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Dr. Supata Basu
Good afternoon and welcome to our discussion: Women, Leadership and Politics. My name is Sutapa Basu and I am the executive director of the University of Washington women's center and I am delighted to be here. And before introduce our distinguished guest Rebecca Sive I want to take a moment to express how this has been a two-collaborative effort putting on today's event. Under Dean Testy the women center has had many opportunities to work in partnership with the law school on women's leadership and human rights issues. And what I really like is that Dean Testy has created one of the most collaborative environments I have experienced in my 20+ years here at the University. In my opinion her understanding of the interconnectedness and the importance of collaboration to bring about social change has set a read freshening leadership style than the norms. And I really appreciate that and I think we need more of that in our political world. And with that I want to thank Dean Testy for her great leadership and effective leadership and for being such a wonderful collaborator. I do think we reach more people and make more changes by collaborating rather than being so typical individualized so great thank you.
Now I have the pleasure and honor of introducing our distinguished guests Rebecca Sive who is a public affairs strategist with deep experience as a public official, organizational leader, business executive and philanthropist. Rebecca writes and speaks about women's public leadership, political power and influence and teaches a course on women in public leadership at the University of Chicago Harris school of Public policy studies. Miss Sive is a founding member and former head of the Illinois human rights commission, a cofounding board member and the first executive director of the Midwest met women center. And she just let me know that it was the first stand-alone women's center in the country, one of the first yeah, which was founded in August 1977 just about the same time the women center here in campus was found. And this is both a service agency as well as an advocate for women's issues. And she launched the site group Inc. a public affairs consulting practice developing and leading programs to increase women's visibility and influence. She is an advisor to women leaders and is an organizer of women's issues and listed in feminist who changed America. Ms. Sive’s book Every Day is Election Day: a woman's guide to winning any office from PTA to the lighthouse is described by publishers weekly as "a clear and persuasive roadmap to female political success". And by Kirkus Reviews as "essential reading for aspiring female policy makers and political leaders". I know there are a couple of women in this audience who plan to run for office because they have gone through our leadership program so please join me in welcoming our distinguished guest Rebecca Sive.
Thank you Dr. Basu. I am delighted to be here. It's really fun for me to have this chance because of this book to be traveling around the country and I was talking to the Dean and Dr. Basu I was saying that, they said what where you been? And I said well I've been all over the place but really what is been so wonderful and remarkable about each place and they vary widely. The last University I was at about a month ago was Delta State University in Cleveland Mississippi. A very different warmer place but what is been a common experience each place is gathering with a group like this one: many different women from I imagine very differing experiences with different goals perhaps professionally but sharing a deep commitment to public leadership of whatever sort.
So what I wanted you this afternoon in this initial part of the program is tell you a little bit about the book and why I wrote it. If there is time I will read an excerpt. We want to get then to a discussion with the Dean and the director some questions that we put together that we hope will we hope, I'm sure will elicit some great comments from them and I think probably have been a conversation with all of you in which I hope you'll just absolutely-up and say what you have to say. And following that we will do a book signing. I am happy to as I always am to just stay here as long as anyone wants to talk. So with that I will start.
I think one of things about coming here that was particularly special is that Washington shares an experience of California which is that it has to women in the most powerful federal positions that is as US Senators but it is unique in that at the same time it has had a woman governor. And so I thought will geewhiz Washington is really the role model for the rest of us as we try to figure out how to advance more women and public leadership. When I went back into the little bit of research about the history of women in public office in this state I saw, I would to the list of women mayors and the fifth woman ever elected as a mayor of a major city in America was in Seattle in 1977. So think about that for a minute. We have come a very long way in a relatively short period of time. So I think that as I have been talking with people hear about this, about this remarkable profile you have in this state I have also heard from some that they are not happy with the current sort of slowdown in the array of women assuming leadership positions here. But then, I have pointed out to them because I have been trying to study up a little that you of course have a woman city Council President, if you have a woman Dean of this major law school here and a woman recently elected to the city Council against enormous odds. And so I think that perhaps the tide is starting to shift and I am glad for that.
I think is important in this context to kind of recall why is it so important for women to hold political office? And I want to say to you that that office is sometimes elected, right? Other times it is appointed: shares of commissions, heads of important departments and government so the point there is not so much that women should be in these positions just because they should. The point is that we express a unique form of leadership in that unique form of leadership is that it is women public officials historically who have proposed and made sure that laws and policies have been passed that improve the lives of women and girls. Absent women in public leadership, I am not sure when that would happen. I can tell you that I am old enough to recall in the mid-1970s around the time your mayor was selected, around the time the women center here and the Midwest women's Center was founded at that time I saw in Illinois the first laws relating to rape, domestic violence, equal pay not commission equal rights act and that happened because women were elected to legislative positions in significant enough numbers that they could put a plan together and executed. So for anyone to say to you that she was just what's the big deal here? Everyone in public office think about the public welfare in the same way. It's not the case. That is not to say of course that men don't care to. They do. But at least so far they have not taken that leadership role. There are numerous examples of this in our current federal government. We can perhaps talk about that more later.
