There’s an undeniable power revealed when women from diverse backgrounds and professions gather in the spirit of meaningful conversation. I feel fortunate to have been surrounded by four of such uplifting women last weekend.
I remember a fleeting moment while sitting on this dynamic panel, when I thought to myself how profound it is that I, a 25-year-old Zulu girl from South Africa (orphaned to AIDS at the age of nine), can be in conversation with Lea Endres, an experienced community organizer, facilitator, and now Co-Founder/CEO of NationBuilder; Lisa Hwang, a former middle school principal for over a decade and now head of People at NationBuilder; Pat Callair, a civil rights activist who grew up mobilizing alongside Dr. King; and Hilary Doe, a dynamic keynote speaker, experienced fundraiser, and NationBuilder VP of Strategy. We gathered at INTO ACTION, a celebration of community power and cultural resistance, for an intimate conversation about the leadership gap facing women, grounded in Hilary’s hard-hitting research and supported by all of our personal narratives—each illuminating the emotional, economic, and social costs of that gap and what we can do to close it.
Of all the poignant truths that we shared leading up to and during our panel, the most compelling one for me was: there’s an unspoken gap that results when a woman is silenced and we miss out on her truth. This is a gap that we participate in creating when we don’t stand up for our unique types of leadership and instead choose to silence, doubt, second-guess, eliminate, camouflage, or disown ourselves as women leaders if our unique ways of showing up are questioned, left unrecognized, or taken for granted by others. When our ways of leading are deemed too outside the norm or normalized as something other than leadership—like the facilitative work seldom associated with a stereotypical CEO.
This is the gap of all gaps, but it is also one that we can choose to do something about right at this moment, for ourselves. For instance, I will not apologize for how I show up as an Afrocentric-bald-head-English-accented-international speaker (and now fundraising) leader, with many interests spanning from social issues to personal style to personal narratives, mobilizing international communities, raising awareness of issues disproportionately affecting Africa’s young girls, all while studying ancient spiritual awakening and metaphysics. Yes, I do it all and I do it well, simply by living my truth and showing up as best I can at each unfolding moment. I realized while sitting on that panel that all of this is worth being lived out loud – by me. Perhaps the more of me I do unapologetically, the more the world can get used to not just the idea, but the reality of women like myself. Hopefully, my act of showing up in my truth will mean less insecurity for another young female leader in the future.
Image courtesy of INTO ACTION
This was undoubtedly an important conversation for women to engage in. It was timely and personally impactful in its anchoring on the day we commemorated the second annual Women’s March with millions of other women across the globe. Not only did it feel powerful to be a part of that conversation on that day, I felt powerful and validated as woman who leads in her own way.
Thank you to INTO ACTION for creating a significant space for meaningful and in-depth dialogue. Thank you to my fellow panelists who stood in their truths, making it all the more possible for me and many in the audience to stand in our own.