Women and Power: “Power Over” or “Power To?"


"We have McKinzey and Company saying that companies that have 30 percent or more women on their management teams and boards of directors have a better return on investment. We have the World Bank saying that parliaments around the world make better decisions when there’s a critical mass of women on them. We have everybody looking at us and saying, it’s your opportunity moment, it’s your moment, go for it."

The future belongs to women. Around the world, women are inspiring each other to envision a world where women lead, but quite differently. Women are spontaneously redefining power and shaping it in novel ways. According to social justice advocate Gloria Feldt and community advocate Reinette Senum, leadership begins inside – with “power to” rather than “power over.” How is the leadership of women benefitting us all?


Bioneers Series XI - Program 08-11


Women and Power: Power Over or Power To



00:00               Underwriting narration (00:20)


The following program was made possible in part by a grant from Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.coop.


00:21               Welcome (00:05)


00:27               Feldt Teaser (int) (cut 6) (00:21)


We have McKinzey and Company saying that companies that have 30 percent or more women on their management teams and boards of directors have a better return on investment. We have the World Bank saying that parliaments around the world make better decisions when there’s a critical mass of women on them. We have everybody looking at us and saying, it’s your opportunity moment, it’s your moment, go for it.


00:47               Macy (00:09)


It’s all alive, it’s all connected, it’s all intelligent, it’s all relatives…


00:56               Bioneers Teaser (00:34)


We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.


It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart.


In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.


01:24               Theme music fade out (00:08)


01:30     NARRATION 1a (01:55)


The ancient Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky” has taken a modern twist. Women actually hold up more than half the sky. In fact, they do two-thirds of the world’s work - and earn just ten percent of the world’s income. They own just one percent of global financial assets. Women and children comprise seventy percent of those living in poverty around the world.


Yet despite these dismal realities, it appears the future belongs to women – and it’s unmistakably emerging. In her landmark article called “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin found this:


“As thinking and communicating have come to eclipse physical strength and stamina as the keys to economic success, those societies that take advantage of the talents of all of their adults, not just half of them, have pulled away from the rest.”


One study measuring the economic and political power of women in 162 countries found with few exceptions that the greater the power of women, the greater the nation’s economic success. Societies that don’t adapt fall dangerously behind.


A fundamental shift in the U.S. economy has resulted in a majority of women in the workforce for the first time. Three quarters of the eight million jobs lost in the Great Recession were held by men, and the working class is turning into a functional matriarchy. The most valuable attributes in today’s economy are social intelligence, open communication and the ability to be still and focus - predominantly female traits.


Rosin characterizes the emerging U.S. economy as a “traveling sisterhood.”


Which is not to say that women have remotely achieved parity, equity or just plain equal rights anywhere in the world. But the tide has turned and the third wave of women’s leadership is ascendant.


03:25                Feldt Cut 1 (int) (00:33)


We’re on the rise. We’re on the verge. We’re on the capability trail, but there’s a big disparity between that and the level of achievement that we’re actually making.  

What I found was that women have to come to terms with the fact that the biggest barriers are now within ourselves, and that we have to change how we look at power, how we look at these issues of moving on into parity in upper level positions. It’s on our shoulders now.





03:59     NARRATION 1b (00:26)


Around the world, women are inspiring each other to envision a world where women lead, but lead quite differently. What does women’s leadership look like? How it is it changing the world?


This is Women and Power: Power Over or Power To with social justice activist Gloria Feldt and community advocate Reinette Senum. 


My name is Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.


04:25     Music fade (00:07)


04:33     NARRATION 2 (00:33)


Gloria Feldt has a unique appreciation of that famous adage from the first wave of feminism: the personal is political.


A teen mom from a small Texas town, Feldt went on to raise three children while attending college. She taught Head Start and joined the Civil Rights movement. She served for nine years as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s largest women’s reproductive health and advocacy organization.


Gloria Feldt spoke at a recent Bioneers conference.


05:06                Feldt Cut 2 (plen) (00:56)


When you feel that you are oppressed, when you feel that you don’t have power, when the culture is telling you, you can’t, you mustn’t, when you are the group that is being discriminated  against, raped, or beaten, you don’t want to raise your head. It is frightening. It can feel very chaotic. It can be just very, very, very threatening. But I am absolutely convinced, to take ourselves to that place of parity in leadership and utilize the responsibility that we have to be half of the leadership of our communities, our nation, our world, we’re going to have to learn not just to use controversy but to embrace it, to love it, to use its energy to support what we want to make happen.


