Dreams & Oatmeal

I had an unusual childhood. I was seven years old before I learned that not all children analyzed their dreams each morning at the breakfast table with mom and dad, diagramming the archetypes on a yellow pad, next to the bowl of oatmeal.

When I came home with a typical childhood complaint like “Johnny teased me at recess,” I was usually met with “What do you think is going on at home for Johnny that would cause him to tease other kids?”

My parents weren’t psychotherapists, religious fanatics, or even hippies. They were regular people who believed that understanding oneself and others were essential parts of living a happy life. From an early age, I was encouraged to learn about psychology and spirituality and apply tools from both arenas to my daily life. Our house was full of books on those subjects and I grew up reading them.

I developed a powerful inner life — a strong spirituality and knowledge of how to work with my own fears and limiting beliefs. At the same time, I navigated a very different landscape, the competitive academic environments of Yale and Stanford Business School where logic was king. While our culture often positions these realms as very separate, the truth is that they enrich each other. Spiritual connection and inner work are fuel for extraordinary worldly achievement.

My work today – writing, teaching, and speaking about how we can live with greater peace, delight, and positive impact – embodies this fusion of inner and outer work, mind and heart, learned knowledge and intuitive wisdom.

Amplifying Women’s Voices

When I was fourteen years old, I listened to my high school English teacher explain that our class would read a variety of books centered around the theme “Coming of Age.” The teacher passed out a list of the books we would read over the course of the year: Black Boy, A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, and others.

I looked at the list and saw: all the books were about boys coming of age. All were written by men. I knew, from my own experience, that the story of girls coming of age was very different from that of boys. I understood we’d only be learning only half the story of “coming of age” if we only read books by men and about boys.

I spoke to the teacher, then the principal. I created a committee, raised funds, lobbied the school board, and a few years later, many works by women were added to my high school’s English curriculum.

I tell this story here because it was my foundational experience following a calling that continues to be at the heart of my work: to restore women’s voices where they are missing, to amplify women’s impact in the world – both for the wellbeing of women and for the wellbeing of our civilization.

This calling has led me to create two anthologies of Jewish women’s writings about the Passover holiday, giving thousands of families a way to add women’s perspectives to a religious ritual where women’s voices had been entirely absent. That same calling inspired me to work on women’s issues in the nonprofit world, and to lead the Women in Management organization at Stanford Business School.

It drives much of the work I do now: coaching women leaders, leading the Playing Big global women’s leadership program, and leading The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign, through which hundreds of bloggers write about the importance of investing in girls’ education in the developing world.

During the summer of 2010, I wrote an article called “10 Rules for Brilliant Women.” The article talked about 10 principles I saw “brilliant” – smart, creative, visionary women not acting upon - to their detriment. The article struck a huge chord, first at Huffington Post, then at More Magazine.com, and soon all around the web.

Most brilliant women don’t see their own brilliance and are “playing small” and they know it: not speaking up, doubting themselves, seeing themselves as “not yet ready” to launch the big idea, the organization, to put themselves at the table. The 10 Rules, and the other work I do with women leaders are about learning how to quiet self-doubt, clarify purpose, and become comfortable with taking bold action in the workplace and in the world. That is what I teach, and I love to teach it because I’m still learning it myself.

I believe the task of our time is not just to bring more women into positions of power, but to empower women to transform the institutions they are part of by bringing their wisdom, critiques, perspectives and solutions to the fore.

Highlights From Along The Path

Here are some of the highlights from along my path:

  • My love for poetry and my interest in human psychology led me to spend two years in intensive study of Shakespeare while an undergraduate at Yale. In the past few years, I recovered my writing voice ( my inner critic helped me take a hiatus from writing for about 7 years) and began writing poetry again.
  • I co-created two collections of contemporary women’s writings, The Women’s Passover Companion and The Women’s Seder Sourcebook, which were published in 2003. Among the 180 contributing authors are Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senator Barbara Boxer, playwright Eve Ensler, and The Red Tent author Anita Diamant. These collections explore contemporary ritual, women’s issues and spirituality.
  • I decided to go to business school, to learn how to build and scale organizations to achieve significant impact. (Yes, some people did injure themselves upon hearing the news, backing into glass windows or literally falling out of chairs). I received my MBA from Stanford Business School, where my studies focused on leadership and innovation, with a focus on the social sector. At Stanford, I served as the Co-President of the Women in Management organization and created a range of programs for women leaders.
  • Before shifting my professional pursuits to writing and teaching, I worked in the nonprofit sector addressing issues ranging from women’s leadership to special needs inclusion to social services for vulnerable populations. I continue my involvement in the nonprofit sector as a volunteer and board member.
  • I’ve been delighted to be the representative of the United States for the BBC World Service Radio program “Born A Girl” which has followed six young women from around the world through their young adult years.

When I’m not Doing the Thing We Call “Work”

I love poetry and modern dance. I revere art and artists.

Set me up with vegetables to chop, a recipe (for inspiration not instruction), and some music, and you’ll get a very, very happy camper.

My life is filled with an eclectic band of exquisite souls, my funny, loving friends who I adore so much it makes me well up just thinking about them.

I just celebrated my eleventh anniversary with my darling and quite amazing husband. He’s taught me a lot about how to love and he also cracks me up on a daily basis.

I struggle with telling the truth when its hard, procrastinating on life-logistics, and accepting truth that yes, the cell phone really does need to get charged every night.

I grew up in the San Francisco area and live here now. Nothing gets me more buzzing with delight than enjoying a great latte in one of our city’s adorable cafes.

I’m at my most contented, flow-state self when writing, leading a workshop or public speaking, or seeing art that leaves me speechless.



For Tara’s Official Bio & Media Kit, click here.