Athletic Approach to Leadership

Kristen Elechko - Friday, June 13, 2014

Sport is the one place where women are allowed to use their voice loudly, projecting, directing and making it known that they need help and support.  

Watch a clip of my keynote address to the Women's Foundation of Iowa with messages about the WNBA, women taking up space and how to embody being an athlete here...

Women as Coaches in Sports

Kristen Elechko - Friday, May 09, 2014

Title IX legislation secured the opportunity for women and girls to participate in sport at every level, in this country.  The majority of coaching positions, however, are still held by men.  My keynote address at the Iowa Women's Foundation offers some insight on the epidemic.  I invite you to watch it here.

"Yellen" from the Mountaintops

Tuti Scott - Thursday, April 17, 2014

As a fan of the smart work of UltraViolet and a bridge builder across generations, I was pleased to hear how some baby boomers helped make the start-up investment to mobilize this unique internet platform.  Ultraviolet has been a critical new leader addressing and mobilizing women’s rights issues with fact-based online activism.   Many were energized in reading the Huffintonpost.com article, “How Women Spiked Larry Summers and Made Janet Yellen the Most Powerful Person in the World,”.   This case study is a good example of how UltraViolet, the National Organization of Women, the Women Donors Network and a number of other invested people banded together to support women’s leadership at the highest level.    

The theme of women SUPPORTING each other needs a bigger spotlight and stage.  This particular movement focused on creating the conditions for Janet Yellen to be nominated and then approved by Congress as the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.  This accomplishment is a testament to the ability of collaborative advocacy to cause great shifts in the dominant paradigm of our society.   At Imagine Philanthropy, we offer a special thanks and kudos to the women and supportive men who executed a strategy to place the best candidate in a position that will have a lasting impact on our nation and the world. 

Organizing, connecting and representing the interest of creating opportunities for women’s voices and places of leadership is work we must all embrace.  Women hold only 20% of the seats in the U.S. Senate and only 18% of the seats U.S. House of Representatives.   Approximately 40 countries have or are introducing gender quotas in elections to national parliaments, either by means of constitutional amendment or by changing the electoral laws (legal quotas). In more than 50 countries major political parties have voluntarily set out quota provisions in their own statues (party quotas).   Germany and Japan have recently introduced quotas similar to Norway with regard to corporate board seats. 

Catalyst has demonstrated that companies with three or more women on their boards outperform those without women by a 53% return on equity.  Again, the actual representation of women on boards and CEO positions is incredibly low.  Fortune 500 companies report a 17% representation of women on Boards of Directors (a figure that has remained steady in that range for decades) and merely 22 (4%) women hold the position of CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

Janet Yellen and recently, the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, have broken barriers for women stepping into leadership.  Their presence alone is impacting the media imagery, providing a stark alternative to images of white men in power.  Obviously, in the U.S., we need constant mobilization and movement building to increase the representation of women in all positions of leadership.   Consider your own personal commitment to this effort:  Who do you know that possesses great leadership aptitude and could be supported and encouraged?  Who will you actively SPONSOR by making key introductions, inviting along to key events, setting up meetings with experts who can inform and educate to further develop individual talents?  How will you create the right environment for women’s leadership to seed, grow and produce results?   Keep us posted on your success in this arena!!! 

Philanthropy with a Gendered Voice

Tuti Scott - Thursday, February 13, 2014

Women’s funds, the pillars and webbing of women’s philanthropy, have been mobilizing resources by women and for women, as well as advocating and funding the pursuit of gender equity, since the mid-1990s.   Recently, the women’s philanthropic movement (women and smart men giving to women’s rights or with a human security frame) has been more visible as Davos, the Clinton Global Initiative, The Gates Foundation annual report, among others, continue to showcase the value of “investing” in women. 