So my feeling about this is I don't even think it's hyperbole to say that our very lives depend on seeing more women in public leadership and political office. So the good news is of course we are poised to make that happen. Both elections of 2008 and 2012 were groundbreaking in this respect demonstrating that women could as a matter of course run credibly for the highest office in the land and the second highest office and furthermore we increased to a significant number of the women in the U.S. Senate so that we now have 20% of that body being women. So we are poised to do more but at the same time of course as you all probably know from your own work and study there are still substantial inequities that exist and problems that need to be solved, barriers that need to be broken down. And that is really why I wrote this book. I felt that as with any sort of campaign for change it is useful to have a handbook that provides some guidance to those who are committed to that change. And so I thought I would write this book to remedy these inequities by encouraging more women to seek public leadership positions, by increasing the rate at which women are filling these positions, by making it clear to women, especially young women that they will find joy in public service notwithstanding some of what you read. And therefore giving them the information they need not just to think about it but to run and to win and to lead. So the book is very much frankly written to meet those goals. I think also truth telling and instructive and lots of resources in it to help you out. So as we say in Chicago the kind of says what time it is. I don't know the Dean may remember hearing that in her years in Chicago.
I want to just tell you quickly about why I thought I was the person to write the book, not to just tell you about me but as to tell you that it is possible for women of so many different kinds to assert themselves in a position of leadership and put themselves out there politically as I guess I have with this book. The first is that I have been a public official. I served in various capacities for about a dozen years in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago. So I understand what the insider drill is and perhaps we can talk about that. I have also been an advocate since I graduated from college 40 years ago. So I know what it is to bang on the door until they let you in. And I have had this opportunity to work with various kinds of women leaders for these four decades: public officials, would be public officials, organizational leaders. But the important thing that I realized which enabled me to have the sense that I could write this book and share it with you is that I no longer run an organization. I am no longer a public official. So I could say whatever I thought needed to be said. I'm not really accountable to anybody anymore except to my own sense of doing good work and of course to my husband and partner.
So I thought that I as a person who didn't have to sort of be within an institution I could be Frank. And so I thought well okay I'm at a rate that book. There are several major themes of the book and to what I think is necessary for those of you who are interested in public leadership to pursue it: the first customer the Northwest. It is that expression I am stealing it here "just do it". So that if this is something you want, just like if you want a minute run a marathon. Just decide to go ahead and proceed apace so that while you read a book about how to be a good runner you can also read a book about how to be a good politician. The second major theme is a sisterhood is really powerful. That most women, because most women choose to run for office or seek appointed office because they want to change something they think is wrong: the school crossing, a childcare problem, and educational problem they share a point of view about public policy with other women and therefore those other women are their natural allies, constituents, voters, campaign workers. That is a powerful sisterhood. And so what I say in my book is: you're not going it alone. You do have unique responsibilities as the person putting herself out there but you are not alone. And you will win when you understand that you're not alone. The third major theme of the book comes from a woman some of you may have read about Shirley Chisholm home who was a member of Congress, African-American woman, first woman of her race to be elected to Congress from Brooklyn New York. She wrote her autobiography at the time she ran for president in 1972. The title of that book is Unbought and Un-bossed and I have to tell you in my pantheon of favorite books it is right up there just starting with the title. And so the theme of my book is: yes be unbought and un-bossed. Yes, assert your belief as Chisholm did running as an African American woman in a presidential primary. This was unheard of. State your agenda and even when you lose your standing and putting forth the point of view. And I tell you that the best example I think is when she lost she then went back to Congress and hired only women to run her congressional office and that was because she was hell-bent on demonstrating in whatever context she could that women can lead in the most important political contexts in the world, in the American world I should say.
These themes are carried through 34 chapters. There really lessons. They come in four parts and am mentioning these four parts for you because I think that there instructive as to how I think about this task we have of propelling ourselves individually and collectively into the public sphere. The first is: every day is election day, you have to figure out each day what it is you need to do and get it done. The second part of the book is called take on the big boys. You have to be willing to confront those with power to bring them to your site if you possibly can, to engage with them so that they understand why your campaign and your search for leadership is one that they should take seriously. The third section of the book is called you can never care too much. And this comes from my own deep belief that this is a true statement that for those of us who are committed to social change and social justice and public policy that advances those goals there is no such thing as I've done my duty at the soup kitchen or at the rape crisis center or whatever it is. Which isn't to say that of course we don't all get together with her girlfriends, our families and all of that but it is to say that it is important to keep caring. And the last section of the book is called confront, co-opt, control. My training is both as a historian and as a community organizer. I was trained in the Alinsky style of organizing. Some of you may have heard about Saul Alinsky from our president. He also was an important guide for the president. In Alinsky’s world if you are pursuing that righteous cause you are going to be willing to confront those who don't believe it, to bring them in, and then to run the agenda. And so I call that confront, co-opt, control and in that last section of the book I have a series of lessons related to that.
