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Podcast Transcript

Ask For What You Want

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path To Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark! Join us on this journey where we uncover what it takes to be a powerful woman leader.

Marsha, welcome back again! I know that today's episode is called "Ask For What You Want." So Marsha, give us a welcome first of all...

Marsha Clark  0:35  
Thank you very much, Wendi! I'm happy to be here and love that what we're talking about today!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:40  
I know... Exactly! So asking for what you want... So we're gonna... It's gonna be interesting to see where this goes. So, why is it so hard for some of us, as women, to ask for what we want? Or at least do it in a way that feels direct and powerful?

Marsha Clark  0:57  
Well, Wendi, I love this topic because it's something that so many women at all levels of success in business, nonprofits, government, volunteer community work, all of those places, and really around the world because I've talked about this topic around the world. And so many of us struggle with this. And it's probably one of the top three topics that we explore in all of my coaching calls. And, that's what makes it so powerful as a podcast episode. So I'm really eager to jump in and get started.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:28  
Okay, so let's dive straight into that question of why it's so hard to ask for what we want.

Marsha Clark  1:35  
Well, as you know, I'm probably going to say "it depends." But there are there are options, right? There are different possibilities. And the, you know, with the idea of the answer to every leadership question is "it depends." And in this case, it's really true. So I've come to find out that there are multiple reasons why people, and women in particular, find it difficult to ask for what they want. And today, we're going to unpack what I considered the top three reasons that I've found not only in the research, but in my own coaching practice. And we'll add some suggestions on what we can do to address those three reasons.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:11  
Ah... suggestions. Great! So you actually mention the idea of asking for what you want quite a few times in your book, "Embracing Your Power." And you've shared a couple of stories about it in some previous podcast episodes, and it seems like a pretty strong theme in your work.

Marsha Clark  2:31  
It is, Wendi. And honestly, it doesn't do any of our listeners, or coaching clients, or workshop participants, anyone really any good to do all of this exploration and understanding of power if they're not really going to step into that power and ask for what they want. And for our listeners who had the positional power to help make systemic or organizational changes to support women, when they do ask for what they want, that is just as important. So being able to model it as well as to receive it is equally important.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:02  
That totally makes sense. You said earlier that you found three primary reasons for why women don't ask for what they want. What are those? And then, what advice or coaching do you have to offer in each situation?

Marsha Clark  3:18  
Well, I'm going to share all three of them, and then we're going to break each one down. So number one is personality style and limiting beliefs around our own self worth or how we value ourselves. Number two is social conditioning - what the world does to hosts if you will, or tries to do to us. And number three is systemic reinforcement. And all of these three are related in some ways, and when you combine them, they create a real lose/lose scenario for women. When it comes to asking for what they want and getting it. It's not just asking, but also wanting to get that ask.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:01  
Right. Right. So let's dive deeper into that first reason - personality style and limiting beliefs. What's behind that?

Marsha Clark  4:10  
Yeah, I think our least listeners can easily think of people they know, and quite honestly, both men and women who have wonderful accommodating peace-keeping personalities. Why can't we all just get along? And some of our listeners may identify self identify with this type of personality. And, and these are the kinds of personalities that don't like to rock the boat. And they're more likely to wait on others to offer something rather than outright asking for what they want. It's like they need an invitation or they need permission. And they truly believe that it may be seen as rude to directly ask for what they want. Or it may seem too pushy or aggressive to actively seek out what they want. And at home they're, you know, just as an experience or a story, they're probably the last to the dinner table. They wait for everyone else to fill their plates. And, you know, before they eat themselves or, you know, whatever. And at work, they work hard, and they wait for the leader to acknowledge their accomplishments. And it may or may not come.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:16  
Right. So do you think that it's actually their personality? Or have they been told or taught that they need to wait or have to wait? Did they get some message along the way that it's not okay to ask for what you want?

Marsha Clark  5:31  
Well, I think I think the answer is" yes. To all the "or" parts of your question. But it's really yes, yes, and yes. And it also helps blend into reason number two, which is the social conditioning. So if you think about the first one, as hard as it might be for other more direct personality styles to connect to, there really are those styles or personality types who don't feel comfortable asking directly for what they want. It's just, it's ingrained in them in some way. And we could get into a deep philosophical conversation about whether people are born with this personality or whether it's been developed over time that social conditioning, and maybe early on but but it's still an outside in manifestation. And I think in any conversation about personality, the research shows us that it's always a both end answer. And we're hardwired with temperaments. And then our environment shapes us, you know, from the very beginning. And anyone who's been around even newborn baby babies, can tell you this, that some are born with fiery personalities, and some are Zen babies.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:39  
Yes. So some personalities don't ask for what they want because they basically don't want to deal with the potential drama that comes with asking... Is that what I'm hearing?

