Author Q&A: Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World

Recently I had the opportunity to read "Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World" a book by Susan Bulkeley Butler, CEO of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders. No stranger to breaking through barriers, Butler was the first female partner of a major consulting firm. As she mentions in the book's introduction, "It's no longer enough to count women - it's time to ensure that we are all women who count."

Butler starts by looking at the numbers and highlighting the inequities in how women are represented in  business and among policy makers in government. She covers the pioneers, the movements throughout history and shares her ideas on how changes in education, organizations, communities and giving can have a major impact. I found her book to be inspirational and instructive. It provides strategies and gives hope that women can come together to change the world for the better.  

Author & CEO  Susan Bulkeley Butler answers some questions about her book:
DB: Why did you write Women Count?

SBB: It became a habit of mine to count women everywhere I went. And the numbers didn't seem to be changing.  Looking up into the top management of organizations, I saw even less women.  It was then I decided that I wanted to make the numbers change during my life time.

When I was first promoted to partner, I began taking women out for breakfast or lunch, to let them see what a woman in a senior leadership position looked like. I wasn't a 'man in a skirt.'  Remember this was in the 1960s. I began mentoring women and advocating for them, and became excited when women were promoted to manager, senior manager, or senior leadership positions.

I want the world to move from "counting women" to making sure "women count." It is my passion that everyone will support my goal of 'equality in sight for women' by August 2020 - the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.  My book is part history, celebrating what women have accomplished to date, how women are changing the world today and what we need to do to bring about equality by 2020.

I challenge everyone who reads my book to answer my question:  How are you going to change the world for women, your community, your family, and our nation?  It is up to us to make the world/nation a better place for our having been here.

DB: Who is the target audience for your book?

My target initially was women.  Since women comprise nearly 50 percent of the work force, participate in or make over 80 percent of the consumer decisions and manage over 70 percent of the personal wealth in this country, we should have the power to make change happen for ourselves, where ever we are.

Men have told me that every man should read this book to really understand the environment for women, particularly if they have daughters and granddaughters.  Men need to get on board with this change too to make the world a better place for their daughters and granddaughters.

Young women have said that they enjoyed reading the history of women from the early times. A student mentioned that she knew nothing of women's history as it wasn't in the history books she studied.  I want women to become a part of history, not just in the footnotes.  For example, do you know who really invented the cotton gin?  Read my book and you will find out.

Everyone one needs to participate in bringing equality for women, so they should read my book.  Equality is the right thing to do. Why should we be second class citizens?

DB: You mention that "women must step into their power," what do you mean by that?

Unfortunately, I believe that women don't realize the impact they can make wherever they are.  My parents always told me that I could do anything I set my mind to do and I believed them.  That is why I believe I can really help to change the world, particularly for women.
We need to be encouraged, groomed for positions and have the confidence to do anything we set our minds to do.  Parents need to mentor their daughters as they do their sons.  They need to encourage daughters to have goals in their lives for themselves and careers, just as they do for their sons.  We need to support women who want to have a career and integrate it with their family when the time comes. I advise young women to make their career decisions first.  Being a mom comes later. Think about yourself.

DB: Would women who run small and/or home-based businesses also get helpful advice from your book?

SBB: Women Count is all about women and men being seen as equals, running companies, becoming partners in senior leadership roles, doing non-profit work, or mentoring women and girls.  It focuses on helping women be all they can be and encourages them to go for the gold. No matter what women are doing, I would like them to think about how they can or want to change the world.  They should follow their passion and 'dream big' as Sandra Day O'Connor would say.  Dreams do come true.

DB: What is the key message you want to deliver to women who read your book?

SBB: Be the CEO of You, Inc.  Become who it is you want to be.  And, make things happen for you rather than let things happen to you.

This begins with you deciding what it is you want to achieve, determining who should be on your team to help make it happen, defining your goals on an annual basis and navigating your journey every day.  Every decision you make today helps define who you are.  (Become the CEO of  You, Inc. (2006) by Susan Bulkeley Butler).

