How Do We Achieve #BalanceforBetter?

Originally written and posted on

This year’s theme of International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, which is a call to action for creating a gender-balanced world.

So, how do we turn a slogan into a call to action for all, including women and men?

I believe it starts with creating strong leaders – both women and men – who can work towards the goal of gender-balanced leadership in order to achieve the overarching goal of a gender-balanced world.

As someone who’s been involved in girl and women’s leadership development for most of my career and life, I believe it’s important first and foremost for women and girls to view themselves as leaders or emerging leaders so we can step up to achieve gender-balanced leadership in the journey to create a gender-balanced world.

You may ask, how can I do this? I’m not a leader…at least, not yet. And I say, look at what Malala and Emma Gonzalez have done as teenagers, advocating stricter gun control and girls right to education.

Most of us may never experience a dramatic event that thrusts upon us a life and leadership purpose like Malala who was shot by the Taliban or Emma Gonzalez, who survived gun violence.

I believe, however, we can all be more like Emma and Malala or… Oprah, Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Lady Gaga, Melinda Gates, Tarana Burke, Serena Williams, Amanda Nguyen, Mary Barra and others by discovering and having the courage to actively live our purpose.

I’ve experienced, first-hand, the “power of purpose” to focus and drive me to accomplish what mattered most both in my personal life and in my businesses.

The power of a “business purpose,” which was “to create great work, a great workplace and great communities that work” – helped my first agency, PT&Co., to be recognized as the #1 Most Creative PR Agency in the U.S. within eight years of our founding and, at the same time, ranked the #2 Best Place to Work” among all PR agencies nationally.

Living our “business purpose” helped our agency attract great clients like Avon, American Express, Charles Schwab, Dyson, Godiva, GSUSA, Liz Claiborne, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Target, Wines from Rioja, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, among others

Importantly, living our “business purpose” helped us to make an impact on major social and health issues, including domestic violence, girl and youth leadership development, literacy and financial literacy, breast health and drug abuse, among others.

In my personal life, the power of discovering and living my “life purpose” – which is “to choose joy, to be mindful of that joy and to share that joy with others” – focused and drove me to:

Take up ballroom dancing at age 50, get hooked, compete in ballroom competitions, win ballroom championships.

And then share what I learned by writing a book, Becoming Ginger Rogers…How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO.

Leveraging the lessons learned from ballroom dancing helped me to grow our business by “close partnering with” others and co-founding two successively larger agencies – CRT/tanaka and then Padilla, to create one of the “top 10” largest, independent PR agencies in the country and the largest, employee-owned agency with 240 employee-owners.

Living my “life purpose” also resulted in me starting a consultancy, Joyful Planet, focused on building “purpose-driven individuals” and “purpose-driven organizations” who can positively impact the planet and unleash greater joy into the world.

Living my life purpose also led me to co-author two best-selling books focused on “life purpose” and “business purpose”

Most importantly, living my life purpose has given me more energy to “share my joy” with others, including three non-profits that are near and dear to my heart: Dancing Classrooms, Girl Scouts of Greater New York and The Phelophepa Train of Hope in South Africa.

I’m convinced by my own first-hand experience, extensive research and work in this area that discovering and living our purpose is the single most efficient and powerful way we can unleash our leadership potential and greater success, fulfillment and joy in our personal lives in our workplaces and in our communities.

And to accomplish what matters most like a gender-balanced world with equity for all.

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