06:03     NARRATION 3 (00:28)


Gloria Feldt’s passion for bettering women’s lives remains a driving force in her work as an independent commentator, blogger and author on women’s issues, politics, media, and leadership. Her book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power, introduces the concept of nine “power tools” for women. She offers this real-world metaphor for power tool number 4: Embrace controversy head-on.


06:31                Feldt Cut 3 (plen) (01:00)


I don’t know if you recall this particular New York Times magazine article when the very big tsunami occurred in Indonesia a few years ago, and the article had a picture and a story of a man who was in his tiny, little fishing boat, and the tsunami was coming at him full force, and instead of trying to go away from it, to move away from it, to save himself by getting away, instead he took his little boat and he rode it right directly into the wave. And it is that principle that I want to talk with you about today, that principle that we can take the energy that controversy gives us and we can use it to lead, to lead to the change we want to make in the world.


07:32     NARRATION 4 (00:15)


In light of the highly polarized and bitter politics around abortion and women’s reproductive rights, Feldt’s leadership of Planned Parenthood gave her formidable opportunities to ride headlong into the waves of controversy. Picture this scene.


07:47                Feldt Cut 4 (int)       (01:26)


When I was called to my first congressional hearing, I went to Washington and it was a hearing that had been set up very explicitly staged to try attack the pro-choice organizations that were opposing a certain bill.


And Henry Hyde was on this illustrious panel, and when it came his turn to interrogate me, instead of asking about the bill at hand, he started attacking me about abortion in general. And he said to me, Ms. Feldt, are you distressed about the numbers of abortions? And I said, Mr. Hyde, I looked at your voting record and you have never once voted for family planning. Now, doesn’t that just distress you? And I want to tell you, the House chamber, where nobody’s supposed to make a sound, erupted into applause. And it changed the energy in the room. It changed the dynamic, and suddenly, the heads of those pro-choice groups that were feeling really pretty beaten up, it’s like there was a new energy, because somebody had just said, no, sorry, you can’t get away with that and I’m going to challenge you.


So, just having the courage to do one little thing like that, and to move into a controversy, lead into the wave and let it--energy take you where you need to go. Use it to your advantage.




09:14     NARRATION 5 (00:18)


In her book No Excuses, Feldt describes “Power Tools” for women as fundamental accessible ideas such as “know your history” - “create the movement” - and “tell your story”. But, she says, power tools speak to a different kind of power.


09:32                Feldt Cut 5 (int)       (02:14)


Most importantly when it comes to power women need to redefine power as a concept because we still have a cultural construct of power in our minds as being the power over.


It implies that it’s a finite pie, the power pie is if you take a slice, there’s less for me, so I don’t want to let you have a slice.


But the reality is that when you change the definition from the power over to having the power to, having the power to accomplish things in this world, suddenly, it becomes an infinite resource, and the more there is, the more there is. And it opens so many more possibilities. And the interesting thing is that when I talk to women about this, changing this definition, first of all, women often say, I don’t like the idea of power. It’s just a bad thing. Well, it stands to reason because women have born the brunt of the negative aspects of power for many years. We are the ones who have been discriminated against, beaten, raped, whatever.


But when you redefine it and you think of power as the power to, I see women’s faces relax, and it becomes, Oh, I can do something good if I have this power to. And, in fact, if you want women to run for office, you don’t talk to them about amassing power, you talk to them about what is it that upsets them about their community or what’s happening. I tell the story of a young woman named Kendra Tollackson who had not intended to run for school board, although she was always interested in politics, she had never intended to run herself, but she became very distressed about some curriculum issues at her school once she had children of her own. And she tried to work with the school board to no avail, so she decided she would run for the school board, and she won. And that’s the kind of thing women will do. So, the power to is a concept that is just much more open, expansive and palatable to women, and that’s why I think redefining it is probably the most important power tool for women.


11:46     NARRATION 6 (00:11)


Like Gloria Feldt, women all over the world are spontaneously redefining power and shaping it in novel ways - as “power to” – not “power over.”





11:58               Senum Cut 1 (int) (00:20)


I think the best thing we could do for this planet is to elevate women and put them in the roles of a leadership  …because I believe women just have an intrinsic understanding that we’re all in this together and it’s not about you or me and it’s me against you and I’m on this team and we’re all on the same team; we’re all the same family. And I believe most women, naturally just understand that.