These conferences and organizations study and generally talk about the impact on social ills and economic indicators that result by investing in women.  It may be both of interest and instructive to study the specific practices and inherent values that the women’s funds have developed, collaborated around, and mobilized resources around this work.  Thanks to 160 women’s funds working across the globe for the past three decades, individual lives have been transformed, communities uplifted and nations strengthened through their investments in the lives and businesses of women and girls.   Philanthropic initiatives, family foundations, giving collaboratives and others should consider adopting these elements as they start or strengthen their giving to encompass a global or local gender ‘voice’:  

  1. Strongly consider having the funds and their focus managed by and for women by assembling committees of women as grantmakers and focusing on female grantees. 
  2. Establish giving guidelines that set high standards for including social justice, empowerment, leadership development, access to resources and development of opportunities within the grantor/grantee relationship. 
  3. Fund movement and capacity building for institutional and organizational development by granting to women within their communities.
  4. Insure that advocacy for key community issues is a key part of your agenda and priorities. 
  5. Maintain authentic leadership with staff and donors reflecting the commitment to the women’s movement. 

“Women’s Funds bring networks, experience, clarity, credibility and sustainability to the grantmaking experience.”  Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

Thank you to Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, author of “Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of the Critical Role of Autonomous Women’s Funds in Strengthening Women’s Movements.”

Money is...

Tuti Scott - Friday, January 31, 2014

Money is..


At a retreat of millennial women working in movement building, I asked them to answer the question; when I think of money, I think __________.   Here is a summary of their answers as food for thought!  


When I think of money, I think “access to attention.

When I think of money, I think “a means to make change.

When I think of money, I think “an amplifier of your ideas.”

When I think of money, I think “a gift.

When I think of money, I think “sometimes hard to come by for a lot of people. 

When I think of money, I think “a tool to be used in whatever way desired.

When I think of money, I think “power and leverage.

When I think of money, I think “access/denial of access.

When I think of money, I think “money provides an opportunity to take risks.

When I think of money, I think “contradiction.

When I think of money, I think “a flow of energy.

When I think of money, I think “abundant.

When I think of money, I think “a zero sum game.

When I think of money, I think “power.

When I think of money, I think “it can make you lose sight of priorities.

When I think of money, I think “it can be both practical and for fun.

When I think of money, I think “money is never enough.

When I think of money, I think “means disconnection from real resources (like food, land, people).”

When I think of money, I think “money means an obligation, a trap.

When I think of money, I think “freedom.

When I think of money, I think “money is a facade, a standard of success.

When I think of money, I think “to move not horde.

When I think of money, I think “to sit across from and feel no fear of.

When I think of money, I think “connective and isolating.

When I think of money, I think “universal issue.

When I think of money, I think “hard to talk about.

When I think of money, I think “provocative.

When I think of money, I think “way to measure what’s important to me.

When I think of money, I think “anxiety.

When I think of money, I think “scarcity.

When I think of money, I think “tight.

When I think of money, I think “what is enough.

When I think of money, I think “opportunity.

When I think of money, I think “scary.

When I think of money, I think “bridge-builder.

When I think of money, I think “messy.

When I think of money, I think “complicated.

Pursuing Appointed Leadership Positions

Tuti Scott - Saturday, December 28, 2013

Being a volunteer leader, especially one who may be the first minority represented (woman, millennial, lesbian, etc) offers an opportunity to assess your core values.  How do you react and respond to individuals who resist minority voices or are inexperienced interacting with others who are not like them? What messages do you want to communicate to people who may be grounded in a place of opposition or discomfort? How do you construct a neutral platform to connect with both resisters and supporters?

I recently was coaching a woman who was seeking election as the first ever female chair of a particular national sports governing organization.  We had a frank conversation about what it might take for her to be successful.  Here were three ideas we discussed that may be helpful in other volunteer leadership contexts:

  1.  Motivation - Develop contextually specific answers to the question of motivation by first examining your reasons for pursuing volunteer leadership.  Be mindful of your initial motivations.  Do you have a passion for the purpose of the organization and want it to be successful?  Did you discover a need for change for which there is broad support?  Are you committed to ensuring the organization’s course with continuity of experienced leadership?
  2. Selflessness and humility - Although you may meet resistance when running for a leadership position, regardless of your motivation, you must be able to express your passion for the organization and its mission to improve the experience of those being served. Volunteer leadership is a selfless act – one driven by the desire to provide true service for a cause.
  3. Addressing resistance - Opposition to your potential leadership can be met and deconstructed in a multitude of ways. Your motivation and passion, however, must be at the heart of your message.  A letter expressing these beliefs may be an effective method for communicating with the current leadership and membership; you could distribute an open letter, post a blog, or write directly to the Executive Director and/or Board of Directors. Inform the readership that you want to provide positive service for the cause and promote the organization’s well being, rather than engage in a combative relationship with the current leadership about their history of exclusion. In doing so, you will reveal your commitment to the organization’s bottom line and create a neutral core from which to build your platform. Embrace the frame of true service and remove yourself from the hierarchical politics that could negate the simplicity of the organization’s highest purpose – doing so will encourage the membership to embrace your campaign for election and reaffirm their commitment to the organization’s mission and vision.  