So that is how the book is put together. I thought that before we move to the discussion with Dr. Basu and the Dean but what I would do was to share with you what is actually a summary of the first chapter of the book. I thought a lot about how to organize this book and I realize as I thought about what I really wanted to share with you and with other readers and those I was talking to I wanted to be able to say to them: yes there is a context in which you need to engage this process. There is a sort of state of mind that you have to have. And I thought it was important then to share my view about what that state of mind is. And then secondly, to talk about the importance of dreaming big. So those of the first two chapters.
This first chapter is called: six easy rules. And that is the state of mind. And I will kind of run through them for you now on I think perhaps they will frame the discussion we will have with the Dean and Dr. Basu. The first is the requirement that if you are going to engage publicly in whatever kind of context it is that you have to continuously possess what one of my interviewees, Judge Rovner, who I believe the Dean knows, first woman on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals based in Chicago, what she called raw pure desire. She happens to be a friend. And when I interviewed her and talk to her about this and she said that I kind of stood up in my chair and said whoa over the breakfast table we are talking about raw pure desire. So that is will number one.
Rule number two is being willing to outwork the competition every day. And I tell several stories in the book but one of them but I think his current is about Debbie Wasserman Schultz the first woman elected chair of the Democratic National Committee. Who when she was diagnosed with breast cancer said to her family and friends: I will decide what I'm capable of doing I am not going to listen to the people who are saying to me sit back, don't go to that meeting, don't take that phone call. Of course if she didn't feel well she wouldn't but she knew that to achieve her goal she had to outwork the competition.
Third, that you must be willing to win the same way men do. This is a game that is to say politics in which men predominate, in which men have had a much longer history. Women only received the vote less than 100 years ago as you know. So this is a political playbook written by men, mostly run by men and we need to learn it to.
The fourth rule is that while you're running that playbook the way the men do, going back to this theme about sisterhood is powerful, is this: you will win when you are with and for women. You are with them, you represent their cause, you understand what they're looking for their public servants. You seek to give it to them. You are for them. What's the point otherwise? Is how I would phrase it.
The fifth rule is to understand the senator Landrieu the senior Sen. from Louisiana told me when I interviewed her: every day is election day. People are sizing you up every day. That is totally fair. You are not in that position by divine right. You are there to serve. So winning is not a one-off. So that is the next thing. Just because you're sitting in that big chair behind them they does today doesn't mean you get to sit there forever.
Rule number six is that the acts of campaigning and governing are two very different experiences. So that most importantly when you are campaigning if you're a good candidate or if you are seeking out and appointed office you going to say will this is my agenda, these are the things that I want to get done, this is why you should vote for me or point me. Then you may get into office as France's our president has and many others have and find everything you wanted to do you can't get done or you can get it on a timetable you said you would try to meet. So the thing here is to recognize that yes you have a commitment to staying agenda. Yes you have a commitment once you are in that office to get it done but if you cannot get it done in every way that you wish that it duty remains to serve the people. So in my view here the campaigning and the governing are not the same except in so far as that continuous duty to serve.
I want to now move to introductions of Dean Testy and Dr. Basu. And then we will all come together this table and chat for a while. And then open up the floor and engage in a conversation with you. So I'm going to read these lovely biographies so that you know just who they are. And I’ll start with Dean Testy since she is hosting us.
Kellye Testy is the first woman to join the distinguished group of permanent law school deans at the University of Washington, a prolific scholar, outstanding teacher and experienced dean. Dean Testy came to the UW, you know I have a brother graduated here undergraduate, another brother who went to the business school. I should know this right? Her research and scholarship focused on contracts, corporate governance, business entities, leadership and access to justice. She is known throughout the academic and legal communities for her dedication to the rule of law and her commitment to justice and equality. Dean Testy graduated summa cum laude from the University of Indiana School of law where she was editor-in-chief of the law Journal, Don H Edwards University fellow, Chancellor Scholar and a member of order of the coif which for those of you who may not know is an honor society. During law school she worked for Kirkland and Ellis and in Chicago and after graduation she clerked for Judge Jesse Eschbach in the US Court of Appeals of the seventh circuit. At the end of her clerkship she began her academic career, joined the faculty of Seattle University Law school became its Dean in 2005. Dean Testy has received numerous honors and awards including the President’s award from the Washington state Bar Association, the Washington women lawyers and the King County women lawyers. She is also received the Washington State trial lawyers public justice award in three outstanding teacher awards. She is currently focusing her scholarship on corporate law and governance and on leadership topics for which she is a frequent invited speaker. She serves on the executive committee of the American Association of Law schools and as a board member of a number of legal and civic organizations.