Marsha Clark  6:50  
That's a part of it. And it's an interesting way to frame it. If someone anticipates that asking for what they want, will create some kind of friction or conflict or tension, then yeah, they simply just don't ask. And they may find workarounds to still get what they want, or they may just choose to go on waiting or doing without.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:12  
Okay, so I'm still working on getting my head around this. But let's kind of summarize. Reason number one is that some personality styles don't feel comfortable asking for what they want because they perceive there will be a conflict or some kind of drama if they ask and they're trying to avoid it. Right?

Marsha Clark  7:33  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:33  
Okay. Okay. So why else don't they ask?

Marsha Clark  7:38  
Well, what I have found is that women don't always have clarity about they want what they want for themselves. And therefore they don't ask because they don't even know. You know? I'm not clear about it. And programs that emphasize the self awareness aspect, deeper understanding of who we are clarifying our choices, and then taking action and then reflecting on those outcomes can really help us it generates improvements in the effectiveness of our achieving desired results overall. And when, and certainly when it comes to charting some sort of trajectory for my future, what I'm seeking or what I'm pursuing. In other cases, they don't ask for what they want, because they don't believe they deserve it. This is the one that just breaks my heart. Whatever it might be, they don't believe they deserve it. And these limiting beliefs are often tied to self worth. And they have less to do with innate personality style and more to do with the messages that they've internalized around their perceived value. And they, you know, the internalized part of this they could come from anywhere. So I hear it in the media. I hear it in my family. I hear it from my teachers... whatever it might be. And a self-defeating tape keeps playing in their heads, and it overrides and it drowns out that desire. And that makes the thought of asking for what they want seem irrational and unwarranted. And in some cases, people have such strong self-limiting beliefs about not deserving to have what they want, that they don't know what they want anymore. It's almost like they become numb to wanting. It's like... It's just self defeating. So why would I even think about it because I can never have it?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:25  
Yeah. Wow, this is just making me sad.

Marsha Clark  9:28  
Yeah. It makes me sad, too. It's serious, right? And, and I will tell you, those coaching conversations are some of the toughest ones I have, for sure. Because in these cases, the clients can't really pinpoint where or when or from whom they got this message that they don't deserve what they want. And the message... And no matter if they can identify that or not, the message is ringing loud and clear in their heads all the time. And it has therefore become as true for them, as you know, one day follows another day. And so, ultimately, from a coaching perspective, what I've learned is, it's less important to dig into the past and figure out where those messages might have originated. And it's really more important to help them release those regardless of where they came from. And really recognize the hardships that having those self limiting beliefs and behaviors create for them.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:32  
Right. So how do you go about doing that? How does someone who might have these beliefs just let them go? Because I'm hearing that this is really ingrained...

Marsha Clark  10:42  
Yeah. So first, you have to recognize that you have the beliefs. It's like everything else. Acknowledging that I have them, regardless of their genesis. And once we have that awareness, we're now moving out of what I call the default. I just automatically go there. Now that I have awareness about it, I have a choice. And that's where the power comes... Recognizing that I have a choice. And now I have more choices than before. I can, you know.... Before I just defaulted and held on to those self limiting beliefs, now, there's a possibility that I could understand and work those and let them go. And, so we have to explore the possibility that these limiting beliefs were, quite honestly, in some ways, a form of protection or self-preservation. And, and even when we acknowledge that, we recognize that it keeps us playing small in the world. Right? I'm not being my best fullest self. And so it's the whole if I don't acknowledge my deepest desires, my dreams that I can't be disappointed if or when they don't happen. And if I don't ask for what I want, then at least I won't be denied.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:50  
But isn't not asking another form of denial?

Marsha Clark  11:55  
Absolutely. It absolutely is. It's self denial. But for some people, there's more control that way, and that makes them feel safe, or at least safe. And that's where the difference comes is that, you know. Every human being seeks control. I'm want to be able to predict and you know, anticipate what's coming next. And so if I don't ask, I know what's coming next... Nothing. And yet, it's known.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:21  
So what's the cost of giving up on desires or dreams of not getting what you want? Because what you're talking about is reminding me of an article that I just read by, and I'm going to totally butcher this name. but here I go.... Iyanla Vanzant...  Is that correct, Marsha?

Marsha Clark  12:42  
It is! That's the way I've heard it pronounced. So I'm gonna say YES... You did good!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:47  
All right... Iyanla Vanzant - She wrote an article on how to ask for what you want without seeming pushy. So, she was specifically talking about how to ask without fear. And I'm gonna read a little bit of what came out of the article and what she says... Quote, "Fear is an obstacle that blocks your capacity to receive. I'm not just talking about the fear of making your voice heard. I'm also talking about the fear of getting what you want, and realizing it's not all you hoped it would be. The fear of the responsibility that will come with it. The fear of losing it. And the fear of what will happen if you don't get it. These are all common, and they can get in the way of going after the things you yearn for most."

