“Sex is about power, more than anything else,” Gloria Feldt, former head of Planned Parenthood, told an auditorium of attendees on Thursday in a talk sponsored by Cornell Hillel.
“That’s why I am focused on gender parity, to change the power paradigm of our culture,” Feldt continued. “We need to change the way we think about power as not just a finite pie, but as something we can all utilize to improve the world.”
Feldt worked for Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest reproductive health organization, for 30 years. She served as the organization’s president from 1996 until her departure in 2005.
At Thursday’s talk, Feldt addressed both her role in reproductive rights and her Jewish identity.
“I am incredibly thankful for my Jewish heritage, because it taught me how to be an outsider,” Feldt said. “It showed me how to face adversity, and to wear my shirt with pride.”
Feldt said she titled the lecture “3 Truths About Sex, Power and Leadership” because “it is time we put all of these issues onto a bigger canvas.”
As part of this theme, Feldt discussed the societal progress in gender equality and women’s rights that occurred over the course of her career.
This included the passage of Roe v. Wade, a landmark court case that legalized abortion within the United States, and the creation and widespread adoption of new forms of contraception like the birth control pill.
“It’s about whether women will have an equal seat at life’s table,” Feldt said of these advancements. “If we can’t have control of our own bodies, we can’t have control of much else.”
Feldt is currently the co-founder and president of Take The Lead, an organization that aims to propel women into leadership positions, according to the its website. The organization provides training, mentoring and resources for women in the hopes of achieving gender parity in leadership roles.
Take the Lead’s goal is to develop and inspire women to earn their fair share of top positions across industries by 2025, through programs such as their signature “50 Women Can Change the World” program.
“Sustainable change occurs when you can create a new paradigm that includes everyone in the story,” Feldt said at the event.
“Power unused is power useless,” Feldt said.