Dr. Sutapa Basu is the executive director of the University of Washington women's center and cochair of its task force against human trafficking. Dr. Basu one of the founders of the anti-human trafficking movement in Washington State is instrumental in policy development and public awareness campaigns on the issue of human trafficking here in Washington. In 2001 under Dr. Basu's leadership the UW women's center hosted the first-ever human trafficking conference in Washington. As a direct result new protections for mail-order brides were established and for the first time in history human trafficking was criminalized on the state level. Since then countless bills have been introduced and instituted furthering the protection of human trafficking victims and the UW women's center continues to work towards expanding the movement to encompass all forms of forced labor beyond sexual exploitation. Dr. Basu's areas of academic specialization are women in developing economies and international development. She is passionate about women's human rights and works extensively with women's groups both locally and in India to promote girls education, gender equality, food security, sustainable development and social justice. She also serves on numerous boards and committees such as her recent appointment to Seattle's gender equity pay task force convened by Mayor McGinn. She has received several local and national awards for her human and writes work including the United Nations human rights award. So if you will join me and we will have our discussion.
Okay so can you hear okay? You know in Chicago when this happens, when not anybody's nodding it's like (gestures) we ask for a whole lot more energy okay? This is just, I'll tell you this as an aside when I first started working in political campaigns I spent a lot of time in the African-American community and in a lot of churches. And I would watch and try to learn from these amazing pastors and how they got us ready to go.
So were going to do as I mentioned is have a conversation here. There are several questions of the staff put together and I will ask both Dean Testy and Dr. Basu to answer these. And then we will as I said open it up. We will go for, I'm looking at the clock here, we will go for 15 min. or so. And then we'll have a Q&A. And go for that for a little while. And then do the book signing.
So the first thing here though is I want to ask each of them to give us as it was written here 1 to 2 min. overview of her professional experience and how that prepared her for her current public leadership role. So you’ll start Dr. Basu?
So I came to this country about 35 years ago as a student and a graduate student. I found myself getting involved it was in the late 70s, got involved with the civil rights and women's rights movement. And what I would say you know I grew up in India and a very strict environment and was pretty much taught what to and I came here to became a medical doctor and go back, marry a man that my family would choose, all of the traditional roles. And so it was amazing to have that freedom to get involved in both civil rights and women's rights movement and realize that I was extremely passionate about social justice issues and found myself becoming more of a grassroots organizer. My very first internship and then job was at a rape crisis center. And that was 1978 I think.
People often ask me how did you get to be where you are? Really the true answer is that I focused on the issues. I never went for a position. And the issues was the driving force to be where I am today. I committed myself to social justice issues, specifically to women's and people of color issues and got very involved in the communities. In the late 1980s Delores Sobanga who was the first Filipina city Council member in the country in the city of Seattle, was in office for about 12 years and she decided she was no longer going to run for office and by then as I said I was very involved in the communities so she recruited me to run for office. She wanted to literally support me to be the next councilmember for the city of Seattle. I would say I used to be and I still am pretty much an introvert and quite shy. And I said no I'm not going for public office that's just not what I thought I could do at the time and I still think that's her my strength is. And so we had many conversations about that and I decided no I wasn't going to run for office however I could be effective by being involved in the community. And I remember something she said to me and I followed her advice. At the time I would say I didn't want to be part of any system. I wanted to work outside the system to make changes, being about changes. And she said to me: you know suit top I get in the system and make the changes that through the changes to happen.
So the next thing I know that I didn't run for office but then I got my graduate degree and became the director of the women's center at North Seattle community college so that was 1983. And the rest is history. Then I went to Bellevue and I have been here for 20 years. I continue to work both in India and here. In fact I am leaving for India this Thursday for a month. I do a lot of work around issues of violence against women and of course human trafficking is one of the areas that I'm doing a lot of work around. So again the way I got prepared to be where I am today in my position is really issued driven then position. And I love what I do. I get to work with leaders like Howard dean and provost and many, many leaders on this campus as well as community leaders.
Dean Kellye Testy
Let me say first that it is a great honor to be on the panel with used atop a and Rebecca. That was a wonderful summary of your book and so thank you very much for being here and engaging this conversation. I am a little embarrassed by that reading of my biography. I told Rebecca that I usually just asked somebody to say here is your Dean and that's good. So I don't want to talk too much about what I have done in the past. I will just share with you all that I think sometimes when people look at the Dean of the law school they expect that maybe you knew forever you wanted to this or be a lawyer etc. And I just want to let you know that I sure didn't. I am a first-generation college grad of my family. My parents did graduate from high school most of my grandparents did not. I was born in the small town in Indiana and the reason I went to college frankly was because I can keep playing basketball. I was very into athletics. I didn't think anything about academics. I just thought being a point guard on a basketball team was about the funniest thing in the world and to be able to play with these great women would be good for coming to college. I did at that point realize that I have this amazing benefit of having grown up in Bloomington Indiana because Indiana University is right in that town. And that then really opened up my eyes. I thought while I thought they just had a basketball court. With all of these classes they have. So I really found then that I did actually enjoy it a lot. But I took a break for about five years and worked in marketing and then went back to Indiana to go to law school. It is always something I find interesting when I hear students are applying to 25 places. I applied to exactly one law school which is Indiana. And I again went into it expecting you know God please just let me pass. It turned out it was a good fit. And so I ended up after a fairly short time of working going into academics. Then, I think in some ways my story about starting out in basketball is still quiet enjoy what I do. I was a point guard. My job was to make everybody else look good and I still like about being a Dean. What I like to do is help promote my students, my faculty, and institution. I really love it when I can make the whole greater than sum of the parts and make it really home and work. And so that's a lot of what brings me joy in the work that I do and then getting to work with such wonderful people like these two.