Marsha Clark  13:36  
I agree with every word of what you just read. And it's it's a great addition to this topic. The fear of asking isn't JUST about finding your voice and getting up the courage to ask. And I love that she points out that sometimes we don't ask because we're not just afraid, we'll be told no, or be rejected. But also because we might be told yes, and the ramifications of what happens then. I think of the old adage, "Be careful what you ask for." And that's a huge reason why it's so important to get really clear on what it is that you want. And not only does it help you think of the implications of what happens when you get it, whether it's the promotion, the raise that transfer them, you know, visible job assignment, but also whether it actually fulfills your original desire. And you know, that's what "buyer's remorse" is all about!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:32  
Yes! We've heard that before! A few too many times, honestly. The stores... I really thought I wanted something and then after I paid a lot of money for it, or waited a long time for it, it just wasn't as cool or as fun or as great or glamorous as I thought it was gonna be.

Marsha Clark  14:50  
Well, that's me doing online shopping at midnight when I see an ad. I've been known to do that! So imagine how frustrating that would be for someone who wasn't clear. When they asked for what they thought they wanted only to discover it didn't really meet their needs. And if anything, it simply reinforces that negative loop that says that it wasn't worth going out on that proverbial limb to ask for anything because, in the end, it's disappointing. And then, one last point about the importance of clarity. As a leader, it was always so much easier to support a clear, specific request that I got from a client, a co-worker, a peer, a direct report, a boss versus that ambiguous, vague hint of a request. And, you know, the example that always comes to mind the most for me, especially as it relates to women. When I asked the question, where do you see yourself in three to five years? This is the career trajectory question.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:54  
I've always hated that question.

Marsha Clark  15:56  
I hear that. Well, I get I get responses, like, "That's a really good question." Well, thank you. Now, what's the answer? Or, my boss has been asking me this question, or I'm not really sure. And it's so much harder to help someone when you get that, "I'm not really sure. That's a good question." If someone is clear about what they want, and where they want to go, we can then put a plan in place to go make it happen.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:23  
Right, right. Okay, so let's shift gears a little bit and dig into the second reason why women don't ask for what they want. You said it had to do with social conditioning? How is that different from what you described earlier with the internal messages driving limiting beliefs?

Marsha Clark  16:43  
Well, you know, they're related for sure. Because social conditioning can create or be the genesis of those limiting beliefs, not always, but sometimes. So I differentiate them in this way. And it might feel to some like I'm splitting hairs. But to me, there's a strong and subtle difference. You can have a strong-willed, self-confident girl or woman who isn't afraid to ask for what she wants, and has zero reasons to believe that she doesn't fully deserve what she wants. And then you place her in an environment where she is repeatedly told, either directly or indirectly, that "Nice girls don't ask" some version or form of that. And eventually, you end up with a woman who has been conditioned to not ask for what she wants.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:30  
Yeah, wasn't that the name of a book or something about nice girls not asking for what they want?

Marsha Clark  17:36  
Yes, it was. It was written by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. And I've always found their research to be really fascinating. And, you know, in the spirit of, you know, "nice girls don't ask" / "women don't negotiate as often as men." They don't have as much practice doing it as men, because they don't, you know, they never engage in it. And we're often conditioned to accept what we're offered. We personalize negotiating to the point that, you know, we don't want to negatively impact the relationship by asking for more, we may or may not do our homework to figure out what our actual value or worth might be, or even be able to justify or substantiate why we're asking for what we're asking. And if I may, I want to give a couple of different examples from their work, because I think it's important for women to understand how this shows up in in real life.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:28  
And I would like to just jump in very quickly and point out that this book has been out for decades.

Marsha Clark  18:36  
It has.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:37  
So it's interesting to me that we're discussing this and yet these points are still just as true today.

