I recently attended a training that was presented by Alice Del Vecchio of Slippery Rock University. She created a process model that is geared at improving the systems and productivity of non-profit organizations. A key part of the model is based on reflection. It encourages us to check on the status of a project in an ongoing manner, not only to see what we need to change but to celebrate its achievement as well as shape its future. With that in mind, I feel that, for our one year anniversary, it is a fitting time to reflect on WeWomen.
For me personally, I have grown considerably over the last year. Creating and collaborating on this group has forced me to recognize and challenge my own gender biases and my thoughts on what it means to be a successful woman. I have had to learn the gentle balance of taking myself seriously without losing my sense of humor, that self promotion is not representative of an out of control ego, and that if I want to be heard I have to speak. Prior to this group, I told myself that there is a place for all of us: all types of personalities and approaches to career and life. But I don’t think I really knew what that meant until I started my own business and started talking with other women and really listening to what they were saying without imposing my own views and intentions on those conversations.
Which leads me to my reflection on this group. Our vision was to create an open and non-judgmental forum for all women that honored and supported our respective styles, motivations and personalities.
When I started to talk to people I got a lot of positive feedback – “that’s a great idea- I will be there.” I also got some snickers and comments like – “oh, you’re one of those…” or “Is this going to be a man-hater group?” I think some people had the thought that the group was aimed for only strong alpha types who are aimed at world domination. Of all of those responses, the most disturbing response was my own. I found myself justifying and using dismissive language to talk about what we wanted to happen, starting with minimizing statements like, “It’s just this….” or “We will see if it works…” All of those reactions made me look inward to why I thought I had to do that- to make myself smaller. It brought to the forefront the issues that I want us to talk about. Questions like- How can we stand comfortably in a place of knowledge and authority without making ourselves seem smaller? How can we uplift each other? How do we talk about the issues that are important to us and that sometimes divide us without becoming enemies? Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how we talk to men; our husbands, coworkers, friends and sons, in ways that give them the language to engage with us without alienating or dismissing them. Something that simultaneously supports them and asserts us? And probably most importantly, how do we call each other out when we resort to our own mean girl tactics? These are all necessary questions, ones I have shied away from because I was so entrenched in my own thoughts and insecurities. This has left me in a vulnerable but necessary place.
In our title we have growth, leadership and balance under our name. As we move forward I want us all to embrace that all three of these take work and sometimes that work places us in positions that we are not at all comfortable with. I want us to be able to encourage each other through this discomfort to embrace it. That is my hope for the next year and I hope all of you will join us.
Training Disclaimer: I highly recommend learning Alice Del Vecchio’s iCare system and how it could be of use to you personally and professionally. In fact, the Alliance for Nonprofit Resources, based in Butler, is currently offering a fantastic series about skill building and increasing the professionalism of nonprofits. If you do any charity work or sit on any nonprofit boards you should definitely check it out to help streamline your workflows.