12:18     Narration 7 - Lead to Mid Break (00:38)


Reinette Senum’s journey to leadership began at her mother’s bedside. Cancer cut her mother’s life short at just 54 years old. Her last words were, “Reinette, if you’re ever going to do anything, do it now.”


When we return, public servant and community leader Reinette Senum discovers the power to navigate cultural differences, confront climate change -- and fill an empty main street storefront with the dreams of the blossoming local food movement.


This is Women and Power: “Power Over”, or “Power To”?


I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.


12:56               MID BREAK (00:24)


13:21               Underwriter #2 mention #1 (00:10)


13:32     NARRATION 8 (00:37)


To explore more Bioneers Radio shows and conference videos, for free, visit www.bioneers.org.


Reinette Senum heeded her dying mother’s advice and set out on what she thought would be the adventure of her lifetime. For more than a year on a shoestring budget, she travelled the world, visiting 27 countries.


When she returned to California, she found adventure was still calling her name.  She spun the globe around, pointed her finger, next thing she knew, she was skiing solo across Alaska, 1500 miles from east to west along the Yukon River.





14:09               Senum Cut 2  (int) (00:48)


When a river freezes, it doesn’t freeze flat, it freezes concave. And so you have two safe places to travel down the frozen Yukon River, and it’s either dead in the middle, dead center where it is jumbled old thick ice, but it’s iceberg. You’re zig-zagging, zig-zagging, you’re not gonna make very good timing. Or you have a straight shot on the side, but, again, it’s concave, so it’s very steep. That was my choices. I’ll go along the side.


Well, I got along the side, but what this does is it causes the sled to go completely cockeyed sideways, and it’s like pulling the sled uphill all day long. Then, on top of it, when it’s 55 below, snow is really, really, really dry and very, very sticky. So, the sled runners are sticking and it’s just snow grinding on snow. So, I’m dragging this thing and I, by that time, I’d been skiing 15, 25 miles a day, no problem. I barely was able to make seven miles.


14:58     NARRATION 9 (00:33)


Despite almost superhuman efforts lasting 10 weeks, Reinette Senum came face to face with the existential reality that she wouldn’t be able to ski solo across Alaska. She had managed to come so far not only because of her determination, but also the generosity of dog sledders and trappers and Native Alaskans, who all helped her understand that no one powers through life alone. In fact, there are forces unimaginably greater than any one person’s plans or dreams.


15:31               Senum Cut 3a (int) (02:03)


I didn’t know about climate change at that time. This was in ’94. And I didn’t realize I was I was having my own personal head-on collision with it. And what had happened was I was, of course, skiing down the frozen Yukon River and it was the only road that I had and I knew, and I got halfway across and all of a sudden, spring was coming really early, like, just unusually early. And I was in Athabaskan village of Stevens Village, and I thought to myself, Oh my God, you know, what do I do? Do I just go home or do I stop now and come back and pick up next year where I stopped.  And I realized, basically, I had two choices: I either give up or I find a different way to continue. Kind of like where we are today.


And, so, I sat with that. And it happens the Athabaskans gave me a little cabin. They cleaned it out of moose heads and antlers and oil drums and things like that, and they let me stay in this little, tiny cabin next to the Yukon, and right by my door was a snow bank, and there’s this little piece of pointy wood sticking out and I looked at that and I kinda dug it out, and I looked at it again, and I thought, what is that. And I start digging out with my hands and finally, I uncover the last canoe built in this village by the Athabaskans twenty years before. And I thought to myself, that’s it. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna build myself a canoe.


I’d never built a bird house, so, again, this is a bit of a stretch. (laughs) And, so…so, it was fabulous. And this was…I have to tell you, by far the most profound experience of my life that I apply almost every day. And this was it.


So, I go to all the elders and I say to them, I’m gonna build myself a canoe. And there’s about 60 Athabaskans in this village, and within a day’s time, word got back to me, no, no, no, no. You don’t understand. Women don’t build canoes. So, I had to run back to all the different elders in their cabins and go to them and say, no, no, no, you don’t understand where I come from in California, that’s what women do. We’re canoe builders. That’s our thing. Well, they had the most perplexed look on their face. They’re like, oh, that’s what you do in your land. Okay. But you could tell they weren’t very thrilled by this.