Marsha Clark  18:44  
No, I love that because... You know, people say, "Oh, well, it was written and things have changed." Well, things have changed in some ways, or they changed very incrementally, but they've not changed in significant enough ways. And guess what, it hasn't changed for women around the world. It may be in a pocket of the world. And so, you know, I want women from all around the world to have the benefit of this learning. One of the first studies that they show or talked about in their book was that the starting salaries of male MBAs who had recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon were 7.6%, or almost $4,000, higher on average, than those of female MBAs from the very same program. And that's because most of the women had simply accepted the employers initial salary offer. And in fact, only 7% had attempted to negotiate at all, but 57% of their male counterparts, or eight times as many men as women had asked for more. So I just this is what they refer to as our asking propensity. And so what I say is, if men are eight times more to ask for what they want, then they're eight times more likely to get it out. I write. And what I often say is women get 100% of what they don't ask for.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:04  

Marsha Clark  20:04  
That's not good. Another study test tested this gender difference in a lab setting. And the subjects were told that they would be observed playing a word game, and that they would be paid between $3 and $10 for playing. And after each subject completed the task, one of the experimenters thanked the participant and said, "Here's $3. Is $3 okay?" So for the men, it was not okay. And they said so. Their request for more money exceeded the women's by nine to one.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:37  
Nine to one?!?!

Marsha Clark  20:38  
Yeah. So you've got eight times more. Nine to one. And so recognizing, you know... And what women often tend to do is assume that they're going to be recognized and rewarded for working hard and doing a good job. And that somebody is going to notice. And somebody is going to recognize it. So in some ways, you know, the attitudes have changed and otherwise, not really at all. So some women are shedding and shredding some of those old cultural beliefs and expectations. And that really taking on, and assuming, wearing that they're worthy and deserving of what they want, and that they have the right to ask for what they want. And they're learning and using the skills necessary to make that happen for themselves whether it be in negotiating, asking for, or influencing outcomes. And yet, there are many strong cultural biases, again around the world, that hold women back. And I want us to step in and step up to this.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:38  
Right. Right. So their book, again, came out around 20 years ago, and you've been working with women as a coach for more than 20 years. Do you find that the attitudes of women have changed since this original research?

Marsha Clark  21:53  
Well, here's what I will tell you. I think women coming out of college are doing a better job now than they did 20 years ago when I started this work. I even have professional women come in and talk about their daughters or their sons or, and then would talk about the boyfriend or the girlfriend, and they would say, you know... These kids are graduating college. They came out with similar degrees. They're applying for the same jobs or whatever. And that the women still tend to have less asking propensity for what they want. And so, you know, even the the men and women that are in my classes, or that I'm coaching. I'm coaching them to go talk to their, you know, children, their daughters in particular, to do that. And so, you know, messages continue to persist around women being the second income. And even if they're equal to their male spouse or partner, and in some case, they're the primary breadwinner or the sole breadwinner that this, the employers often just automatically put them in a second class situation. There was a big lawsuit against a big name not very long ago where men store managers were paid considerably more than women's store managers because it was assumed that they were heads of household and that the women weren't.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:19  
How 1950's of them?!?!

Marsha Clark  23:20  
Oh, yes! There's this pervasive cultural expectation that women hold the the primary responsibility for taking care of the household, in addition to their full time jobs. They're also responsible for the children, the aging parents, or whatever other relatives that that might need their care. And this norm, this cultural norm reinforces the idea that women's work, while important, is not worth anything because it's done at no cost. And you know, the labor of love that even that bright labor of love. So, women received this message that work or labor doesn't always equate to money. And I have to tell you a story about my oldest granddaughter. So as you know, Wendi, we're doing a coloring book, and it's going to be the money from the coloring book is going to go to nonprofits that support women and girls. So it's going to be about the alphabet. You can be anything you want to be. A is for artist, and B is for Baker, and C is for whatever. So we're talking about this, we get to the letter H. So I want a book that represents all the different choices that women can make about how they want to live their adult lives. And so I'm talking to Georgia, because she's my subject matter expert on this. Since she is my, you know, target audience. And so I say, "What about homemaker?" And she looks at me with this sort of puzzled look. And she says, "What's a homemaker? Is that somebody who builds houses?" Okay, so nine year-old, a nine year old Georgia. And then I said, "Well, it's people who take care of the home. So like your mom and dad work outside the home, but some people, men and women, might choose to work in the home. So they don't have somebody to come clean the house or cook the dinner or mow the yard or do whatever. They're taking care of their home." And so she looks at me and she goes, "Did I get paid for it?" And I'm like, I'm influencing this child right!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:17  
I'm a little bit stunned...

Marsha Clark  25:21  
And I said, you know, Georgia, "Unfortunately, they don't." And I said, "If they did, they'd be paid a lot of money."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:27  
Yeah. And if they did, it would completely disrupt the economy.

Marsha Clark  25:32  
It would disrupt the economy in big, huge ways. Because there would be... respect. There would be, you know, placing some value on that role. And so, you know, bottom line... You know, today, around the world, women are working as hard or harder than ever in their jobs and at their homes. And we're still not being paid an equal salary to men. And it varies from country to country, but women are falling short - white women, women of color. You know, no matter where you are it's the truth. You can't deny those facts. Right? And to make sure that this kind of social conditioning stays firmly in place. You know, there's a double-bind that's been created, and it's reinforced. And it says, "Not only are you not going to be paid as much, or at all, for your work, but it's not socially acceptable for you to talk about that or raise a fuss because then you're going to be called the F word."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:27  
And what's the F word, Marsha?

