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Anne Doyle Powers Us Up for Leadership

Sunday, March 24, 2013
US author Anne Doyle, left, with award recipient Brenda Gopeesingh, vice-president, Hindu Women's organisation and former government minister Joan Yuille Williams, at the Embassy of the United States Public Affairs Section International Women's Day Tea and member recognition fund-raising event held at Capital Plaza, Port-of-Spain on March 9.

A smartly dressed blonde American woman greeted us warmly in the lobby of Hilton Trinidad as if we’d known each other for years rather than a few quick emails back and forth. Within minutes of meeting her, however, it became very clear how she had been able to trailblaze her way into prominence first as a radio and television journalist, then as a Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame inductee for her career in sports broadcasting, then as Director of North America Communications for Ford Motor Company and now as the principal of “Anne Doyle Strategies”, a self-founded consultancy providing strategic advice on leadership and communications to executives, visionary organisations and emerging leaders.


Meet Anne Doyle:  author of “POWERING UP! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders” and a leading protagonist for women’s equality and leadership globally.  Doyle was in Trinidad to participate in last weekend’s International Women’s Day programme of activities being hosted by the Network of NGOs for the Advancement for Woman, and was the keynote speaker at the launch of the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Women in Leadership last Monday, March 9th at NAPA. Her visit to the nation had been sponsored by the U.S. Department of State under the U.S. Embassy’s Speakers Program, so it was clear that in her home country, Anne Doyle was highly regarded and respected for the role she has played in blazing trails for the advancement of women in the United States and worldwide. 


While a very ‘real’ person with no visible airs of superiority and an obviously deeply caring and humane individual, Anne Doyle exuded confidence, poise and unshakable belief both in herself as well as in the potential of all women to climb career ladders and also to become forces of leadership in a world still largely dominated by males. “Women all over the world share the same journey; particularly women who are fortunate enough to live in countries that have made gender equality progress. It’s fine to say, ‘Isn’t it great how far we’ve come?’ But we have barely begun,” Doyle stressed, then cited some eye-opening facts. “Here’s the big picture. Women comprise 51% of the world’s population, we are responsible for 66% of the world’s output yet we earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. In the U.S. on the average, women make 77 cents to every dollar that men make.” Clearly, if this is the situation in First World countries, we still have a long way to travel on our journey to equal recognition and acceptance in progressive nations, and even more so in countries and cultures where feminine subservience is deeply ingrained.


The paradox is, as Doyle quickly pointed out, “We have come a long way in terms of becoming educated and professionally seasoned. In the United States, 66% of college graduates are women. The middle keeps getting bigger and bigger. What is going to happen down the road?”  The situation isn’t much different here, where we are seeing a greater ratio of women to men pursuing post-graduate qualifications and entering professions.  Doyle firmly believes that to eventually achieving the equality for which so many women yearn, we must be ready and willing to lead. 


“Right now, I would say women are generally high achievers but leadership under-achievers.” She elaborated, “We have women graduating from university and in professions such as lawyers, doctors and business, but when you look at the top, 80% of the politically elected and appointed positions are held by men. The same applies to corporate leadership. Women are NOT leading.” One solution, Doyle feels, is convincing more women to run for political office. Her reason is that female elected officials are more visible by the wider community than those in business executive positions and can therefore have a greater positive impact on changing women’s -- and men’s -- views on female leadership. She is a woman who has ‘walked her talk’, having most recently campaigned for and been elected to a four-year term to the Auburn Hills City Council.


Whether running for office or achieving our roles as leaders in our careers and societies, Doyle was here to give us what she called a ‘reality check’ and to enlighten us on her vision for moving toward the ‘next frontier’ of feminine leadership.  “I say it is three things,” Doyle explained. “One is we need greater leadership skills.  Secondly, we have to start helping each other because we are yet to touch our collective power as women. Thirdly, we need men to get in the game with us, understand that they have a vested interest, and that the world will be a better place.” The latter is a tall task given that for millennia, world cultures, societies and even religions have been heavily male-dominated but Doyle is convinced that women can, over time, forge age old perceptions to change.  “We have to talk to men. Men have little or no idea of what it’s like to be a woman trying to achieve her full potential in male-dominated countries, companies and even families.  They don’t understand… and the only way they will is if we start telling them.”


She also called on fathers to step up to their roles as powerful male mentors to their daughters, encouraging their girls to believe that they can do anything. She cited her own father as an example referencing his constant reminder to his seven children (of which Doyle was the eldest):  “Never eliminate yourself.” She explained that her father understood that the world was a very competitive place and that if we don’t have the courage to go after what we want despite the tests we may face, we effectively eliminate ourselves. She also feels that mothers can exert a huge influence on their sons’ perceptions of women and that, as their sons’ primary caregivers, they should instill in their sons a sense of gender equality rather than a feeling of superiority.


This single mother who lost her husband when her son was just 7 years old seems to have guided her son, now 21, on the right path. Even though he admits to never having read her book, “POWERING UP”, he claims he doesn’t need to. In his own words, he says, “Mom, I live your book.”  Would that we all raise our sons to accept men and women as different yet equal. As Doyle succinctly put it, “I think of us a ‘human family’. There are men and women, and God got it right. We balance one another and we both bring different strengths.  We may be different but we women have tremendous strengths that we can bring to decision making and to leadership.”  


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