17:34     NARRATION 10 (00:13)


The Athabaskans were willing to teach Reinette Senum the skills she needed to build a canoe. But they were in truth very concerned for her mental health. They volunteered one villager to tell her so.


17:47               Senum Cut 3b (int) (00:43)


Herb says to me, he says, we call you a wonder woman because of all the miles you can ski in a day. But you build this canoe and we’re gonna call you fruitcake. I just look at him and I just have to bust up. And, so, the next thing you know, with a hand plane and a hatchet 18-foot-long planks of wood, or with an ax, I should say, and a hatchet, and I rip them out, and then I start hand-planing and I’m hand-planing five hours a day, five days a week, and as I’m doing that, all the natives are passing by and they’re saying to me, ‘Fruitcake’. And they’re waving, you know. And they’re all doing it very lovingly, but they think it’s just insanity.


18:31     NARRATION 11 (00:05)


After two and half weeks, Reinette Senum had prepared all the boards she needed to build her canoe.


18:37               Senum Cut 3c (int) (00:22)


And this is what happens… they stop coming by and saying, ‘Fruitcake’. And instead, they started coming by saying, (changes voice) I got a C clamp if ya need a C clamp for dat. And someone else came by saying, (changes voice) I got some galvanized screws. And he hands them down. And someone else came by saying, (changes voice) I got some oil base marine paint -- you like blue and red?




19:00     NARRATION 12 (00:31)


She pushed off from shore to the cheers of Stevens Village. Within 11 days she had paddled 900 miles - to within 40 miles of her destination in the mouth of the Yukon River. There her journey ended. Although she wasn’t able to accomplish her original goal, she came to recognize the importance of the journey itself. When she returned home to Nevada City, she quickly discovered how the life lessons of her Alaska expedition applied to life in small-town, rural California.


19:31               Senum Cut 3d (int) (00:29)


So, back in then 2005, really came to grips with peak oil and with climate change and looking at these huge, huge issues. And I have a deep, deep, deep love for my community of Nevada City in California ‘cause they’ve been supportive of me the whole time. And I thought what could I possibly do. These issues are so huge. I mean, they’re bigger than me. And then I thought, well, build a canoe.


20:00     NARRATION 13 (00:06)


Because this is what women do. Reinette Senum built a local conference on peak oil.


20:07              Senum Cut 3e (int) (00:35)


And 200 people showed up in ’05. And after they showed up, I said, okay, I wanna hold a think tank every single month. So, 45 people showed up to the think tank, and at the end of the first think tank, I said, would you guys be willing to get together every single month to figure out what to do. And they all said, absolutely not. We want to get together every single week until we figure out what to do.


Well, they got together every single week, all of us, for eight months straight until an organization came about named APPLE, Alliance for a Post Petroleum Local Economy. And since then, we’ve pretty much been building canoes everywhere.


20:42     NARRATION 13 (00:24)


Reinette Senum had learned that whether skiing down the Yukon or being stopped in your tracks by climate change, leadership is leadership. She had survived the frozen North using power tools that Gloria Feldt might characterize as “making sense of chaos” or “using what you’ve got” or “defining your own terms”. How much harder could it be to lead a whole community towards sustainability?


21:07                Senum Cut 4 (int) (01:03)


First of all, I had read the book The Tipping Point and that was completely inspiring. And then what happened was I was very involved in the APPLE organization and the community and sustainability and so on, but I’m out on the edge, you know, I’m not in City Hall. I don’t understand how local government works and we’re always going to them and approaching them and they were an enigma. And I didn’t understand how they worked.


But I didn’t know if I should run for supervisor or for city council and Nevada City, California is tiny. It’s 3,000 people, 3,001, to be exact. And I started thinking, well, what’s the best way to really enact a change, and I realize, okay, The Tipping Point talks about in order to create a cultural shift, you have to reach 15 percent of the population. Well, I can try to go out there and reach, you know, a population of 100,000 people, which will take some time, or I could try to reach 3,000 and that tipping point would be 450 people. And I’m thinking, boy is that doable.


And, to me, it’s about the canoe. Show people, you know. Show people what you’re talking about, and as soon as they see it and it’s a tangible form, they will want to be a part of it. So, I decided to run for city council.


22:11     NARRATION 14 (00:48)


Reinette Senum won the votes to be elected to the city council as vice mayor. According to the town’s system of governance, she would then become the Mayor of Nevada City within one year. It would be her biggest expedition yet.