Marsha Clark  26:28  
A Feminist!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:30  
Oh, goodness. Help... help us.

Marsha Clark  26:32  
Yes, yes, such a radical word. And, you know, I will tell you that in in some circles, it really is radical. And, you know, there's all kinds of things said and talked about, but I'm encouraged that more and more women and young women are probably stepping into  that word feminist and taking ownership of the power of being a strong feminist woman. If you look it up in the dictionary just says that women are created or, you know, are treated equally. Okay! Let's do that! And it may be the biggest tool in our arsenal to dismantle this third reason of women not asking for what they want, which is, you know, the organizational system.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:10  
Okay, so we've gone from number one individual beliefs and behaviors to number two social conditioning to now the third reason is systemic reinforcement. How do those three connect?

Marsha Clark  27:24  
Alright... So think of a Venn diagram, where each of the three reasons, there's individual, social, and system. Each of which are unique, so they're like standalone circles, but then they overlap with one another. So individual beliefs connect and are reinforced by the social conditioning and vice versa, individual beliefs connecting with systemic or organizational regulations and policies and practices, vice versa. Then in the center, where all three come together, we have a very dense and deeply ingrained set of rules that have been established, widely accepted, and quite honestly considered almost sacrosanct by the keepers of the rules of what is right and wrong, when it comes to gender expectations.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:11  
Okay, and what do you think is continuing to drive that?

Marsha Clark  28:14  
Yeah, boy... Isn't that the big question? You know, I don't want to sound trite when I say this, but the patriarchal culture, cultures drive and reinforce these messages. And some directly, some more subtly. You know, in any country or organization where the dominant culture is male, which is all of them in the country, for sure, countries. But the female stereotypical expectations continue to exist. And ironically, it's both the men and the women that are part of the reinforcement. So patriarchal cultures can't really survive without both sexes, both genders, buying into them, and allowing them to perpetuate. So this isn't about male bashing by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it about blaming women for buying into it. I mean, this is just it is what it is. And it's about calling out these beliefs and behaviors, and that that reinforce these cultural and stereotypical expectations.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:14  
So you offered some ideas for what to do about limiting beliefs around not asking for what you want. But when we talk about social conditioning and systemic reinforcement, what can we do about those because those are kind of outside of our own personal influence, and they seem huge and pretty much out of our control.

Marsha Clark  29:36  
So what you're describing, Wendi, is a belief that many women hold and that is reinforced quite often and loudly in societies and organizations. We women, meaning we women don't have the control over what happens around us. So there's that belief that is true as well. And I have this experiment that was done that I think speaks volumes to this. And I think it helps to explain how we got here and how it keeps happening. So this is called the "fleas in a jar" experiment. Okay, so let me let me kind of walk you through that. So in the experiment, a scientist places the number of fleas in a guest glass jar. The fleas immediately begin jumping up to the top of the jar and escaping. So there's no jar lid on it so they can jump out and go and demonstrating that it's possible to reach the top and beyond. So just think about that metaphorically. So then, the scientist places a lid on the jar so that the fleas can't escape. And in some versions of the experiment, the lid stays on the jar for two or three days. And at first, the fleas jump up and hit the glass lid, the lid that's on there, falling back down into the jar...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:53  
Literally the glass ceiling!

Marsha Clark  30:55  
Yes! But after a while, the fleas conditioned to the presence of the glass lid begin jumping slightly below the glass lid so as not to hit it. To avoid the pain. Right? The scientist then removes the lid, and guess what? No fleas jump out. They continue to jump at the new, lower conditioned level because the fleas have learned to limit themselves from jumping beyond the height of that lid, even if it was removed. Because they've been conditioned to the fact that they can't escape from the jar. Now does that just hit you where you live?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:36  
Yeah, yeah, it feels familiar.

Marsha Clark  31:37  
And what's even more fascinating is that when those particular conditioned fleas reproduce.... Now get this... reproduce, their offspring also do not jump higher than the conditioned height. And they were never in the jar to begin with.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:55  
Okay, I've heard of the first experiment before but the the fact that the offspring also didn't jump higher. Let's talk about the ramifications of that. And I realized that we're talking about fleas. We're not talking about females. But....

