The Warmth That Comes from Speaking Up and Speaking Well

After reading Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful book, The Happiness Project a couple of years ago, I started my “never” and “always” lists.  And after I went to the Reagan Library over Spring Break last year to dig up some research on Corazon Aquino for a new book project on women world leaders, I promptly added to my “always” list that every spring break I would go somewhere warmer.

Well, this spring break I honored my commitment to head to the warmth, really only marginally when I headed back to the eastern part of the state to present my research to two groups over spring break, the AAUW in Easton and the Commission for Women at Penn State Great Valley.  I think my car thermostat said 20 as I drove toward the Lehigh Valley on Friday and as I drive back to State College today the temps will be in the 50s.  But the real warmth came not from the temperatures over spring break but from the chance to connect with good friends, hang out with my freshman daughter who was home and gear up for spring, which is right around the corner.   And I could hardly resist the invitations to speak, which always lights a fire inside me.

Working with the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence on trying to identify a keynote speaker for next year’s conference with the theme Transformative Teaching and Learning, I am struck by how important it is for researchers to also be effective presenters.  When we come across the name of a top-notch academic, my first instinct is to search YouTube to see if he/she has given a presentation that is on the Internet.    It is the same commitment to “speaking up and speaking well” that in part inspired the ROAR (Recording of Academic Research) contest co-sponsored by University Libraries and the Office of Undergraduate Education at Penn State.  We invited undergraduates at Penn State to speak on camera about their research for 1-2 minutes.   The entries are incredible.  Our students are truly inspiring.   Top entries will win modest cash prizes, but the real reward will be their own improved speaking skills.  You’ll likely see some of the wonderful entries online or on campus soon.  They will be shown in the morning  Shaping the Future Summit at 8 a.m. on April 1 at the Nittany Lion Inn.  The keynote address is 8 p.m. at Eisenhower at features Peter H. Diamandis.  You can find *his* speaking videos all over the internet!  The ROAR recordings will  also be shown at the Undergraduate Research Exhibition on April 9 so keep your eyes open.

So, go warmer (even if it is the fire inside you) and speak up and speak well!

At the AAUW luncheon on March 8 with (l-r) Emily Ann Gutgold, and good friends Samantha and Kathleen Ferrizzi

At the AAUW luncheon on March 8 with (l-r) Emily Ann Gutgold, and good friends Samantha and Kathleen Ferrizzi



At Penn State Great ValleyThere they are:  my Spring Break Take Aways.


The Girl Scout Cookie BOX is sweet

It is Girl Scout cookie time! I don’t really love Girl Scout cookies, but I’ve eaten my share over the years and I can never pass up a cute little girl earnestly hawking them. No matter how expensive the boxes get ($4!) or how unsatisfying the cookies are (just not great) I usually end up with more than a few boxes every year.

This year, I realized that what I really like about Girl Scout cookies are the boxes. Check this out:


A Girl Scout, speaking into a microphone with passion.

Now that’s deliciously satisfying!


Diversity in Every Walk of Life is the Key to Hope and Fairness

I remember bringing my daughter Emily, who was about twelve to a dermatologist for some blemishes that were bothering her.  The dermatologist was a thirty-something woman with an authoritative, yet warm demeanor.  Emily had gone in teary-eyed and concerned about her appearance and walked out smiling, confident and declaring:  “I want to be a dermatologist!”    The experience strengthened my belief that we see ourselves in the people we interact with and we get a sense of fair treatment when we can imagine ourselves in the same roles.  Research backs up my anecdotal claim.   Nilanjana Dasgupta  wrote in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology  that exposure to  female leaders dramatically reduces the stereotypic beliefs about gender stereotyping.   Seeing women in positions of power will greatly enhance the acceptance of an election of a woman U.S. president.   

My research has focused on gender parity in non-traditional fields, including the American presidency and the  same “seeing is believing” thinking is part of the call to action by the Alliance for Justice, which has just released its report “Broadening the Bench:  Professional Diversity and Judicial Nominations.”  It argues that a truly diverse judiciary “is one that not only reflects the genders, ethnic, sexual orientation and the racial diversity of the nation, but is also comprised of judges who have been advocates for clients across the socio-economic spectrum, seeking justice on behalf of everyday Americans.”  

