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Women Leading—How It Looks and Why Matters: An Interview with Lael

We’re not talking enough about women leaders—and I aim to change that.

I wrote a post recently about the ONE thing we share most universally—regardless of our race, country, language, political or religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or work experience—but RARELY talk about.

That one thing is this: most of us came into this world through a vagina.

Sure, it was a tongue-in-cheek piece of writing, but it’s also a symbol of our times—and can be directly correlated with why we don’t talk frequently and openly about our lack of women leaders in this world—specifically the United States of America.

We’re burying the lead story—so why are we surprised we’ve never had a woman leader at the helm?

And yet we are surprised—constantly. And it’s embarrassing.

After the 2016 presidential election, a neighbor who had recently moved here from Ireland saw my despair and I watched as she began to understand what the US had been really good at hiding.

“Wait, WHAT!? You mean to tell me that you’ve NEVER had a woman president in this country, Lael…like, EVER!?”

See? We had her fooled because we’re really good at burying that lead story in this country.

Instead we tell ourselves:

  • We’ve come so far! (fact: out of 195 countries, 27 have a woman at the helm…the US is not one of them, nor have we ever been)
  • We’re #1—a superpower! (fact: unless you’re a woman, child, or person of color…then the United States is technically ranked as  #21, #34 #65 respectfully)
  • We’re lucky…you should be grateful! (fact: as long as you’re healthy, wealthy, white, cis-gendered male, and christian, you’ve got it made. Everyone else? Not so much.)

When the Word Economic Forum measures the gap between men and women in different countries around the globe in four fundamental categories—(1) economic participation and opportunity, (2) educational attainment, (3) health and survival, and (4) political empowerment—the Nordic nations consistently rank as the most equal societies on earth. The United States….ranks 28th.

—Ana Partanen—

How is that a “superpower”? All is not well. This is not okay.

We can do much, much better.

I don’t know about you, but I’m keen on understanding how I’ve helped to bury this important headline. If it takes a village, this country is mine.

And lest you think I’m being anti-American, I’m not—my fingerprints are on this, too. It’s part of our cultural narrative in the pursuit of happiness.

There is so much work to be done, and I get how overwhelming it seems.

It’s helpful to start with some honest self-reflection:

  • How am I participating in preserving the status quo?
  • Where am I buying into the narrative that “change takes time”?
  • Where am I resigned to history repeating itself?
  • Where am I muting myself simply because no one else is talking about it?

If I want to see more women leaders in the United States, that conversation needs to start with me.

  • I need to talk about my experience of being a woman in this country even when it feels unpopular, inconvenient, irrelevant, or not headline-worthy.
  • I need to trust more deeply in my power as a woman—and see it as a strength to be leveraged, not an obstacle to overcome—even when I’m told what I’m feeling isn’t real, reliable, or productive.
  • I need to use myself more frequently to hold space for what’s not being talked about—for the conversations not happening, opportunities not taken, and moments we’re missing.

More than just a thoughtful entry in some journal no one will ever see, here’s why that conversation really matters:

When you hold space for something invisible to emerge, you are also serving to illuminate what else is invisible—bringing what’s in the margins to mainstream conversations.

The power is in getting honest—with ourselves (first) and then others. That’s where real change begins.

It begins with our language and how we talk (or don’t talk) about things.

And, like anything, it gets easier with practice.

But while the numbers and stats can feel heavy and look dire, the conversation doesn’t have to be that way.

Which is why I wrote my post about vaginas (which got people chuckling…) and then correlated it with women’s leadership (and got people thinking…)

The energy created by that one blog post spilled over quite organically into a podcast interview I had scheduled with the amazing Susan McCulley later that week for her Age of Becoming community.

Holy WOW was that fun—more like a playdate, really.

We talked about so many cool things, like:

  • The importance of welcoming men into women-centered conversations—not as participants or leaders, but as listeners and learners.
  • My experience of how physical it has been over the past 20 years to hold a conversation about women leading change—why that is, what it’s like and why it matters.
  • Why engaging in conversations about masculine and feminine energies often begin after we go through one a particular doorway.
  • How what we are hungry for is wholeness, not balance.
  • The importance of holding space for our contradictions, paradoxes and the both/and—why that matters and what it looks like.
  • What I mean by “women leading the way” and how I define leadership.

Cozy up to this conversation with Susan and me when you’re good and ready or share it as a means to start a conversation about women leading—but here’s to not burying the lead of conversations that matter.

I’m starting with women. That’s the space I hold. What’s yours?

May there be room for all as we find our way back to wholeness—and move forward together from these fractured times.

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