Marsha Clark  32:12  
The point is the same. The point is the same, right? You know, this is you can do research around cell memory, and all kinds of, you know, genetic mutations. All of those things are a part of how man has evolved, you know, over 1000s of years. And so I think that, when you have these initial studies, the longitudinal aspect of those is where more insights can be found. And I think it's fascinating, and it certainly explains the power of conditioning. And the systems that are put in place to make the people believe that they don't have any control over what's going on. It's just the way life works. It's just the way it is, I could never ask for that. I could never do that. And so obviously, we as human beings, we have higher cognitive and reasoning abilities than ajar fleas. But when you live and experience decades of the conditioning and systems that remain in place, they're like the jars on the lid, and they aren't easy to overcome. So no matter quite honestly, how many inspirational posters you place around your office, it's still in play. Yes. So for for, you know, women to ask for what we want, whether it's equal pay for equal work, affordable, available, available childcare, clean, safe place to pump it, we're nursing, you know, as a working mom and, and not worrying about retaliation when she asked for that, or false a sexual harassment claim and then be told no. And over and over again, that's what starts to create those fleas in a jar response. And when the people in power repeatedly deny the request, or dismiss the validity of the requests of women that have stepped into their power and have uncovered those injustice in justices or just abuse, the proverbial lid is being tightened on that jar. It's never coming off...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:06  
Right. So, what do we do when we see this happening?

Marsha Clark  34:10  
Yeah, this is the big question because we were gonna see it, especially if you're listening. Now you're going to see it more. Right? And you're going to have this image of fleas in a jar. But we need to see it first. That's that is the first step. And it's it's not hard to find, but it can often be disguised in plain sight. So watching and listening for messages in your organization or your communities, you know, whatever societal place you might be, where the rights of women are being diminished, or just flat out removed. So that listening for the misogynistic language and behavior. Again, from both men and women because we both can, you know, be a part of that. So looking for those examples in your organization where women are still underrepresented, whether it be an opportunities or actual benefits, and then once you see it, you're at one of those choice points in life. I call them moments of truth.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:03  
Yes. And so is this where that choice continuum can come in that you talk about in your chapter on women supporting women from your book?

Marsha Clark  35:11  
Yes, absolutely, that's, that's a perfect example where this comes in, and especially on an individual basis where I can do something about it. And we can influence some of those social behaviors and organizational systems, even on that personal level, and the continuum is a great place to start. So talk to us about that. Okay, so I call it a continuum of possible responses. And this is whenever we hear others, it can be one other person or a group of people speaking, unkindly, if you will, about others, or even using hate filled jokes, or, you know, making fun of people or those kinds of comments, and even bullying for that matter. And this applies not just being misogynistic, that can cover all kinds of things. But because what you're doing is minimizing the other person, right, for whatever reason. And it could be about people of color, sexual orientation, any of those things. So it works for this continuum works for any of these situations. So there are five stops along the continuum, if you will, and I'm going to, you know, talk about each one a little bit, and possibly, possibly gonna make some people uncomfortable here, but I want to list them so that we can recognize them for what they are. So that we then recognize we have a choice to speak up. So the first stop at the what I'll call the low end of the continuum, let's just say that I'm with a group of people. And you know, we will listen to the joke or the inflammatory statements. And my choice is I can join in. I can share my own disparaging comments. So that's step one, or stop one, I should say, one choice. The second stop, we listen, we laugh along, but we say nothing. But I'm still there. I'm, and you know, it's like silences, you know, right makes me complicit. The third level, or choice is we walk away. So there's zero response, but I'm just going to step away from the interaction. What I'll tell you is that others are watching and listening, especially if we are in leadership roles, because we're all you know, being viewed under microscopes anyway. And they won't know whether I spoke up or whether I said nothing, or even whether I walked away, they'll remember what the conversation was about. And they'll remember my face being in that group. The fourth stop, is where we actually say something to the person who may have been making these disparaging comments or remarks, privately after the group is disbanded or dispersed or after the fact. And maybe we share how we felt when they said what they said, or we asked them what their intention was, and whether they realized the potential negative impact that it had on you, or anyone else. So that's stops one through four. And then finally, the fifth stop on the continue is that we say something in the moment. It we don't have to be hostile, we don't have to be combative. We don't have to choose to call out, you know the behavior or make it a poke in the eye, if you will, on the spot. But we might speak to how it makes us feel individually. And also advocate for a different viewer perspective. We could ask that the person, you know, any one else within earshot, if they've considered how that could, their comments could be hurtful or damaging. And I use the example in the book of finding a way to respectfully push back. And I asked the person, "Would you be okay if a group of people were talking that way about your wife, your partner, your daughter, your significant other?" And that often kind of stops them. I will tell you, in my experience that's kind of stopped them in their tracks because they haven't thought about it in that way.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:11  
Right. There's always a distancing, yes, that happens when people feel comfortable making comments or judgments or humor along these lines is so that levels or stops four and five. There, those are bold, and I would think that most people are probably more comfortable with level three. That's probably what most people do when they're offended is just to walk away and say nothing but then internally hold it against that person.