The report cites the advocacy work of Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Often when we think of diversity on the Supreme Court our minds immediately go to gender parity but diversity is much more comprehensive than that.   The Alliance for Justice calls upon:

  • lawyers with public interest backgrounds to seek out and apply for federal judgeships
  • advocacy groups, lawyers and others who work on judicial nominations to actively recruit judicial candidates
  • state judicial selection commission and senator to encourage lawyers with professionally diverse backgrounds to apply for judicial vacancies
  • President Obama to make professional diversity a priority

Indeed, the Supreme Court is more diverse than ever and there is still room for improvement.    Justice Sonia Sotomayor has said:  “I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government.”  It is this sentiment that is at the heart of the Alliance for Justice’s report because a more inclusive approach to nominations to the judiciary will bring greater justice to the everyday Americans who come before it.  Sandra Day O’Connor concedes that “all of us come to the Court with our own personal histories and experiences” and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her life as a champion for gender equality.  As Harvard Professor Michael J. Klarman writes in a tribute essay to her, “Ginsburg was an organizer, mobilizer, publicist, and educator for the sex equality movement – just as Thurgood Marshall had been for the civil rights movement a generation earlier.”  She has earned the moniker “legal architect of the women’s movement.”

We need to see ourselves reflected in the judiciary because it gives us the confidence that we are being treated fairly.  When will America be more balanced?  When will there be full participation?  When there is no “one look” for women leaders and not one profile for members of the judiciary, it gives our children inspiration, people interacting in the courts a sense of fairness and a future that promises full participation for everyone.   Diversity in every walk of life, including the judiciary, makes that possible.  




Where do your snow boots go? At the front door, along with your double standards!

imagesAbout a year ago I gave a talk at TEDxpsu that focused on the stereotypes women politicians face.   I asserted that we have not had a woman president yet because stereotypes constrain women.  Mainly though, I was thinking about stereotypes regarding what a president looks like and the constraining images that belittle women candidates based on their appearance.

The narrative surrounding the narrative of Texan gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, however, brings to light another stereotype that hampers women politicians:  the archetype of the American family.

Robert Draper writes in the February 12 NY Times:

But it seemed undeniable that female politicians were far more constrained than men in how they recounted their stories. A man could break the mold of American virtue. A woman challenged stereotypes at her peril. The archetype — an unimpeachable balance of dedicated public service and exemplary mothering — seems inescapable, even in 2014. Bill Clinton could be seething with lifelong ambition; George W. Bush could be a beneficiary of immense privilege; Barack Obama could be a self-described outsider, marijuana smoker, community rabble-rouser. Any of these qualities might, if so espoused, disqualify a woman from high office. Meanwhile, no one ever stopped Clinton, Bush or Obama in his biographical tracks to say: “Wait. If you were out there, conquering the world, then you could not have been here, with your family.”

If a candidate who is a woman takes time from her family to earn her degree or hit the campaign trail she is likely to be scorned in the press while a male candidate may be heralded for providing for his family.

Or as Susan Sontag put it:

What we say is what we have permission to say — we always know much more than we say, and we see much more than we acknowledge that we see, but at any given time there are conventions about what we say we can say and what we think we can think. And one of the interesting things about being a writer is to try to open that out a little bit.

Let’s think about this–say a little something–and keep our double standards checked at the door with our hats and snow boots.


Take Five and Make the World a More Balanced Place

Lean In.


Go for it.


Take risks.


Be bold.


Don’t hesitate.


As women, we have often been told that to be successful we have to do something different than we are doing.  We have to somehow break the mold of bad habits that include holding back and not seizing the moment to develop fully into leaders.


There may be something to that but I also believe that we have been doing many things right.   And I want to call upon each woman and man in this room today to continue to act in a way that will help narrow the gap and create a more equal society.  I will ask all of us to TAKE FIVE – to make things right.


I research and write about women in non-traditional fields and I have written about women and the American presidency.


Today, as we consider the theme this year’s AAUW luncheon, empowering women, let’s draw upon the remarkable journey of today’s “university women” and the trailblazing women I have written about – as we consider our own journeys of empowerment and self fulfillment.


This meeting today in Easton, Pennsylvania is, in many ways, similar to the meeting of the original founders of the AAUW back in 1881 when Marion Talbot and Ellen Richards met in Boston with 15 alumnae representing eight colleges to discuss the needs of college-educated women.

In addition to broadening opportunities and assisting other women in higher education, they discussed the formation of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae.  Today   American women have surpassed men in gaining advanced college degrees as well as bachelor’s degrees, part of a trend that is helping redefine who goes off to work and who stays home with the kids.

Educational gains for women have given us greater access to a wider range of jobs, contributing to a shift of traditional gender roles at home and work.

Men now might be the ones more likely to be staying home, doing the more traditional child rearing.