Movement Building - What Can We Learn from Sports?

Tuti Scott - Thursday, October 17, 2013

Few can deny the success of the women’s sports movement.  Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, the growth of girls’ and women’s participation in sports has been simply phenomenal.  Within this movement are valuable lessons for those of us still working on issues such as reproductive justice, pay equity, legislative leadership, etc.  For my wise colleagues working in these areas and others, I encourage you to consider the following metaphors and practices for success. 

  1. Utilize the entire playbook.   Every movement needs a balance of planning and action, passion and reflection, creativity and hard work.  Early in the game, women’s sports leaders created the Coalition for Girls and Women in Education with representatives from five or six national organizations to be the think tank and pulse reading organ responsible for developing and implementing strategies and responses.  These organizations represented different skill sets.   The National Women’s Law Center delivered “legal eagles”; the American Association for University Women delivered academic research; the Women’s Sports Foundation delivered celebrity athletes and Hollywood spokespersons, etc.  There is no rule that states you utilize these skills in a linear fashion.   Rather, to be game ready and successful, we have to practice and access all of these skills simultaneously with intense persistence and the division of labor makes this easier to do. If we are ready at every position, we are poised to seize every opportunity and able to adjust in the heat of the game to whatever ‘play’ or strategy is needed for victory. 
  2. Treat funders like teammates.  A team is more than players in the field.  A successful team is the sum total of the starting line-up, substitutes on the bench, coaches, owners and investors, all working together.  The women’s sports movement kept investors informed every step of the way – celebrating victories and asking for more help to confront defeats and win the next round.  When you are truly partnered for victory and you collectively have a goal of winning, people are working side by side and sharing their information, power and strengths selflessly.   A great team communicates effortlessly and the leadership (coaches, managers, investors, owners) pat each other on the back to acknowledge great plays, creating places for each other to ‘shine’; honoring the individuality that each member brings to the team’s success and engaging with them to bring out their best selves.  Being able to do this with all of the partners in the movement will build success faster.  Rather than a ‘race’ to be the fastest and most successful organization, it is better to get optimal performance from multiple groups that result in the delivery of a team victory that is more fulfilling and happens sooner because of coordinated group effort. 
  3. Set goals and celebrate victories.  Motivating people by instilling pride in the work and celebrating the small wins along the path is critical for momentum building and staying power.  It is statistically impossible to win every game or make every basket.   The women’s sports movement can best be described as persistent and consistent effort over time.  The season is long (41 years long in the case of Title IX and women’s sports) and keeping everyone focused on the team goals as well as the individual goals will insure a place in the post season.  Success is most often the product of individual best efforts coupled with critical team wins over the long term.  Keeping every player motivated to consistently put forth their best efforts over the long term is the heart of successful teams.
  4. Headlines are important.  Media coverage and spokespeople are key parts of building the brand and energy behind and inside a team.   But equally important is the use of compelling, research supported facts.  Women’s sports leaders were magnificent in their collection and dissemination of the facts that girls who played sports had better grades, were more likely to graduate from high school and matriculate in college, were at lower risk for breast cancer and other diseases affecting women, were more confident and resilient, etc.  The message is that the headlines must be more than ‘the good work’ of organizations; they must be about the impact of such work and what happens to those who benefit from the team’s efforts rather than just the social justice problem being addressed.  It’s fine to take advantage of a crisis or story of someone adversely affected, but it must be accompanied by the hope and help offered by the non-profit organization – how victims or lives of the previously disadvantaged have been changed for the better.   The team should not be sidetracked or lose focus on its goals amidst the media hype and attention.   Good work must continue in the shadows as well as the spotlight.
  5. Trust your teammates.  No one player can ever carry a team.  Everyone has something to contribute.  The more talented players you can involve, the greater the possibility that these players will make a positive impact.  Take the time to find out what likely and unlikely teammates can bring to the movement.  Play to their strengths and share with transparency the goals of the movement and the playbook of strategies. 