Marsha Clark  39:44  
Yeah, I think that's what we do, and it's almost like a passive aggressive, a version of that. Right? I'm passive. I walk away but then I'm very aggressive inside my head about that person. And you know, remember, we're conditioned to be nice girls and nice girls. Don't embarrass other people. especially in the moment are speaking up and, you know, because we're back to being called the word feminist or even more feminazi 's. Right? You know, that's, that's one of the... ugh. Anyway, so so I'll add, and I made sure I wrote this in the book, because the older I got, and the stronger the relationships I developed, along with gaining more positional power, I moved farther to the right on that continuum. So to the levels four and five, those bold statements. So I never added disparaging comments, I was never a pylon kind of person. But I can remember laughing nervously a few times, right. And, you know, I have to tell you, I, oh, it's hard for me to admit that even now, and I feel ashamed, you know, to admit that my shallowness and my immaturity, and probably, you know, wanting to fit in and get along. And so over time, I certainly became more courageous in asserting, you know, what my convictions were. And, and I want to add that people learn not to talk that way in front of me, right, so I'm not naive enough to think they suddenly stopped all the sudden. You know, no more jokes. No more bullying. No more, you know, comments. I'm sure they did. And yet, I know, I raised their consciousness to some degree. And several thanked me for educating them on how they were showing up. And you know, and as we all know, we, we can't control what another person thinks or how they act or what they say. But what we can do this is where our power lies. We can have the courage of our own convictions, and stand up for our own values, about treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:45  
Right. So, speaking up when we're confronted with misogynistic, or other bigoted behaviors is one thing we can do... Any other suggestions?

Marsha Clark  41:54  
Yeah. So that was a very individually based pushback, you know, that I just talked about. But for anyone who does have positional power in an organization or community, you know, they can find other like minded people, and build what's often referred to as a power bloc. Right? B-L-O-C - bloc -- a coalition of leaders, former leaders, that and influencers who are willing to get together and organize if you will, and push back in a more collective way against some of those systemic reinforcements that are in place. And and I'm not just talking about, you know, ad hoc committees that study the inequities, and injustices, you know, ad nauseum, but really coalescing in a meaningful results driven way. And once you're gaining some momentum, make those efforts visible and find other allies along the way. Because when, when one, what you might think of as formerly formerly marginalized group breaks free, finds their way out of the jar, if you will, that can help others. And in the end, the jar the system, if you will, loses its power and loses its hold. You know, I want to tell you. I wason a coaching call earlier this week, and it was a firm who was looking at providing some financial planning assistance to their associates. And the gentleman who came and talked to all of the partners and associates in this firm said that he wanted them to have enough financial security so that all of their wives could stay home. This was in the last few months. 2021. As if that's what every woman wants, and what every man wants is for a woman to stay home.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:46  
Were there any women in the room that he was talking to?

Marsha Clark  43:50  
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. There were women in the room...  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:52  
Okay, so where are their wives?

Marsha Clark  43:55  
I've said often as a working woman, I needed a good wife. Right? Because that's what you know, wives are in that supportive place and roles such a huge role. But this is the blindness. This is the... it's the cultural bias. It's the systemic issues. This is a man from a very large nameplate company that we would all recognize, right? And yet he's out here selling his services to men and women so that the women can stay home. And so these are the subtle ways. Pay attention. Notice those.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:32  
Yeah, yeah. It's reminding me... I'm going to take a small sidebar I because I watched a Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary here recently. And she, there's a quote that comes out of her mouth and I'm not sure that she's quoting someone else, but it just completely resonates with me. That these laws that used to be in place that we're still overturning were meant to put "woman on a pedestal" but instead keeps her in a cage.

Marsha Clark  45:02  
Yes. Yes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:04  
So take THAT insurance sales guy!

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

And there's another thing that's going through my head right now is a Maya Angelou quote, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better." And this episode really feels like a "know better/ do better" kind of moment.

Marsha Clark  45:25  
Well, it is. It not only feels like that, I hope it is. That as a result of listening to this and hearing some of what we're sharing that we now will know better so that we can do better. And it also reinforces for me the the notion that we're making strides in the right direction in many ways. And yet, so many women, especially young women, are embracing their feminine power and are not afraid to ask for what they want. So they're probably wearing, you know, the feminist badge. And and, and, and I'm encouraged as I watch this next generation, not only acknowledge but openly fight against some of the toxicity of the social conditioning and the systems that have been operating for decades.