Among adults 25 and older, 10.6 million U.S. women have master’s degrees or higher, compared to 10.5 million men. Measured by shares, about 10.2 percent of women have advanced degrees compared to 10.9 percent of men — a gap steadily narrowing in recent years. YET:  Women still trail men in professional careers such as business, science and engineering.  At Penn State, we have yet to appoint a woman president and Penn State has been around since 1855.  What are we waiting for?   There always seems to be women finalists and then that’s it – another man is names.

When it comes to finishing college, roughly 20.1 million women have bachelor’s degrees, compared to nearly 18.7 million men — a gap of more than 1.4 million that has remained steady in recent years. Women first passed men in bachelor’s degrees in 1996.


I like to describe myself as a woman of both thought and action so I will conclude today with actions that I believe we –and organizations can take – to empower women and thus release the full potential of their organizations.


What does it mean to empower?


First, let’s think about what it doesn’t mean:  to deny, to avoid, to keep out or away from opportunities to have a wider life.


What can you do to have a wider life?


Hillary Clinton—one of the most trailblazing women in the world says “Whether we are talking about empowering and connecting women in economics or health care or education or politics, it all comes back to a question of the full and equal participation of women versus their marginalization.”

She goes on to say:


“I believe it’s time for a full and clear eyed look on how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go, and what we plan to do together about the unfinished business of the 21st century: the full and equal participation of women.”


I wrote a book about Hillary Clinton after her trailblazing bid for the United States presidency in 2008 and I called the book:  Almost Madam President:  Why Hillary Clinton Won in 2008.  Oh, sure, she did not win the presidency (we know that) but she did become the first non-symbolic candidate who is a woman for the United States presidency.  That, to me—and I know to you as well—is an enormous win.


Shirley Chisholm – another trailblazing woman I’ve researched and written about made a bid for the United States presidency in 1972.  When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 he thanked her.  She has said:  The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.  And these stereotypes are part of what has kept women from full participation.
Wendy Davis story –

Getty images story
And, she has also said:

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

And that is what you do here at the AAUW, you implement ideas that help women take our lives to the next level.  I commend you for that.  Today, I will suggest the implementation of initiatives that will help women achieve full participation in society.



I have had the privilege of interviewing three of the four women who have served on the Supreme Court:  Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor for a book I published in 2012 on the rhetoric of Supreme Court women.  Each of them expressed to me—in their own ways—what it has been like for them to work in the field of law and the be appointed to the Supreme Court – perhaps the most staunchly male centered governmental body besides the United States presidency.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked me to walk across her chamber to a photo of her son in law, holding her then newborn grandchild and she said:  “This is what I have been working for.  Not women’s rights, but human rights.”


I am currently working on a book about women world leaders.  Right now, I am writing a chapter on the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson.  She was the first woman to hold that position and it represented a tremendous moment for fresh, new thinking in Ireland when she won election in 1990.

She knows well the fact that electing more women will help exact real change.  She underscored that when she said:


“It’s only when you have a critical mass of women in politics that you get women’s issues attacked.”



So what can we do?  What can we learn from women who have stretched the boundaries and created a more equal society so that we keep the momentum moving forward?


These are my Call to Actions for ourselves and our organizations:


  1. 1.  SHOW UP!

Show up, volunteer, do, be.  I have found that being willing to be present is vital to creating a professional and personal life that is fulfilling.  Do not retreat.  Gain the energy to put yourself out there.  In person.  On the internet.  Blog, write, speak, produce.  That is the first step in create a more women-rich environment.

The internet can help you if you use it to the best of its potential:


Create a professional image of yourself on the Internet with Linked In.


Carefully use Facebook and Twitter to create a public image and to communicate your passion.


Join organizations.  Make yourself known.


ALSO:  Organizations can make women visible.

In an organization that is male saturated, I want to call to action leaders to make women visible and vocal. 


Have at least one woman speak when there is an event featuring all men.


State of the Union; University graduations, panels.



We have to ask more from our political leaders.  Instead of letting them simply talk about   “family values” or pose with their families to show they are family oriented, we have to ask them to do the hard work of changing the legislation to  ensure that women and men can raise their children, care for their elders, and continue to earn the incomes they need to survive and thrive in today’s economy.  According to the recent Shriver Report:


“Nearly all of our government policies—from our basic labor standards to our social insurance system—are still rooted in the fundamental assumption that families typically rely on a single breadwinner.”

Allowing women to play by the same rules as the single male breadwinner worker of yesteryear does NOT go far enough. Too many workers—especially women and low-wage workers—today simply cannot work in the way the breadwinner once worked with a steady job and lifelong marriage with a wife at home.

“The United States is the only industrialized country without any requirement that employers provide paid family leave.”

 You and I need to advocate to change this.  Write our legislators, blog, lobby, raise our voices.