Thank you. So I want to say to you that as we have this conversation that as you heard both Sue top and Kellye say we're talking about public leadership by women, very broadly construed. And this notion that every day is election day, being a metaphorical one for those of us who see as I have described an opportunity and then proceeded in a way that was right for them. So in that context this next question is about whether you think that women who are leaders have a special responsibility to work on some speak women's and girls’ issues and to say if you think so why or if not why not?
That was a really interesting question for me because I thought to myself it's hard for me to think of an issue that wouldn't be a women's are girls issue and so do I think that? Yeah work on corporate law, and yeah work on justice and equality and work on trafficking to etc. So I think that in this since the way that I think the question was intended is that I feel that the most important thing to do as a leader is to follow your passion. And so you really want to find what you care about go with that. And maybe with some other people defined as a classic women's or girls issue and in my not be. I think either is just fine. But I do think that one of the things that some of this have to do is that we need to stick up for each other in the issues that really impact women. And so fortunately I think there are those of us who have experienced any quality around those issues are often motivated to get in and serve based on those. But I think more than anything find what you care about because this is hard work and if you really are passionate about and care about it it will sustain you more in a longer fashion.
Yeah I definitely agree with you. I do think that we as women have the responsibility to address women's issues absolutely because we look at just history. If you look at all the progress women have made whether here or across the world really has come from women's leadership. And just when using like human trafficking here in the state of Washington it was three women and happen to be three women of color who came together because there were killings going on in the Filipino community of mail-order brides who came to this country. A lot of people were aware of it but we said wait a minute what's going on? So using as an example. Same thing as our author said earlier you know the rape laws and the domestic violence laws it came from women's leadership so I do believe that we do have leadership. My mission now is to make women's issues as family issues and community issues. I think every revolution goes through different stages and we have gone through this stage where it was women's issues but we know that women's issues affect families and communities. So violence against women is no longer just women's issues it is a family issue as well as community issue. So that is where I focus my energy including anything to do with economic development for women. We know when women do well, families do well whether it's in the United States or in a small village in India or Thailand. So, yes.
One of the things that comes up when I have been traveling around and having this conversation about women being leaders there is a notion that you can leave but of course do you have any followers? And are those followers people you considered equals? So related to that I want to ask this next question the idea here is not to get one woman sitting at that decision-making table over there and one woman over there. It is to get significant numbers of women in decision-making roles so this next question is exactly on that point about being a leader committed to that goal because that's when things change. I can tell you that I am old enough to have been the only woman member on various boards and commissions. It was not a winning hand. The Queen bee strategy is not a good one. I want to ask both of you about the strategies you have thought about to really more quickly advance more women into, American women, into positions of public leadership and influence.
Public leadership and influence: well in every opportunity I get I definitely support women candidates. I mean that is just my priority. I invest whatever resources I haven't women leaders. I also have to say my politics is very progressive so of course I look at their politics and women who are advancing women's rights is very very important to me as well as people of color issues or people in marginalized communities. So that is one way that I contribute to making sure that women are at the table. We know that if we are not at the table decisions get made we don't have a say in it. And just as Rebecca says sisterhood is very powerful so it's really important for us to support each other. There are times we have differences in figure out ways to come together. I think it as women one of the things that I would like to see are more political women leaders do since we are focusing on that is listening. You know really listen to the needs of our community. I'm just witnesses very quickly you know we have a new city Council member who came from very grassroots and one of the things, and I know her, and one of the things she has done very effectively she listened to her constituents and articulated the need of the community and it worked. I mean if you think about within the American context of political power to me she absolutely shouldn't have been elected but she has. And so I am really excited about that because I have been hungry for new leadership. I don't buy into the status quo. I like when I meet leaders like our Dean who is a collaborator who I can reach two, send an e-mail and say hey I'm doing this would you be interested in sponsoring? She's never said no to me yet. I am saying, because there are people who just ignoring you. You are a director you are the Dean that whole hierarchy system does exist on this campus but many of us trying to break that down and developing collaboration, collaborative ways of leading.