During her tenure as Mayor, the City Council voted to make the entire town an eco-district, which meant directing every project that came before the council to look at the community through the lens of sustainability.


Here’s one example of Nevada City-style eco-development. The largest building on main street stood empty for two years before Reinette Senum and the director of APPLE began dreaming about how to transform the three-story edifice into a sustainable marketplace for the local food movement and local economy. And why the project was so important to the town’s evolution.


22:59               Senum Cut 5  (int) (00:39)


If we can’t change our world in one 30,000 square foot building, we’re not gonna change it in the town, we’re not gonna change it in the state, and we’re not gonna change it in the rest of the world. Either we do it now. And you think it’s hard now, try doing it next year or try doing it the year after that, it’ll be even tougher. So, time is of the essence.


So, the building, basically what we’re looking at is the bottom floor is going to be a certified kitchen and creamery and walk-in refrigerators and freezers and a place to even cut up your meats and so on. And that’s going to be well over 2,000 square feet, and it’ll be open 24 hours a day. It’ll be open to Meals on Wheel programs from farm to school lunch programs. It’ll be open to feeding the homeless.


23:38     NARRATION 15 (00:43)


The holistic vision for the building includes supporting local farmers to make value-added products in the kitchen. It creates a marketplace for local vendors on the second floor. It provides office space for community non-profits on the third. The building will grow to become a social, economic and environmental engine for the community.


Reinette Senum is plenty enthusiastic about the budding future of her small mountain town, but her vision goes far beyond that. She knows that once a breakthrough is achieved, it gives permission for the rest of the world to follow suit. The local goes global – the personal becomes political - and the political becomes very, very personal.


24:21                Senum Cut 6 (int) (00:23)


And that’s why I say to folks, be extraordinary in your life right now, because even though you think it may not add up, there are those who are going to be following right behind you. They will sense it. They will know it. And that to me is very much Nevada City. We’re a little, tiny town in the foothills, but that doesn’t matter. We can still lead the world.


And people in Ecuador, people in Russia, anywhere, we can…especially today now with the Internet, you can lead the world from anywhere.


24:45     NARRATION 17 (00:19)


Reinette Senum. You can lead from anywhere. And according to Reinette Senum and Gloria Feldt, leadership begins inside – with power to rather than power over. For that kind of reason, the leadership of women stands to benefit us all.


25:04               Feldt Cut 6 (int) (01:05m )


We have McKinzey and Company saying that companies that have 30 percent or more women on their management teams and boards of directors have a better return on investment. We have the World Bank saying that parliaments around the world make better decisions when there’s a critical mass of women on them. We have everybody looking at us and saying, it’s your opportunity moment, it’s your moment, go for it.


And the problem is that moments don’t last. Moments in history really are just moments, and unless we take- unless we as women take that moment and move ourselves forward, we have to lead ourselves forward, we have to lead our own dreams, we have to live with intention ourselves, and if we don’t, we don’t have anybody else to blame.


This is our moment, but it’s only a moment that will lead women to greater parity, greater equality and justice and fairness if we ourselves take advantage of it.


26:10     NARRATION 18 (00:13)


Gloria Feldt and Reinette Senum. Building canoes and taking them straight into the big waves of social change on behalf of the public good. Because they have the power to….


26:23     Music fade    (00:10)


26:33               Bioneers BXI - Program Close/Credits           (1:33)       


Many more Bioneers Radio programs and conference videos are available online for free at Bioneers.org where you can also find out how to attend the annual Bioneers Conference and local Bioneers Satellite Conferences near you.


Bioneers voices are heard more widely with your support. Join by visiting Bioneers.org or call 1-877-BIONEER. The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature is a production of Collective Heritage Institute.

Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management: Aaron Leventman and Chuck Castleberry
Station Relations by Creative PR
Interview Recording Engineer: Jeff Wessman

Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label.

Additional music was made available by Kaki King at velourmusic.com. For more music information, please visit Bioneers.org
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening.

I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
This is program number 08-11.


28:07               Closing underwriting narration:                 (00:22)


This program was made possible in part by Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.coop. Also by PARK Foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues as well as by the generous support of listeners like you.



28:30                END

Women and Power: “Power Over” or “Power To?

About this Listing

Women and Power: “Power Over” or “Power To?"


Posted by Bioneers on Mar 30 2013 in category 2011 Bioneers Radio Series
Tags: women’s leadership, women’s rights, social justice

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