Insist on fair family leave policies and encourage our women to access them. When I had my children, I was so low on the employment level as a fixed term faculty member I was afraid to ask for time off.  I knew I had something coming to me, but I thought that if I actually took the time, my career would falter, Penn State would see me as a slacker and I would never have the chance to grow my career.  So I took no time off with either of my pregnancies.   I survived with help from my mother and father in law who often took care of our children and by accessing care for the children from neighbors and friends, but it was still a difficult number of years.   It could have been made easier if I had more confidence in myself and the structures.  If I had a female role model who could have told me how she managed, or a female leader who knew my rights as a new mother to communicate the policies, I would have had an easier time.  We need to be sure that families who are raising children and working know the policies of their organization so that they are not working in fear of being fired.

According to the Shriver Report:

“Most Americans believe it is illegal today for employers to fire a pregnant worker, but that is not the case. “

“The federal government has played only a modest role in supporting families with child care expenses and almost no role at all in supporting families with elder care responsibilities.”

We need to stand up for what is right for families in organizations so that those who need support receive it.  We need to instill confidence in our girls and women that raising a family is valued and that taking time away from our careers will not damage their earnings or their careers.  We need family friendly policies that support the needs of our women and men.   Be the role model for the younger women in your work place who are raising their children.   Advocate for more public promotion of policies that will help families thrive.


Let’s promote education, training and professional development for women and men in organizations. Brown bag information sessions that bring together all members of organizations to discuss feelings and issues surrounding all of these issues to create awareness and understanding so that people are not afraid to raise their families well.

4. SHOW THE KIDS  We need to encourage our children to live their best lives regardless of gender stereotypes and limiting public policies.

By living in a gender neutral way we show our children what is possible for their lives.   Fathers need to model the role of caregiver by pulling back from their own careers if their families need them.  As Sheryl Sandberg has said, we need to make our partners real partners.



Insisting on equal pay is one great way we can level the playing field for women in the work force.  Today in 2014, women are still earning only 77 cents for ever dollar a man ears.  That is simply not good enough.  We need to ask why.  We need to insist on equal pay.


So, yes, indeed, we have come a very long way.  We are more empowered as women than we ever have been.  But there is still work to do.


There are bookmarks here with the Five Action Items I have asked us to take today.
Please take one on your way out and work with me to create a more balanced environment so that our boys and girls can grow up in a world that gives them a full range of opportunities to live freely and fully.



Bella Abzug put it well when she said:

“Women will change the nature of power; power will not change the nature of women.”



Thank you very much.


This is a work in progress speech for an upcoming AAUW lunch.  Your thoughts are appreciated








2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Seeing and Hearing Women Vital to a Female-friendly Organizational Environment

I recently read I am Malala, the biography by Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for standing up for education in Pakistan.  She opens the book by noting that in her culture it is a “gloomy day when a daughter is born.”  We like to think that our United States culture is far superior to that and that both male and female children are celebrated, which, for the most part, I think is true.  Our welcoming climate for girls and women begins to chill a bit later, when career choices and upward mobility are in question.

This recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed has me thinking about the tremendous opportunities that academic institutions have at this moment to make the environment for women warmer.    Here is one small but meaningful way we can create a more welcoming climate for women:

Give women the microphone — at commencements, ceremonies, meetings, conferences and any other significant events.  Even if the top power positions are held by men (president, provost, deans), event organizers should make certain to include at least one woman at the podium–a woman on faculty, an administrator, an alum or a student.

Why?  Because to speak is to have power and it signals to women graduates, parents and all attending that women at the institution matter.  They matter enough to have positions of power that bring them to the microphone.  While we may not have as many women at the top of organizations that we should, we can create environments that support women by having women on the stage speaking at events, whether they are the top of the organization or not.

June Cohen of TED Talks, laments that it is difficult to get women speakers, and offers two main reasons, echoed in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.  Cohen says that would-be women speakers are more likely to shy away from speaking events because they claim not to be as well prepared as they think they ought to be.  She also states that women do not see speaking in public as one of the main parts of their jobs.    She offers some very good tips, including be persistent. Institutions need to be persistent about making opportunities for women to be seen and heard.  And, women need to understand the powerful impact they have on our culture and future women leaders every time they take to a podium.  Having women at the podium changes organizations for the better.

I want to encourage anyone who is responsible for organizing events to be certain to include women at the podium.  It sends a powerful message to your audience that women matter in organizations.  They are not just silent, bit part characters, they are leading actors.

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted:  “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense.”

By giving the power of speech to women, we take away the bad sense that women are not present and add the good sense that women at the podium profit everyone.


Dr. Julie Ealy, Penn State Lehigh Valley


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