Reflections on Social Change in Women's Sports

Tuti Scott - Tuesday, August 06, 2013

To change the behaviors, policies and engagement on a topic or issue takes time. One need only to look at movements such as labor, health care, voting, and sports to see the length of time it has taken for change to occur. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the 40th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, and the 41st anniversary of Title IX. 

I had a front row seat for the women’s sports movement and am so excited to see the recent work of ESPNW in crafting the Nine for IX stories showcasing the issues, leaders, and barrier breakers of the movement. Most people inside sport probably wouldn't call the women's rights advances in sports a ;movement. Sometimes, we are “too close to the forest to see the trees”, but it is clear that some changes exhibit linear growth. For instance, girls sports participation has ebbed from a trickle to a fire hose. In 1972 only 294,000 girls played high school sports; today that figure is 3.2 million. Prior to the Title IX amendment, only one out of every twenty-seven girls played high school sports, only two percent of college athletic budgets were for female college athletes and there was not an availability of college scholarships for women. Now, one out of every 2.5 high school girls play sports, women receive 28% of college athletic budgets and 42% of college athletic scholarship dollars (Athletics under Title IX, 2013).

But progress has been uneven or non-existent on many fronts like employment of female coaches and administrators and exploding the myths still used to justify greater support of male sports and advanced through a media ‘circus’ on various issues and events. Like other social justice movements the public advances of the women’s sports movement from the 1972 passage of Title IX to today is a story of repeated struggles for acceptance and recognition.  In 1995, CBS Sportscaster Ben Wright announced that Laura Davies boobs got in the way of her golf swing and impressive drives on the LPGA tour.   Eight years later in 2003 Annika Sorenstam took on the men at the Bank of America Colonial PGA tour stop amidst thousands of “Go Annika” buttons and the grumbles of only two male pro golfers. What a huge sea change from the 1973 Billie Jean King versus Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” which had divided a nation. 

 In 2000, sports media was abuzz with Tiger Woods seeking six consecutive wins on the PGA tour, but hardly heralded the fact that Karrie Webb had won 18 events in her first four years on the LPGA tour, finishing in the top three in 41 of 101 events. Track phenom Marion Jones is still the only athlete (male or female) to serve jail time for use of steroids (and she served while she was a new mother!).  No male athlete who has admitted such use has ever served a day in jail.And what was the ridiculous media focus on Brandi Chastain taking her shirt off (a soccer celebratory ritual) after scoring the winning goal in the 1999 World Cup in a sold out Rose Bowl.  We could go on and on. Female athletes are sexualized, sensationalized or coverage is non-existent in the sport media. Race horses and dog racing get more coverage in newspaper and total newspaper coverage of women’s sports is less than 2% of the total sports coverage!

The one element that remains unchanged is the persistence of those men and women who initiated the women’s equity movement in sport. Their passion for social justice has not dimmed. And it is this persistent effort and commitment over time that now and again results in celebratory moments, memorable in their power and packed with emotion.  A high five to ESPNW and Robin Roberts for producing and airing the Nine for IX television series this year.  Nine stories have been released, depicting an incredible portrayal of the vocal leaders who went up against the stereotyping of women, the injustices of pay or access, the harassment by the media and more.  

The faces and stories brought to life (Venus Williams, Pat Summitt, Sheryl Swoopes, etc.) remind us of the decades of persuasion, conversation, and influence it takes for equity to take hold and stand tall.  Each of these voices spoke truth to those in power and eventually they were heard by the general public despite their efforts on and off the court being virtually ignored or mis-portrayed by the media.  Download the Title IX ESPNW shows on iTunes to witness the heroism of these women and the lessons we can learn from them individually. They are examples of what happens when good people persist over time in their efforts to achieve social justice. Their stories inspire all of us.More important, they show that working on social justice issues may take decades of labor and effort and often result in successful social change movements.Onward!

Authentic Leadership

Tuti Scott - Friday, May 24, 2013

I have lived in the reality of the ‘empowerment of women’ and elevating women’s voices and strengths my entire life;  being paid to do it for most of my adult life as a non-profit administrator, a Board member and a consultant.  It started when I insisted to my mother as a five year old that I be able to pick my own name (there were two other Susans in the class!), and continued by being a ‘tomboy’ in the 70’s and a young lesbian mom in the 80’s (long before gay rights was displayed by Billie Jean, Rosie, or Ellen).  