DB:  So who are you?  Are you who you want to be?  And are you changing the world for others?

SBB: In one way, I consider myself half Susan B. Anthony and half Amelia Earhart.  I am finishing what Susan B. Anthony hoped for:  equality for women.  And Amelia was always getting women to do more.  When someone would say "no you can't," Amelia would say, " yes I can."  That is who I am, bringing about equality for women and encouraging women to say " yes I can" when others say no.

I consider myself as a philanthropist, author, mentor, advocate, a retired senior executive from Accenture and someone who is interested in helping anyone be all they can be.  I am an executive coach. Some would say I am a "nudger," and some would say I am holding them accountable for achieving their aspirations.  My goal is to help others define their life goals and to figure out how to make them heppen.

I am excited about who I am because I am helping to change the world for others. Through my Institute, I am providing my experiences to others. Why should they need to learn everything that I have already learned?  Everyone has enough to learn already to move forward. My books are textbooks to make change happen for yourself.  And my workshops put participants through the processes to define where they want to be and how they are going to get there.

I have learned and earned, and now I am returning (giving forward to future generations) to make the world a better place for my having been here.  I am making change happen through other people, with my time, talents and resources. My focus is all about changing the academic, business, non-profit and medical sectors for women.

DB: A chapter of your book is "Changes and Shifts" could you mention some of those?

I have been on the Oregon coast and watched, over the years, the changes and shifts of the landscape and the sand right in front of my eyes. Many women have made "changes and shifts" like Susan B. Anthony and the suffergists, the women of World War I and World War II,  and Gloria Steinem and her movement.  If it hadn't been for these women and many others, we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we are able to today.

Women in politics have made many changes over the decades.  My friends Karen Kalish, Erin Slater and countless others are inspiring me as they are making change happen today.  They are going beyond problems and talking about solutions, to actually doing something about them.  Their stories are in my book.

We have a new world filled with opportunities for us to shape and change our communities, our states, our nation and our world. It is our opportunity to shape the world even more for the women who will follow us, our daughters and granddaughters.

We must have the courage to be a different kind of leader, so we don't perpetuate the same foolish system that is at least partly to blame for the problems we find ourselves in today.

How are you going to  change the world?  Together, I know we can create a better world.  Won't you join me in making it happen?

DB: You have a great deal of business experience yourself, what specifically inspired you to write this book?

SBB: Many of my supporters told me I should write a book. My first one, "Become the CEO of You, Inc." is based on the roadmap I use, even today, to be the person I want to be.  There are also lots of tips for success, so the reader doesn't have to experience all of these road blocks, but can learn from my experiences. 

Women Count, A Guide to Changing the World came about because I realized that there are too few women in leadership roles around the world.  And, I knew that with women around the table,  decisions would be different, and  better, because there would be different points of views  in the conversation.

When we don't equally include women, we are not including half of the population. Today, we are not being groomed to handle positions at the top of our organizations.  Women are in the organizations, but at the mid- to lower-levels of the organization.  We need to be in the pipeline to the top, but only if we have the right skills and capabilities.

Women Count demonstrates how women were very helpful in getting us to where we are today.  As well, it demonstrates how some women are already changing the world, how they obtained leadership roles and how they have the capabilities to do more.  We just need to give all women the opportunity to demonstrate what they CAN do, and let them do it.

DB: What’s the best advice you can give to a woman who is uncertain of her next steps?

SBB: Be responsible for who you are and who you want to become.  You should be the 'CEO of You, Inc.' Like managing a company, this means managing your life to make sure "You, Inc." is successful not just today, but also into the future. This is about putting yourself in the driver's seat of your life, that you are going in the direction you want to go, not where someone else wants you to go.

If you are uncertain, follow your dreams.   You can do anything you set your mind to do ... and you can change your mind if you find your direction  isn't working out as you planned.  However, before you change your direction, be sure to find a team to advise you because you can't do it all by yourself.  And don't forget to put together a plan with goals to make your dreams happen.

Ask for what you want, and make aspirations happen.  Don't let things happen to you.

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