reading Gloria Feldt’s “No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Power Isn’t A Dirty Word. It Just Depends How You Use It” icon_background_color=”#f31b02″ heading_color=”#f31b02″]Nowadays it almost seems un-pc to talk about “power”, but as Gloria Feldt explains, that is because “power, through most of human history, has been a concept rooted in brute force, the “power-over” something or someone.” Moreover, Feldt continues, the reason why so many women especially dislike the concept of power is “because women have usually been among those over whom the powerful rule”.

However, Feldt exhorts us to redefine power as “the power–to” – i.e. using power to make things happen in collaboration with others. We were particularly inspired by a quote she shared from the Right Honorable Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada:

“ Look, power exists. Somebody is going to have it. If you would exercise it ethically, why not you? I love power. I’m power-hungry because when I have power I can make things happen, can serve my community, can influence decisions. I can accomplish things.”

Power isn’t a dirty word. It just depends on how you use it – to oppress others for your own good or to empower others for the greater good.[/textbox]

[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”If Women Want To Be Equal, We Also Need To Stand In Our Political Power” icon_background_color=”#f31b02″ heading_color=”#f31b02″]Living in the USA these days, I have been aghast by the political shenanigans in recent months to defund Planned Parenthood, a not-for-profit that provides affordable access to contraception, reproductive healthcare, PAP smears and breast exams for lower-income women all across the USA. Having grown up in Europe, these are to me undeniable human rights and seeing them still being fought over here feels like being back in the dark ages. A real wake up call.

It was against this background that I read Gloria’s comments about how women cannot hope to gain complete gender equality if we don’t also seek equality in political representation. Gloria quotes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organizer of the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, explaining why she focused on winning the right for women to vote:

“…the power to make the laws, was the right through which all other rights could be secured”

Later on in the book Gloria circles back to this point and says: “You may not like politics but it affects every aspect of your life, whether or not you are personally involved or not. We have to stand in our political power and walk with intention toward what we want to make happen or we lose all the way around”

To me this was a real wake up call: How can we hope for the right political solutions and support if barely any of our representatives in office truly understand the reality of women’s lives? We need more women in office – at any level.

Now that may not be something we all aspire to, but what we all do have is our vote. And Gloria exhorts us to use it wisely. Take a real interest in the candidates and do give a damn about women’s issues. By definition women hold 50% of the vote. But for some reason we have failed to wield our collective power for our own good. The more I think about that, the more it irks me. Why???? Don’t tell me you “don’t care for politics”. You do, because as Gloria says above “You may not like politics but it affects every aspect of your life”.

So instead of feeling powerless over issues such as equal pay or access to affordable child care etc, please remember Gloria’s words that women have enormous power ….if only they would organize themselves more effectively as a collective to bring about those necessary changes.

So perhaps it is time to stop skipping those articles about politics and dare to have discussions with your other female friends about these issues. Because if you want equal pay and access to affordable healthcare and access to affordable and quality reproductive healthcare then we all need to get engaged and speak up.[/textbox]

[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Expect A Backlash – Not Just From Men But Also From Women” icon_background_color=”#f31b02″ heading_color=”#f31b02″]Not everyone sees change as a good thing. Not just men. Also women.

For example, Gloria explains that because many people define power as power-over, they see it as a finite pie. They therefore believe that if women gain more power, there will be less for men – i.e. they believe that if women rise up, men go down. And you can see, that if they truly believe that, then it is to be expected that they won’t vote for that.

Similarly, some women actively dislike the idea of a change to the social role and position of women. They prefer the patriarchal social system. It is what they know and they find it hard (and perhaps even scary) to think of a life lived outside of it.

So as we push ahead we need to be aware of these tensions, in our professional and personal lives, and proactively manage through them, just as you would if you were leading your team or company through a change. Be sensitive to the potential for such feelings if you are for example joining a new company in a leadership role or you are being promoted to a leadership role from within. Keep your antennae out and work with it. Don’t go on the offense or defense. Try and figure out where their fears stem from and proof them wrong. Show them it is a win-win.[/textbox]

[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: We Need To Know How We Got Here” icon_background_color=”#f31b02″ heading_color=”#f31b02″]How many important women can you name throughout history? Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I, Madame Curie, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, Jeanne d’Arc….

Ok, you may come up with a few more, but the reality is that women have been pretty much written “out” of history. Gloria Feldt stresses that we have a pretty incomplete picture of the role of women throughout history. And as a result we don’t have a real understanding of what women have already been capable of or what we can learn from their experiences.

Feldt dedicates one of the first chapters in her book to helping us understand in a nutshell the history of the women’s movement. Not just how it succeeded but also how it failed. That was a chapter that definitely provided us with a whole new perspective on things and a lot of food for thought.

Feldt encourages us to delve deeper into the history of women to get a more complete picture of women in history. In line with this, we highly recommend you watch the amazing 4-part BBC series “The Ascent of Woman” with Fiona Shaw which made an attempt to rewrite history, this time without redacting the role of women.

As said, Gloria Feldt’s book No Excuses definitely got under our skin and spurred us on to keep pushing SharpAlice’s mission to help women step up to leadership. We hope you found our attempt at an overview of the book helpful and maybe even inspiring. However, we cannot stress enough how much we recommend you read the book yourself. It might just change you a little …or a lot …..

Link to the book:No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power[/textbox]