Making Women’s Leadership Work Visible, Starting New Conversations
A few months ago at a community dialogue in Harlem I listened to someone tell a story about how just because you don’t see a social movement happening in the ways you might hope, this doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
I listened to this man speak and felt hopeful. I thought of the Civil Rights Movement and all of those sit-ins. I thought of Leymah Gbowee gathering hundreds, then thousands of women across Liberia in 2002 to pray for peace, how this helped bring an end to the Liberian civil war. In both of these cases, the amount of work and organizing that went on behind the scenes that we didn’t see, before these movements ever gained traction. How these events needed to happen and would have happened whether or not I ever heard about them in my little corner of the world.
Still, in any movement for social progress, including the women’s movement, visibility is essential. Sharing our stories and wisdom and skills is what connects us to each other and generates momentum. It reminds us we are more powerful together than we are alone. When we make ourselves and our work visible, we make it so much easier for more people to join us and offer their own unique contribution.
I’ve decided to join the team at Take The Lead because to me this is a project within the larger, often blurry field of “women’s leadership” that seeks to make visible all of the ways women are already moving forward. The idea being that we are at a unique turning point in history, and that although we can’t always see the movement happening, we know it is happening and we must work with all of those places where we feel new strength and energy.
In order for women to step into new leadership in bigger ways though, individually and collectively (and on behalf of others), we must get more comfortable with power, and perhaps most importantly, lead from our most authentic selves. For me, power and authenticity go hand in hand. So in the next few months here on the Take The Lead blog, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on all of these themes—power, leadership, authenticity, working in partnership with men and more—and starting dialogues with you so that we can think together and help move the women’s leadership conversation forward.
First up, let’s talk about power. Some of us have read Gloria Feldt’s book No Excuses: Nine ways women can change how we think about power and are redefining power in our own lives as “power to” (as in the power to do something) as opposed to “power over” others (or perhaps public opinion or an agenda). Some of us are organizing Lean In circles and challenging ourselves to learn new behaviors and take new risks. Some of us are out there starting businesses, working toward gender justice in the media, or making films. And some of us are stepping forward as men to fight discrimination or honor women’s unique contributions in the workplace and asking our colleagues to do the same.
I can’t begin to think creatively about power until I hear what others are thinking. What is one of the most exciting ways you see power working for women or other social movements today? How do you see power functioning most often now? How do you hope to see it function in the future?