Women’s Empowerment is broken.

After over fifty years of working to get women in business into positions of numerical parity, it’s becoming clear that progress is slow.

Too slow.

In this talk, I explain the whole problem of “empowerment” as a strategy for gender equity. Even better, I propose THREE action steps!

I’m excited to be giving a keynote talk at this year’s New Jersey Conference for Women (on October 29th). I’m going a little bit big here, with a presentation that will likely rile a few people up… because it’s challenging to hear a critique of Women’s Empowerment at a conference about… Women’s Empowerment.

But, as I argue in my talk, Women’s Empowerment is broken. After over fifty years of working to get women in business into positions of numerical parity, it’s becoming clear that progress is slow. Too slow. Not because women haven’t been working hard to advance in businesses, non-profits, and institutions, but because women have been taught a diminished, ineffectual kind of empowerment. This empowerment moves some women up the ladder (which can be great) but also leaves a whole lot of women behind (which is a very big problem).

NJWC Participants – Welcome! I hope you’re excited to re-power your own efforts to make change in the workplace, for yourself, for your colleagues, and for your company.

 In my talk I propose three specific steps that you can take to make your change efforts more like the real, transformational empowerment that can really make a difference. Conference Participants, as well as you readers, can download a pdf that recaps these three Re-Power Moves and explains why they work.

Click this link to download the pdf:
“Women’s Empowerment at Work is broken. Here’s how to fix it.”


One thing I don’t address in this talk is where to start.

In truth, it doesn’t matter where you start, but rather that you get started.  We change complex situations with actions anywhere in the system… so your efforts to change an unpleasant culture of meetings can start with changing the agenda, the location, the players, the expectations, and even the way you organize coffee and donuts.  Look for what you can change, where you are, with what you have.

 Even the smallest change (coffee and donuts?) can make a difference and start things moving. Consider what might happen if at every weekly status meeting, folks took turns being the host. What if not just the same person, but a different one each time was responsible for getting everyone their coffee and making sure everyone had their favorite donut to eat? What if we took turns taking care of each other before, during, and after that weekly meeting? What if some folks – regardless of their gender, race, status, job title — got their first opportunity to take care of others at work? What if those who always seem to find themselves taking care of others had the chance to be taken care of, themselves?

 Only the very first step of “empowerment” is to “take charge” of your situation and change it to make it work better for you.  Once you have that general inclination to take change and to make a difference, you also need to ask yourself:

What shall I use my power to do?
What contribution can my efforts make, to benefit everyone?