I designed my own major in college, captained sports teams and wrote about women’s sports during my ‘student’ years.   Fifteen years in leadership at the Women’s Sports Foundation I ‘captained’ many work teams and have participated personally as a philanthropist on many donor teams; constantly talking about and investing in women.  Through all of these years, I have been caring and ambitious on behalf of feminist causes and, in many instances, naïve as an activist, a lifelong learner, and a gal who shifted socio-economic class.  

My personal leadership development trainings and “occupations” have all been experiential and intuitively self-designed.   ‘Work hard’, ‘be creative and positive’, ‘make it fun’, ‘stay connected to nature’ – these were the themes my siblings and I were raised on.  Today I present myself as showering a ‘perfume of confidence’ on myself and others wherever and whenever I can.  

I laughingly tell friends that I am the lesbian encouraging women to include men in the women’s rights movement.  I share with clients that I am the Ellen Degeneres of women’s philanthropy – bringing humor, generosity of spirit and lightness to the intense work being done around women’s rights, safety, health, and access to power and money.  I ask people to wonder why we call it “violence against women” and not “men behaving badly”.  I challenge people to think of ways to feed their body and spirit; especially while doing difficult social, systemic or cultural change work.   I am a 50-year-old bridge builder who stands in several camps and brings interesting conversations forward – especially around money and why we invest it where and how much is enough.  

I own my basketball point guard attitude of setting the stage, the tempo and directing people who are ‘larger’ or in positions of power even when it might be difficult for us both.  As my work has been focused on women and girls over three decades of movement building, I have tried to instill a sense of ‘pride’ in women – whether they are a 300 pound weight lifter, an intern, a Board member, a CEO of a start-up, an artist, or a philanthropist.   This practice can be done via a “BRAG” exercise or reading a leadership manifesto.   Often this helps people articulate more clearly what value they are bringing to the world/work/organization.  

My vision is that our future will be a place where women easily embrace and publicly state what they have ‘done’ in the world in a way they feel comfortable with and /or state what they believe with ease (and without apology!).   Wouldn’t it be magical if we were to state what we have done, what we value and what we believe as frequently and as well as we discuss our feelings or how much we care for others in our lives?   I believe that we need to do both if we are to experience and others are to see our authentic selves.

Twelve Steps for Women's Fund Aholics

Tuti Scott - Friday, April 26, 2013

At a philanthropy workshop I was leading, a magical donor introduced herself as a women’s fund-aholic. Most of us laughed as we realized, yes, we too are ‘addicted’ to the concept of funding women for social change.  We talked the next day and I offered to write up our “12 steps” for this ground of being.  Read on for a laugh or at least a grin. 

1. We admitted we were powerless -- consumed by the radical belief that women can lead, are solution builders and are worthy of investment.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves --women owning and claiming their power could restore the earth to economic security, peace, and world health.  
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the idea of “feminine” leadership as a God-given solution to successful human interaction – collaborative, values driven, open and often humble.
4. Made a fearless inventory of our internal expressions and harmful ideas of our values as leaders (see Lean In for more ideas on how to do this).
5. Admitted to our ‘sisters’, our spirits and other human beings (preferably a white male Baby Boomer in a position of power) the exact nature of harm caused by failing to give or invest with a gender lens. 
6. Were entirely ready to have men and women in power self-examine and remove all blocks to women’s leadership.
7. Humbly asked people to contribute money to women’s causes and women’s campaigns…over and over and over.  
8. Made a list of all persons who have challenged the idea of equality or equity and reached out to forgive them to make amends by giving to women now (see Catalyst, World Bank, Goldman Sachs, etc)
9. Made direct amends to women who have been hurt, underpaid, or dismissed just because they are women on behalf of these transgressors.  
10. Continued to take personal inventories of our leadership experiences, and when we have made apologizes for our ideas or dismissed other women, we promptly admitted it and agreed not to do it again.
11. Sought through introspection and prayer to keep our strength and confidence amidst a misogynist media culture and an underfunded movement.  
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to all men and women to encourage them to take action on the idea of investing in women, their ideas and their companies.


About The Author

Tuti Scott is a thought leader on women's philanthropy, leadership, and social change. These are her ideas...

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