Sisterhood: Fostering an enviroment of authencitcy, empowerment and success
Last week, I attended the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. My leadership chain (all men) nominated me to attend and provided sponsorship. To be totally honest, I felt both honored and nervous. I am 100% caucasian, and I didn’t know how I would be received by fellow conference attendees. Nonetheless, I was excited to attend and firmly committed to listen with big, wide-open ears; afterall, how many times do I as a white person get a chance to be “in the minority”?
The moment I set foot on the conference site, I could feel the amped up energy. Once I put on my conference badge, I was approached by many conference attendees – greeting me, asking me where I was from, welcoming me… I was actually feeling quite sheepish and shy! This all felt like a lot to take in, and I wanted to retreat into a protective shell.
As I attended sessions, I noticed the distinct themes of authenticity, personal integrity, and sisterhood. The importance of being seen for who you really are. I actually felt quite envious as I heard story after story of woman helping woman. How can I find a group like THAT? I would love to have some of what they have! Why have I never truly experienced this? Do I REALLY feel seen? Am I REALLY comfortable with expressing my authenticity?
About a day and a half into the conference, I had my big “aha” moment: the discomfort and self-consciousness I was feeling was not the result of any experience I have EVER had with any community of women who were different from me. All of the insecurity I was feeling came as a result of my experience with interacting with groups of caucasian females – women just like me! Tears immediately sprang to my eyes and I turned to the ladies sitting next to me, and with all the raw vulnerability I was experiencing in that moment – I shared my heart. And you know what happened next? My heart was unabashedly received. The lady sitting next to me grabbed my hands and leaned forward and thanked me – “do you promise to come back next year and bring other people who think like you, too? This conference is for everyone – and now that you know our struggle, now that you hear our voice, you are in a better position to help us.” I asked the three caucasian ladies in my work group (total conference attendees = 1,500), and they too shared stories of competition, woundedness, judgment and rejection, all from predominantly caucasian groups of women.
Ladies – of COURSE I thought about the JLM. We want to stay true to our mission and foster an environment that truly empowers women. We want to continue to attract and retain a diverse base of members – so that a broad range of women’s voices will be represented. The following list summarizes some key learnings from the conference… If you think this sounds remotely interesting, I encourage you to consider attending the conference next year! I will be.
- Individuals who are being truly authentic foster supportive environments. When we show up as individuals – honoring our unique abilities, physical attritbutes, and ways that we bring value, we create an environment that gives others permission to do the same. Individuals are inspired to action in these environments. Teams achieve goals in these environments. It is perfectly acceptable to take risks, set big goals – and even fail – in these environments.
- When one lady wins, we all win! This entire concept of celebrating others’ successes as if they were are own was discussed frequently throughout the conference. It really boils down to a worldview of abundance versus scarcity. What do I mean by that? I celebrate others’ successes as much as my own because I realize that there are abundant opportunities for me to win/contribute. I do not live in a “zero-sum game” kind of world. A world view of scarcity comes from deeply rooted fear and insecurity: “when she wins, I lose”, “there is not enough for me and her”, “I will not have enough”. This does not foster an environment of sisterhood, much less an environment of high-performance.
- Support your sisters publicly, protect the “inner circle”. This concept basically highlights the importance of presenting a unified front to the world. What does this look like? It means presenting a unified image to our JLM community partners, it means discussing conflict 1:1 in a private setting with the indivdual(s) directly involved, it means refusing to engage in gossip or discussion that reduces another in the eyes of others.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us…. Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learned here.” ~~ Marianne Williamson
JLM Advocacy: Providing Education to inspire action