Gloria Steinem – My Life On The Road

DSC00140 copyPublished on LinkedIn on October 27, 2015

In 1999, I had the honor of receiving the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the National Council for Research on Women. I was being recognized for my work in promoting diversity at Goldman Sachs, and when I discovered that none other than Gloria Steinem would be speaking at the event as well, I was overjoyed. Gloria was someone I had long since admired and respected, and it was a privilege to finally meet her in person.

Our paths did not cross again until one special evening in 2001.  At the time, I was unhappy in my role at Goldman, combined with being a mother of two young children, and in moments of pure whimsy, I fantasized about quitting to write a Wonder Woman screenplay (the whole story can be found here). One night, I called a dear friend to ask her if I could come over to talk things over before I did anything too stupid, and while she said yes, our talk would have to wait until after her small dinner party that she was hosting that night was over. When I asked who was coming to dinner, she named about six people who were all very impressive, but it was the last one who left me breathless: Gloria Steinem.

I showed up ridiculously excited and nervous. Our previous encounter had been brief, and since that event, I had read so much by and about her, I felt like I was meeting the President. The first person I encountered that evening was Gloria’s partner, David Bale, and I remember him asking me about myself. I shared that I was a partner at Goldman Sachs, but joked that I was going to quit my job to try and write a screenplay for a Wonder Woman movie. As I explained that I had an idea for a narrative that was inspired by my experiences at Goldman, a smile came over his face. He asked me if I knew that Gloria was one of the world’s experts on Wonder Woman, and I immediately broke out in goosebumps. Somehow, with everything I already knew about Gloria, this piece of information was unknown to me. I also didn’t know at the time that David’s son was Christian Bale, who would famously go on to play Batman just a couple of years later. There was a lot of superhero knowledge in this family!

Jacki&GloriaWhen I finally got to talk to Gloria, she informed me that the premiere issue of Ms. Magazine featured an image of Wonder Woman on its cover, boldly proclaiming, “Wonder Woman for President”, and today, my copy of that issue is one of my most prized possessions in my collection of Wonder Woman memorabilia. That night the two of us talked about Wonder Woman and little else, and I handed in my resignation at Goldman the very next day. I took it as a sign.

Of course, I didn’t go on to write the Wonder Woman screenplay, but I did leave my position at Goldman, took a screenwriting course, and pursued the idea of a female superhero movie for quite some time before deciding that the timing was just not right. Yet. Meanwhile, I was getting to know real life female superheroes; women who were using the super powers they had, such as their time, treasure, and talent, to make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes fact is better then fiction.

Gloria and I have gone on to become  friends, and I have come to rely on her wisdom and experience as I navigate my own journey of being a voice for gender equality, especially in my role at Women Moving Millions, where Gloria serves on our Advisory Board. Whenever I get stuck in my work, I often ask myself, What Would Gloria do?, a question that actually manifested as a trending hashtag (WWGD) at a Makers conference a few years back. (lets bring it back!) Gloria has been on this path for over 50 years, and during this time, she has been a tireless advocate for women and girls all over the world. Among her many achievements, she co-founded both Ms. Magazine and the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1972, and she has continued to inspire generations of future activists through her writing, speaking, and outreach. For further reading, here is a fabulous piece on Gloria written by Jane Kramer in The New Yorker, October 2015. Also this just in on NPR.

Throughout her career, Gloria has published several bestselling books, including  Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Revolution From Within, Moving Beyond Words, and Doing Sixty and Seventy. Her latest book, My Life on the Road (#mylifeontheroad and @gloriasteinem), comes out today, and my order is already in. A memoir of her life, this book is a chronicle of a lifetime spent giving a voice to those who may not have otherwise been heard, and I encourage everyone to go out and pick up a copy. Gloria is a constant inspiration, not just to me personally, but to all of us on how to live a life of service to others, and I hope she continues to inspire us all for years to come. At 81, she is showing no signs of slowing down.

It’s no secret that I love good quotes, so to wrap up, I’ve listed below some of my favorite of Gloria’s. Enjoy, and happy reading!

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.

Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.

The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving.

Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.

Once we give up searching for approval we often find it easier to earn respect.

We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?

Hope is a very unruly emotion.

*The photo is from 2010 at my “leaving New York” party. Gloria gave me my very own set of golden cuffs. 

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