Yeah I agree with everything you said. And I would just say that it bothers me so much that we have so much wasted energy not supporting other women. I can't tell you the number of times when I have seen women hurt other women. Women not promote other women. Women keep other women from advancing. It's often not the men in the room who are our enemies. I see this time and time again. And here's what I would say about it: I think it's explainable even though it's regrettable. It's explainable by the fact that you know as I often say the dam thing about oppression is that it's so damn oppressive. It actually works. And it actually hurts. So those of us who've been on the short end of the stick and have felt the harms of oppression that often causes damage in terms of how we then act. And so I think one of the things and this blends a little bit into the next thing that we want to talk about is that women have to become emotionally healthy. We have to be healthy emotionally: take care of ourselves, take care of each other so that we don't do that. So that we don't try to get power over somebody else or have the Queen Bee syndrome or think that somebody else's power is going to take away from ours. We have to share power. And I know that I try everything I can to figure out what is something I can do every day to make sure that I have helped empower some woman. It might be something as simple as being in a room, you of all had this happen, where a woman says something that everybody just sits there. A guy says it: oh that’s a great idea. Well if I see that happen I say you know so-and-so actually said that a minute ago maybe we didn't quite hear that. But you know so use your position, your power to try and help empower the women. And I say all the time as a leader I don't need followers I need other leaders. That is what is going to help me the most. I try to empower other leaders and that is what is going to help all of our leadership move forward is that if we see our job as leaders as empowering other leaders.
On this point one of the things that has come up as you have heard is that so there is this task of working with other women, developing other leaders, defending women when they need defending so that women do advance at a more rapid rate. At the same time and this is really a big portion of what I share with you in my book, there are certain very specific skills just like any other profession that you have to have if you're going to be a good plumber you have to know how to do that. Are going to be a good lawyer you have to know how to do that. If you're going to be a good public leader you have to learn those skills to. So I wanted to ask Sutapa and Kellye to share with us if they can put skill number one that you would say the other women: well if there is one, there are a couple that's good to that you would say to women who are seeking public leadership they should focus on?
The first when the Johnson my mind which is something Sutapa said which is listening, to really learn how to listen so that you hear what people are saying and value it and hear it and take it in. I think that's is huge because I think that delete anything it's not about what you want it's more about listening and distilling what those needs are. And then helping that group figure out how to advance what it is cares about so that is a really big one for me. The other thing that I have said before and I think that women particularly have to think about it is that we have to cultivate and ability to be slightly more bold than we would otherwise be comfortable. To believe in ourselves and to be able to take some risks and get out there and that's where we can help one another. But I know there is many times when I had to make myself step up. I wasn't really comfortable doing it, it was kind of like you're looking at me to do what? And think okay well try.
I agree about listening but also what she said it's really important. I think we need to be emotionally healthy. I think that's really important because we are maturing. Women are getting into leadership roles and in order for us to support each other we need to be in a good place so when Dean Testy said that I said yes absolutely. One of the things I do is that I never even if I disagree with the woman and really get upset I never publicly ever put a woman down in any form or the other. If I have something to discuss I take her aside later on or set up a coffee, tea, whatever. So if we all want to do that, be really mindful how we treat each other no matter what our differences are I think that alone would help as well so those would be my top three would be taking care of ourselves emotionally, being in a good place, listening, and being respectful and compassionate towards others.
I asked Rebecca I could make one other point and it's, the word I think is resilient. To be resilient. And one of the things that I think about this is there is this book called anti-fragile or anti-fragility or something like that it's got awful to read. I don't know that I would recommend it other then there is one idea, it took 500 pages to say it but it is an awfully good idea. The idea is this: talks about how in the future are future world that people, the organisms, the anything that is going to survive are the ones that he called anti-fragile. What he means by that is you think of a tree that is really brutal, the wind rose it breaks. Some trees the wind blows they lean but they still stay is that treatises that they lean in making kind of live and come back up. He would say that what is really going to work in the future is things that actually get better through stress. Think about your muscles. We first went to work out not so great. But when you keep doing it the stress actually is good for you and you can lift more. And this is like in medicine the bad part about disease is if there is some enter into attack them actually get stronger but that's organisms that are now live. And so cultivating that ability to not just whether stress but to actually get better through it is in some ways I think what leading in the 21st century is going demand.
This is great I'm going to ask a related final question, kind of like the lightning round here because I didn't want to open up the mics to you all and have a conversation that relates to what's been said already. Whether there is in your mind any one sort of characteristic you see among male leaders that you wish you saw more of among your sister women leaders?
