From the frontlines of a generation of women who helped redefine the world of work in America, Anne Doyle now examines the reasons why women remain underachievers and why they need to power up.
Anne Doyle is part of a generation of trailblazing American women, who in the 1970s moved into professions that had previously been exclusively male bastions — television, journalism, law, engineering and corporate boardrooms. In the last four decades, she has been tested in what she calls some of the toughest leadership laboratories, including sports locker rooms, the global auto industry, political office and parenting.
We caught up with Anne when she was in Bahrain to learn about the experience of women in the Kingdom.
Woman This Month (WTM): Tell us about your journey as a sports journalist and how you managed to break the barriers in US?
Anne Doyle (AD): I began my career in 1972 as one of the first on-camera, female TV news reporters and anchors. In 1978, I was hired by CBS-TV as one of the first female TV sports broadcasters in the U.S. Covering sports has always meant going into the locker rooms after games to interview athletes. I knew that because my father was a well-known sports broadcaster. Although it was very controversial at the time, my father told me that I must go in the locker rooms, along with all the male reporters, or I would have no credibility as a sports journalist.”
It wasn’t easy and I faced many tests from athletes, but today there are over 1,500 women journalists covering sports in the U.S. I was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame for my leadership role in opening sports journalism and locker rooms to women. I love meeting women who tell me that watching me on TV when they were little girls gave them hope that they, too, could achieve their dreams.
WTM: After your stint in journalism and then in the corporate sector, why did you decide to run for city council?
AD: I feel it’s very important that women run for office, even when they’ve attained success in other spheres, because they need to inspire others as role models. There’s a saying, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. We also need the culture of having women in leadership roles simply because it helps people get comfortable with the idea of seeing women on top.
WTM: What was the purpose behind your book, Powering Up?
AD: I’m primarily a journalist and I am always looking for the next story. I realised that never in the history of the world have there been so many highly-educated, professionally experienced, ambitious women in the workforce. Still, women hold less than 20 per cent of the top leadership positions (beyond the glass ceilings) in every major profession and industry. We had been told ‘you can’t do this’ and we have proved everyone wrong, but somewhere along the way, we’d stopped in our evolution. I wanted to tell these women that it was time to get going and power up!
WTM: Would you agree that women are their own worst enemies?
AD: My mantra is: Every woman for herself is a losing strategy. Over the past decades, women all over the world have made incredible progress as high achievers. But as a cultural tribe, we have barely begun to leverage our collective influence. Ambitious men are very competitive, but they also understand the need to help one another in order to achieve their professional and financial goals. Once women start doing the same for other women, we will see tremendous breakthroughs.
WTM: What influence did your parents have on your outlook?
AD: Both my parents had college degrees, they believed in travel and brought home people from other cultures, and this was in the 1960s. After my mother received a small inheritance, our parents took us out of school and across Europe in a car, along with our school books. When we tried to study in the car, they said ‘put aside those books and look outside’. They made us understand that there are lots of ways to live, lots of languages and cultures and many things to learn in the world.
WTM: Most successful career women tend to feel guilty about time spent away from their family. What’s the solution here?
AD: We have the same problem in the US and I don’t understand this guilt. A man once told me, ‘I don’t understand why women feel so guilty. I think I’m a great father, but I spend much less time with our kids than my wife does. Yet she feels guilty about not doing more as a mother’. Women have to stop believing they have to do it all. Career and home are two sides that women can integrate, just as men do. You don’t have to be perfect. Just give your best.
WTM: One charge against women leaders in the corporate sector has been that they take emotional decisions which works to their detriment. Do you agree?
AD: This view bothers me. Just think how emotional men are. We’d have had far fewer wars and armed conflict if men didn’t take emotional decisions. In truth, women’s emotions are a strength, they feel deeply and show their emotions by reacting appropriately. On the other hand, men tend to keep things bottled until they explode with emotion.
WTM: What does it take for a woman to break the glass ceiling?
AD: To put the glass ceilings in every profession behind us, women must master leadership skills, beginning with discovering their pupose and learning how to raise their voice. Women should start supporting one another and build collective power; we need large numbers of women cracking those glass ceilings, not just a few.
Lastly, we need men to actively encourage and mentor talented women moving into top leadership roles, because men still hold most of the keys to the ‘leadership locker room doors.’