Lori Sokol: “I wish someone had told me to follow my dreams”

The aim of my book is to unveil the truth about the qualities that truly lead to making a difference in the lives of others. It is not what patriarchal cultures lead us to believe…that hyper-masculine methods to end conflicts like war are the only ways to enable peace. It is exactly the opposite. Peace, […]

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The aim of my book is to unveil the truth about the qualities that truly lead to making a difference in the lives of others. It is not what patriarchal cultures lead us to believe…that hyper-masculine methods to end conflicts like war are the only ways to enable peace. It is exactly the opposite. Peace, safety and security can only be achieved by employing qualities that have too long been considered soft and weak in patriarchal societies, like compassion, empathy, kindness and introspection. This is further evidenced by the effectiveness of female leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic. Countries like New Zealand, Taiwan and Iceland, which are led by women, have been a lot more successful at minimizing the impact of the pandemic on the lives of their citizens, as well as their country’s economy, than those run by hyper-masculine men (i.e. USA, Brazil and Russia).


As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori Sokol Ph.D.

Lori Sokol, Ph.D., currently serves as the executive director and editor-in-chief of Women’s eNews, an award-winning, nonprofit news organization that reports on the most crucial issues impacting women and girls around the world. As an entrepreneur, scholar, journalist, and psychologist, Dr. Sokol’s career spans over thirty years of reporting, writing, researching, and publishing on such pertinent social issues as gender equality, the needs of working parents, environmental sustainability, and strides made by female professionals determined to smash the proverbial “glass ceiling.” As a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology, Dr. Sokol’s research specifically focused on the media’s influence in crafting gender roles, further seeking to expose how stereotypes are created and maintained. She has published academic articles on psychology and the media, and served as an adjunct professor in the Psychology Departments of a number of colleges and universities.

Dr. Sokol’s latest book, She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World (2020), where she interviewed 30 women leaders from around the world including Gloria Steinem, Billie Jean King and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, focuses on how the qualities that patriarchal cultures consider soft and weak like compassion, kindness, generosity and introspection are actually more effective in saving the lives of people, communities and our planet. Her book is the recipient of the Ben Franklin Book Award by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Dr. Sokol has also served as a speaker at numerous global women’s conferences throughout the United States and Asia on topics related to gender equality and human rights. Her articles have been published in the Baltimore Sun, The Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, and in Slate.com, and she has been profiled in a variety of major publications, most recently in The Wall Street Journal and on Forbes.com. She has also been interviewed on MSNBC, CNBC, WPIX, and NY1.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

As I wrote about in the first chapter of my book, She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World, my childhood was marred by a violently abusive father, mother and older brother who believes that girls should not be smart, athletic or successful in any way except to marry a successful man.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Pippi Longstocking series of the 1960s because it portrayed an independent girl who lived by her own rules and was able to survive on her own.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

There were a number of people in authority who undermined my writing ability. Once university professor, in particular, told me that my writing was “incoherent.” I allowed his criticism to stop me from writing for a few years, but I then moved beyond it. I learned to only listen to constructive criticism in the future.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

The aim of my book is to unveil the truth about the qualities that truly lead to making a difference in the lives of others. It is not what patriarchal cultures lead us to believe…that hyper-masculine methods to end conflicts like war are the only ways to enable peace. It is exactly the opposite. Peace, safety and security can only be achieved by employing qualities that have too long been considered soft and weak in patriarchal societies, like compassion, empathy, kindness and introspection. This is further evidenced by the effectiveness of female leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic. Countries like New Zealand, Taiwan and Iceland, which are led by women, have been a lot more successful at minimizing the impact of the pandemic on the lives of their citizens, as well as their country’s economy, than those run by hyper-masculine men (i.e. USA, Brazil and Russia).

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Each story is so interesting, but if I had to select one, it would be about Edna Adan Ismail, who opened up a hospital in her name in Somaliland to reduce the maternal mortality rate, which was among the highest in the world. In that country, women don’t have equal rights, so they have no legal right to approve their own surgeries. Even a mother’s young son has more rights than his own mother. She told me the story of how she had to step in many times to save the lives of women during childbirth by convincing their husbands to sign a form approving life-saving Caesarian sections. “If they did not sign, I would then turn over the form and draw a line,” she recounted. “I would then say to them, ‘Sign here instead’ next to a long line, and underneath I would write, ‘I want my wife to die.’After seeing this, the husband approved the Caesarian section every time.” I then asked her, “What if he didn’t sign?” to which Edna responded, “I would do it anyway, and face the consequences.” Fortunately, she never had to.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

The ‘aha’ moment did not come from me, but from one of the women I ultimately interviewed for my book, Gloria Steinem. After I told her the details of my abusive patriarchal childhood, she told me I had to write a book about it. “Not only did you survive,” she said, “You triumphed. There are so many other women and girls out there today who are also living in such difficult homes. They need to know what’s possible for them as well.”

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The one response to my book that was so impactful came from someone I didn’t know. She was a Facebook friend of a friend. She wrote this: “I could say I totally enjoyed this book. Because I did. Or I could share something I’ve wanted to for some time. That when I opened it, I met an incredible individual. Then, at each chapter, was introduced to another, and another…it was, for me, like a layer cake of intellect with a generous slathering of inspiration between the layers…and I mean generous. And you know how it’s possible for some of us to eat a cake, a slice at a time but, say, in one afternoon or evening? That’s when I wanted to do. But what I did do was push myself to savor each serving…that way I could sit back and digest it, like the corner of my lips for a little extra frosting that reminded me of what I had tasted, and that I had more for later. Yes, when I opened it, I met an incredible individual who I knew only through a FB friend of a friend. When I got to the back cover, that space where we think about recipes of such cakes, I realized that woman, Lori Sokol, had introduced me to someone else. A woman within myself. She’d done that through her story and through those of other strong women. And, slowly, since I finished the book, I have recognized certain strength in myself and, beyond that, have felt the force of all those women around me.”

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Communities, societies and politicians need to be more open to the ideas of all, regardless of their sex, while tearing down old traditional roles that keep one sex in power, regardless of their true abilities.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is an understanding that all individuals should be respected and have input into decisions that are made on a local, regional, national and international level. It is only by sharing and implementing the views conveyed by a diverse group of individuals that effective goals can be achieved.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish someone had told me to follow my dreams. I wanted to be a writer in my early teens but was dissuaded. It took 30 years before I had the courage to submit an article for publication.
  2. I wish someone had told me that writing is difficult, and everyone struggles. I would not have been so hard on myself on the days when I was unable to write.
  3. I wish someone told me it was not impossible to write a book in only eight months. I ultimately did so, but it would have been easier if someone I knew had done so already.
  4. I wish someone had told me that it is okay to reveal family secrets to the public. Although I did so anyway, through the first chapter of my book, it was difficult throughout.
  5. I wish someone had told me that I should not dedicate the book to the person I was in a romantic relationship at the time, because it could end by the time the book is published, which it did.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Elliot

My first article was published at the age of 45, and my first book at the age of 60.

And who knows what the next ‘first’ will be in my life!!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who exemplifies all of the qualities that are needed to ensure safety, security and equality for her country’s citizens, as my book proports.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my work through womensenews.org, and can learn more about my book, and the women profiled in it, by visiting sheismebook.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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