When it comes to life as an independent woman, Theresa del Tufo does more than talk the talk. Del Tufo, co-author of Women Powered! A New Paradigm of Influence and Equity, immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at age 23 with her husband, who tragically passed away soon after. She raised two boys by herself while also earning her doctorate and working as deputy director for the Department of Labor. After retiring from government work, she wasn’t content to rest on her laurels. Instead, del Tufo started a consulting business, teaching folks of all ages and genders how to be their best at work.
In coaching women, del Tufo “noticed that there’s such a difficult and polarizing relationship between women and power,” she says. “I thought, maybe I need to do something about this. I used to demonstrate with the women’s movement in the late ’70s. But now that I’m older, I don’t have the stamina.”
Del Tufo decided to use her writing skills to impart the wisdom gained from decades of activism and advocacy. “When I wrote this book, my intention was to do something deliberate, intentional and systematic,” she reflects, “because my feeling is that women are not able to wield power because we don’t know how to do it in a systematic way.”
That system took the form of a visually illustrated framework. The book’s power paradigm resembles a wheel with values and personal traits, including self-knowledge and lifelong learning, at the center. The wheel’s spokes emphasize eight core competencies: leadership and management, communication, people skills, emotional intelligence, problem solving and decision making, financial literacy, political acumen, and subject matter expertise.
To develop the framework, del Tufo and her co-author George Banez held focus groups and interviewed several female leaders. She was pleasantly surprised by her conversations with millennial women. “Every step of the way, I had people questioning my ability. My women peers experienced the same,” Del Tufo recalls. “But the millennials in my focus groups seem to be very comfortable with building power and using it. It is part and parcel of who they are.”
For del Tufo, this is a sign that her generation’s efforts have successfully moved gender equality forward. “My whole life in this country has been dedicated to improving the status of women,” she says. “This book [is] the culmination of [that] work.”
Del Tufo dreams that Women Powered! will inspire women to cultivate a leadership style and voice that is all their own. “We all have that gift,” she says. “We just need to believe in ourselves.”