My mother's reluctance to raise another Betty Crocker became blatantly obvious when I started kindergarten and she sent me to school with a briefcase instead of a lunchbox. According to her, school was not about what your lunch looked like, it was about progress.
Long before thought leaders John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio wrote The Athena Doctrine, Ali was demonstrating why and how women can make extraordinary leaders by using their strength as women rather than by trying to be men.
What would happen if women looked at leadership as a natural born skill that they already have? What if leadership training for women was a career choice that came with curriculum to take them, for example, from the classroom to Congress?
My grandmother raised four kids, and became a single parent when my grandfather passed on and my younger uncle was a tender 14. Learning to become profitable was not something she even thought about. She was "savvy" before savvy was a "business" household name.
There still are many challenges that women face in the world of work, where most industries are still male-dominated, yet, women are rising as role models allowing more young women leaders to follow in their footsteps and become leaders themselves.
What we need is not the extreme unlimited economic and political freedom of competition, or the societal and environmental exhaustion caused by competition without moderation. What society needs is the cooperation of forces.
We all know the Madeline Albright quote about how there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women. With this threat of a very painful and hot eternity, how can we as leaders become more supportive of other women?
Personally, I think we'd be better off if we stopped arguing about which approach to leadership is better and consider a different way that could be more effective and actually sustainable. I like to call it Integration.
Maybe the reason I'm wanting to channel my inner Donna Summer is that I've been on a week-long marathon of Orange Is the New Black. It's so thrilling to watch women chew up the scenery and be funny and crazy and silly and insane and wild and tough and every freaking shade a woman can be.
Even as we push forward, we keep defaulting -- under stress or at key choice points -- back to our old identities, back to the past rather than stepping beyond what has been. It makes true and equal partnership between men and women exceedingly rare.
On my daily run I find peace and balance. In 2007 I found myself running through the remote villages of Rwanda. I often had young boys running with me but rarely young girls. I could see that they wanted to join but weren't sure how.
Last Monday I hopped in a cab en route to meet Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, THAT Sheryl Sandberg. COO of Facebook. Third-wave feminist poster child. Architect of the national love affair we're having with women and work. Maybe you've heard of her.