And I know we're getting ready to wrap up, but I really want to read something to you. From a pretty recent book. It was published in 2018 called "Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies" which is a provocative title. And you know, I love that. So the subtitle is "Amazing Women on What the F Word Means to Them." And so the book is a compilation of stories that's been curated by Scarlett Curtis. And in the introduction of the book, Scarlett explains how her opinion of the word and this whole movement of feminism was transformed, you know, and here's what she said, "I began to understand that what happened to me was a small ripple that took place in an ocean of pain, movement, and change. I begin to understand that gender equality was not, in fact, a thing of the past, but a far off dream for the future. A dream that generations of women and men had been fighting for, and continue to fight for every single day. Once I began to understand that, I also began to understand that the assumptions I had held about what it meant to be a Feminist, were, in fact, a tool of the very systems of hate, that these women were trying to smash. And this system of hate, also known as the patriarchy, and I would add the misogyny, had concocted an image of a Feminist so young women would be deterred from continuing the fight. The lies that we've been told about Feminism have been fed to us to hold us back from a movement that is actually for everyone."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:48  
And this was in the introduction of her book? Okay, I can see why you're encouraged.

Marsha Clark  47:53  
Well, and but think about what you just said about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And she was this this was her statements, you know, 50 years ago. Pedestal versus Cage. The the lies that we have been told about Feminism have been fed to us to hold us back... to put us in that cage. And, and it's worked and continues to work in horrible ways. And it's just one example of young women like Scarlett, you know, and her peers who are who are taking notice and really shining light. And that's what it takes, we have to bring it to the surface, on the systemic and justices that are all over the world and, and to know that we're aligning and joining forces with other women, and men. We need allies. We all need to be there for each other. And for those who have been in the trenches for decades before them. I mean, I've been in this fight. I said, I've been a Feminist since high school when I first learned what the word was, and I'm encouraged that you know that there are groups and blocs of young women who are taking up the mantle.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  49:04  
We have covered a lot of ground today. So it might be helpful. Marsha, if you would do a quick recap for our listeners. What would you say are maybe the top messages from today?

Marsha Clark  49:15  
Yeah. So thank you for that, Wendi. And you know, the research has shown us that women have historically don't ask for what they want. So that's one of the big lessons of today. So pay attention notice and think about it for yourself. And there are three reasons and the number one is more individually focused or centered. It's a personality style. So not being clear on what we want, believing that we don't deserve what we want, preferring to avoid that conflict or drama or being denied or not liked, you know, that relationship piece simply by asking, and even the paradoxical concern about what might happen if we do get what we wish for Will it be everything that we wanted it to be? And then the second big reason that women don't ask is that they've been, we have been socially conditioned not to ask directly that quote unquote nice girls don't ask, and, and the fairy tale conditioning that says Just do your job, and others will notice and take care of you. You know, we need to dig underneath that cultural conditioning and call out the messages that are being sent on a daily basis that denied the equality of women and dismiss our fundamental rights, from what's shown in movies, what's written in books, what advertisement and media feed to us. And finally, wherever we can, we need to use our own positional power and our influence within whatever systems we're in family, organizational community systems, to end the intentional and, and quite honestly, the unintentional policies and procedures because I don't think everybody sets out to go, how can we, you know, put women in a cage. And yet they're unaware of how their policies might do exactly that. And, and those that continue to reinforce those biases against women, and where we see those organizational lids being placed on jars, that limit the opportunities for women and any other community that's being marginalized, we need to step up and step into remove them, and, and try to eradicate the damage damage that's been created and create new possibilities going forward. And Wendy, I want to leave our listeners with one other point. And that is, I can't tell you how many women I've coached through asking for what they want. And they come back to me and they're almost incredulous, because they asked for it. And they got it. Yes, without a blink. Without it... Now, not in every case. I'm going to tell you, but none of us ever get everything we want. But we certainly don't. We certainly get what we don't ask for and that and so I want you to know that. Try it. Just try it. And I think you'll be pleased with what you find out. Yes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  52:02  
So wow! Thank you all for joining us today on our journey of authentic powerful leadership. We invite you to download and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google, Spotify, wherever you prefer to listen. And, please share it with your female friends who are looking to be more powerful themselves. And visit Marsha's website at for links to all the tools or other resources we discussed today. Subscribe to her email list. Stay up to date on everything in Marsha's world. You can also find out more about Marsha and her latest book, "Embracing Your Power," on the site as well as other social media.

Marsha Clark  52:50  
Yeah, Wendi, let me just also thank our listeners for for joining us today. And I hope that you found some both value as well as insight and inspiration to to think about some things differently in moving forward because you deserve to get what you want. And please feel free to contact me as Wendi said. There's plenty of channels to do that. And it's important work and we're glad that you're on this journey with us. So we hope you'll join us again next week. And you know, as always, here's to women supporting women!

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