Author Anne Doyle Speaks of “Springboard Moment” for Women
(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 10, 2019)
Three generations of women have experienced gender stereotypes and inequalities in different ways, and “Powering Up” author Anne Doyle spent a recent Friday morning speaking to a room of female civic leaders and the people who encourage them about how to work across those generations to further women’s rights.
“This is a springboard moment,” Doyle said. “It’s a test and if we rise to meet it, and grab the momentum, and find a way to do it collectively, it will springboard us all.”
Doyle remembered the awe she felt listening to the woman who would become the first black female Congressperson speak at her college in 1976, Shirley Chisholm. She recalled spending time in LA with Gloria Steinem, Carol Burnett, and Marlo Thomas in the midst of a fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, which has not yet been ratified. As part of this generation of early fighters, Doyle considers herself a “Pioneering Interloper.”
This the generation of Hillary Clinton, of Nancy Pelosi, and of Debbie Stabenow, she said. “We were like the Marines taking some heavy artillery right after college.” Doyle spent those years working in fundraising in LA for the ERA. She recalled being at Marlo Thomas’s house, pausing discussions so Thomas could take calls from talk show host Phil Donahue in beginning of their romance, and sitting next to Gloria Steinem talking to reporters.
“I’m just like, how did I even get here,” Doyle said. “It was my boot camp. It not only gave me powerful role models, but it gave me real life examples of the bravery needed to create social change.”
She kept up the fight professionally, becoming the first female sports anchor to go into a men’s locker room. She continued breaking glass ceilings in her career at Ford. “I was told many times, don’t make an issue of this,” she said. “I was told, you have to stop seeing things through the eyes of a woman. People are getting really tired of it.’”
The next generation, Generation X, were what Doyle called “the insiders.” This generation includes women like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“It’s one thing to kick down the door, it’s another to walk in and take your seat at the table,” Doyle said. Generation X was told there was no door, yet they found the opportunities were limited. “They weren’t told they could have those jobs, they were told ‘maybe‘ you can. There is a spot, but there’s only one spot. It pitted women against each other.”
Now there are the millennials. “They grew up playing sports with the boys. They were told that can do anything. They were sailing smooth through life, then they hit the bumpy road, and said ‘What the hell,” Doyle said.
“Millenials are the first generation of women to have more college degrees than their male counterparts,” she said. “They’re the ones who say ‘I’ll do it my way.”
“That energy is what is lighting things up,” Doyle said. “The challenge is to bring all of this energy, and our wisdom, together.”
Working across generations can be hard, and it’s up to the older generations to have patience. “[How do we] not say to these young women, ‘calm down, we’ve got this.’ How can we say ‘I like this energy, how can we work together.”
Doyle spoke about ways to empower women, such as calling out sexist discussions and being less judgmental of each other. “We nitpick women,” she said. “I don’t like her. I don’t like her voice. I don’t like her dress… We can’t expect perfection.”
The Women Official’s Network is a group of women from all political parties who encourage women to be involved in local politics and public service. Among the attendees for Doyle’s presentation was Nicole McKinny who serves on the Birmingham School Board. She asked Doyle what three tips she would give to newly elected officials.
The first, Doyle said, is “Don’t wait to raise your voice and jump in.” She said women tend to be quiet when first elected, because they want to feel things out before fully participating.
The second is to build relationships. “Take time to get to know the other people [on the board, council, etc], build relationships so you get along.”
And the third is to “get back in the saddle,” which is also a chapter in Doyle’s book. “Women, once they lose a race of don’t get a promotion, they aren’t as likely to get back into it and try again,” she said. “Think about Abe Lincoln. He lost a lot of elections. When he ran for President, he said he’d run three times. His mindset was, I might lose but I’m going to come right back. What if he hadn’t kept coming back?”
Doyle urged women to be persistent and to “get back in the saddle” if efforts don’t work the first time. She also encouraged them to support other women in this. “We have to have their backs in a vocal, consistent way.”
Learn more about Doyle and her work at https://www.annedoyleleadership.com/
Learn more about Women Official’s Network at http://www.womenofficialsnetwork.org/