I'll jump in there. I sort of started to laugh when I saw this because I actually have an interesting problem here in the law school is that all of my associate and assistant deans save one are women so we're a group of about 10 women. And I am working on diversifying the group let me be clear because I do believe in diversity and always. And it's very racially diverse group but it is very gender... But anyway what I notice is the that women often take things too personally. I would like to see, the one thing I see is let's fight about it and then let's go have a beer. That is what a lot of guys do I see. It's not personal. It's not like old he said… And I think sometimes women really are in that mode where everything seems a little too personal. And leadership there's going to be some roughing about disagreeing doesn't mean we hate each other or they were disagreeable. We have to learn how to do that, to really find out issues so we get the best of the sides and then be okay let's go have a beer.
I completely agree with you. I think in some ways I admire men for being able to compartmentalize issues but at the same time I don't necessarily like it either. This is something that I constantly am debating over or negotiating in my life. But I do think women in general we take things personally and sometimes it's good because then that is the driving force for action. But then sometimes they can hinder as well. So it's knowing that balance of when to take it personally so as you're driving force and when to say you know what was go for a beer whatever and let’s work this out.
Thank you both. So I want to open up the floor and for those of you who want to ask a question of Dean Testy or Dr. Basu or of myself or make a comment the floors open. Yes ma'am. Stand up when you speak and project.
It's not about women taking over men's space it's more like were working together and balance that is the key word so I want to just say that.
Well thank you for coming. I have some roots in Chicago. My mother, my aunt and uncle they were born in Cook County Hospital but nonetheless I am from here. But my concern would be because of the fact that I am aging. My mind went back to the 60s because of all of this being brought forth through Kennedy's assassination and so when you talked about the black church, you didn't mention black, black, black people that kind of just shifted me a little bit you mentioned Shirley Chisholm also and I shifted again and so that's I want to ask you: what to you think is happening now because they're going to say Obama is a black president and his wife is supposed to be black but I don't see the achievement that we are really supposed to be achieving. I'm talking about black women even though we see their presence every day so I am wanting you to just kind of put a different view, right there and if they want to say something that's okay but I am referring to you because of my roots are in Chicago and I am concerned about that because hey my mom and my aunt I do want to tell you too much about them but they weren't anybody to be played with. So I am a product of that but it's not always a good product. I am working on it every day because I want to be worth something. But I'm from here and all of that stuff that they tried to achieve it seems like it's on my back. The pressure is so heavy. So I got off here but you said you love to talk but there might be somebody else that wants to comment.
I'll try to respond quickly and then open the floor up some more. Yes I think we can all look at history since Shirley Chisholm ran for president and see some remarkable progress that is benefited African American women as well as women of all colors. And so there are all kinds of laws that exist at that time. There are all kinds of court decisions that didn't exist at that time. At the same time you are right that there's been some backsliding on a number of important issues: the growing economic inequality in our country, disproportionately hurts women because women make less money than men. And women predominate at the lower ends of the economic ladder. So there are profound problems now that we need to address. Also though on the positive side want to point you to the U.S. Congress. To have thought 40 years ago that there would be 75 women members of Congress I'm here to say I couldn't have imagined it. Many of those are women of color. So I think we have this specifically African-American. So I think we do have an opportunity now to do something that we couldn't have done even 20 or 25 years ago which is keep the pressure up which I think is to your point. I feel this on my back but not everything is happening the way it needs to. I feel the same way. I feel a duty and I think you heard that also here to keep the pressure up. To keep working on those people, not let them get too comfortable. Yes ma'am.
The question is how to become a great fundraiser.
Let me take a pause on that question for just a second because I wanted to add one thing to what you asked about and then I'm going to come back to that. So when I hear your question one of the things I think it's really important for us all to remember is what is sometimes called intersection out he meaning that we have different forms of oppression: gender, race, sexuality, class, etc. and sometimes in the same human being those intersect and I think a lot about it. I have a very good friend who is a black woman who is very closeted about her sexuality about being gay. The way she put this to me is she said you know KT I'm a woman. I'm black. I'm not telling anyone about the third one because that's third strike you're out. And you know I get it what she means when she says that. And so one of the things I think we all need to really remember that because that multiplies. The other thing I think that your question is so important is there is a great essay called: On Exceptionality that Katherine Mckennan wrote in a book called feminism unmodified. Her point was just that because one person managed to make it through doesn't mean that there aren't still the systemic, the structural issues that are keeping the rest of any group in place. And so I think it's really important for us to remember that. Yes I am the Dean of the law school out of 220 law schools I think there's about 20 women who are deans. Nobody should think that just because I became the Dean of the law school it's easy for women to do that or because Obama became president it easy for a black man to do that forever might be. So anyway I just think it's good for us because the topic you raise I think is a really important one for women because again for women to support each other we have to do understand that we are not all situated the same. And to be really sensitive and thoughtful about that.
In terms of the networking and all: I think the skills women have are actually quite good at it. Women have always been quite good at cultivating relationships and that is primarily what you do when you are external. You cultivate relationships and you listen and you match people up with opportunities. But the issue you raised Anna that is harder is that I am out nine nights out of 10 doing what I do and I bet you are too because I see you at the same events. What do you do when you're single parent and you have young children, women are still doing most of the home and children and elderly parent care right? And that brings us right back to that structural issue it is one that is difficult when the job asks for things that are done at odd hours. My guess is that might be more than impediment then the actual skill of doing this kind of external networking work. That was a long-winded answers to top I'm sorry.
