It’s time women ‘take the lead’

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A new kind of global women’s movement was sparked by the launch of Take the Lead initiative at Arizona State University on February 19. Across the border, women in Hamilton gathered at Hillfield Strathallan College to watch the international livestream of the launch event and to heed the challenge: we all must take the lead.

The Take the Lead initiative seeks to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. Financial expert, Amy Litzenberger and women’s advocate and leadership expert, Gloria Feldt are the catalyst behind this movement, with the aim to encourage women to embrace power and strive for leadership positions in the workplace.

“Take The Lead is the movement for this moment.  Gender parity in pay and leadership is good for business and the economy; it’s the right thing to do; and it’s way past time,” said Gloria Feldt, in her opening introduction of the launch event.

Diana Bristow, financial advisor at Raymond James Ltd., was one of the key organizers for the launch viewing party in Hamilton. Bristow feels fortunate to be in a position where she is able to support the community. “To me, this is a fantastic opportunity. [The event] is a great way for women to get support from other successful women,” says Bristow.

She adds, “If you don’t recognize something no change will take place. This is a good opportunity to recognize disparity and try to bring about change.” Bristow hopes that after the launch, women will feel empowered and be inspired to challenge the status quo.

The event also featured a panel discussion of female leadership in the media realm, bringing together esteemed female leaders working in media including president of Women’s Media Center, Julia Burton. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, headlined the event.

Take the Lead Launch event featured Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg as the keynote speaker (Photo: From the Take the Lead website)

Take the Lead Launch event featured Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg as the keynote speaker (Photo: From the Take the Lead website)

Sandberg’s message for women is simple but powerful: Do not cave to what society expects you to be.

Speaking to a sold-out crowd in Arizona, Sandberg says, “Societal norms influence how women in leadership are perceived. One view is that women can’t maintain a family and high-position job. Another notion is society looks at women negatively if they are too ambitious; however, men are encouraged to have high goals.”

Sandberg believes that a lack of self confidence is a major reason why women don’t strive to reach high leadership positions. Sandberg encourages women to take their seat at the table and know that they belong.

Carla Harris, vice chairwoman at Morgan Stanley, gospel singer, and author, also had a call to action for all women. Named by Fortune as one of The Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America, Harris had three key messages for women to advance in their career:


1. Power of authenticity: You are your own competitive advantage. The last thing you can ever do is submerge that which is uniquely you. Be consistent and act the way you are. Bring your authentic self to the table. If you bring your true self to every interaction, people will trust you. Trust is at the heart of every successful relationship. People will gravitate towards those who are comfortable with themselves.

2. Fear and the importance of taking risks: The only way to differentiate yourself is to display that you are comfortable with taking risks. Keeping your head down will not keep you from getting shot, might as well keep your head up so you can see the bullet coming.

When everyone else is ducking, you must have clear vision to see the opportunity. This is the kind of environment where you can accelerate your success. The issue with keeping your head down is that you submerge your voice.

If you submerge your voice you become irrelevant. Fear has no place in your success equation. If you fail, so what. Failure brings a gift; its experience. Now you know how to do something better.

3. Perception is the co-pilot to reality: How people perceive you will directly impact how people treat you. You must be aware of the perception of you in the marketplace. How do people describe you when you are not in the room? Be cognizant of this image and shape how you want people to describe you. To do this, you must be consistent in your behavior and that will help train people’s perception of you. [/box]

To end her speech, Harris sang a tune with an inspiring message:

“Expect to win, no matter what you are up against, don’t give up or give in. Oh yes you can. Not fear but faith will win the race. Don’t give up or give in, expect to win.”

Ready to ‘take the lead’? Visit Take the Lead website to get connected and inspired.

*Featured image from Take the Lead website.

Lisa was born and raised in Hamilton. A graduate of McMaster University, (Honours English & Communication Studies) Lisa now works for the Ontario Public Service. Her enthusiasm and passion continuously fuel her commitment and service to the betterment of the community.