Know I completely agree with you and as I said I love everything about my job except the fundraising part. Now I do agree I'm great at building, I'm generally like people. I am interested in people. So I cultivate good relationships. I have really great relationships from Grace roots people to the governor's office. I can call the governor tomorrow and he truly will return my call. So I have cultivated good relationships and they are great but if I have to ask for money that is why we have a development officer. I do not ask for money. I just cannot go there. Fortunately as I said I have great women working who do the ask. For me it has been a skill, building relationships, cultivating relationships comes naturally to me but asking for money has been difficult. In fact last year a donor offered me funding for my research in India and guess what I said let me think about it I will get back to you. When I came back to my office until my development officer she said: you did what?
As you agent you are going to refer those to me next time.
Thank you. But no tear point I think that we women are still not quite comfortable asking for money beside all of the other issues that she did state. Yes I am out in the evening at least four times that of the week. I can do that because I have made some lifestyle choices that allows me to do that. But most women are not in those positions.
What I want to do is just quickly to respond. I have a slightly different take on this one. And I know there is one more question over here and then I think after that we will conclude the formal part. We will keep talking. I will out there to sign books and we will keep chatting.
I spent probably almost the longest chapter in this book is about how to be a powerful fundraiser because you cannot win a public office of any kind unless you are willing to ask for the order. That is also true that being a Dean or something like that. Now there are different ways of doing it. I talk about it. But here's the thing I want to say to you. I really began my career as much as a fundraiser as anything else, as an organizer. And what I learned from fundraising that I want to share with you is fundraising is messaging. You are telling the story about why what you are doing is important. Usually in a fairly intimate context which is good. Secondly, telling it to people who if they are people of means likely also are people also who have influence and that is a good place to be if there is some where you want to get or there is an institution you want to build. So I really do encourage, I talk to a lot of young women. I encourage them to take on fundraising tasks as opposed to I'm too good for that or whatever. It's just really a great way to develop a powerful network.
I want to quickly go to this question and then we will go to the book signing.
No. It's a really hard question because I have the question asked me in terms of women succeeding in law firms, big ones, where the working expectations are tremendous and you know the best I've been able to come up with is that while were playing the long game of may be the bigger change as you are talking about is realizing that you cannot do the proverbial have it all. If you are going to make certain things a priority you're going to have to make trade-offs. You mentioned sort of aligning your personal life so you can do that. I certainly have done the same thing. And trying to be realistic about that. Because I really do think the most important thing to be effective as a leader is to be healthy emotionally, physically, all those ways and if you're burning the candle at 20 ends you just can't.
Again I agree with Dean Testy and I think we need to make some structural changes but also we cannot have it all. That is a myth. We cannot. I was just telling some women before I came here we were talking about in this culture and around the globe women are made to feel insecure constantly. All you have to do, I mean this kind of takes away from what you're talking about but they are connected. I mean all you have to do is look at the ads on TV about women, everything. It is a constant reminder that we are not adequate. We need to do more. We are not doing enough. And at some point we have to decide for ourselves you like you were talking about one of the judges who had cancer that she was going to decide which phone call she's going to answer rather than somebody telling her. So the same thing comes as leaders whether at the director level, the team level, or elected official I do believe we all lead from a place we stand so wherever we are is to decide what works for us. And that means their places in our lives that we have to compromise but hopefully the choices we make complements, gives us joy in having done that compromise. So it is basically a constantly a balancing act for me anyway.
I would just conclude by saying on this point that I think one thing perhaps is really important. We haven't focused on a formally. It is very important to support the organizations that, whose business it is to advance women in office area that does not require you to be out every night of the week. It does require you to be say, a donor or an organizer as much time as you can. I think related to that and the so to speak having it all concept of what I have found when I interviewed the women in my group and they're all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds one of them said to me and I'll close with this she said: no one has the right to take your dream away from you, which is to say that if you have that dream and you have family responsibilities which we all have of whatever kind your family does not have the right to take away that dream. Your dream is as important as your children's dreams as your partner streams, as her parent streams, as her siblings dreams. At the same time because they are equally important you figure out what you can do. Those things you can't do you put the side. For most women who looked to be public leaders that will suffice. So they are out three nights a week but not five. Or they go to for meetings but not six meetings. So I would just say to you as you think about this having it all matter it is a false construct. It is a false construct. What you have is the opportunity to realize what you want to do however you define that and to ask others to work with you to make that happen. And I hope that part of that is public leadership. So thank you all for the opportunity to be here. I will be right outside and we can just keep talking.
And let's thank Rebecca. Wonderful book thank you.
Last updated 7/11/2014