Saturday, December 12, 2015

Diverse Women’s Leadership: Essential for Systemic Change (Bioneers)

Bioneers issued the following today:

Diverse Women’s Leadership: Essential for Systemic Change

Women of all ages and backgrounds gathered in the Reinventing Leadership Tent at the Bioneers Conference in October.
By Nina Simons
Bioneers Co-founder
Everywoman's Leadership Founder & Director
Dear Bioneer:

As I entered the theater on the first afternoon of the 2015 Bioneers conference, my heart soared as I absorbed the quality of listening, tenderness and open-hearted dialogue that emerged through Lifting Women’s Voices in the Media. Women’s media champion Jodie Evans orchestrated a conversation with a spectrum of women who free-ranged from exploring the internalized barriers women face to speaking out, to identifying the omnipresent structural barriers – especially the culturally ingrained fear of technology that so many women carry.

Filling the theater were women of all colors, ages, disciplines, orientations and classes. I saw that, whatever challenges exist in Oakland’s inner city compared with those experienced by women of the Congo, we in this country are deeply privileged. I felt a shared responsibility to connect and speak out.

Many women voiced their appreciation for the WorldPulse website, whose accessibility is a huge asset to bringing global grassroots women’s stories, visions and voices to the big wide world. My admiration has grown for this mighty global online platform designed to facilitate that visibility and connection. As founder Jensine Larsen likes to say, the power of women and girls is the greatest untapped renewable resource on Earth.

For me, the capacity of women to exponentially develop each other’s leadership capacities, skills and boldness is the greatest underutilized leverage point for making systemic change. Thank you for your support for this kind of crucial work we highlight at Bioneers.
Make a Year-End Gift to Support Women's Leadership
The following night, at our awards dinner, the ancient fossil with which we honored Jensine exemplified that eternal and archetypal connection that exists between women and our Mother Earth. I offered Jensine my admiration, respect and gratitude for the personal sacrifice and perseverance that has been required of her to develop this extraordinary space. Today over 80,000 global grassroots women worldwide participate in its network-building capabilities. 

High-voltage women were everywhere throughout the conference weekend – teaching, singing and participating. When Chipewyan Athabascan First Nations leader Eriel Deranger spoke, (who has now joined our Bioneers Board of Directors), I felt that familiar impulse to drop everything in order to serve her efforts on behalf of First Peoples’ survival, cultures and sovereignty. 

Fania Davis’ keynote on Restorative Justice electrified me. I heard how elegantly restorative justice is interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline with profound dignity and grace. I sensed how its wider implementation into policy would act as a key lever to transform culture. The students she mentors introduced her adoringly. She said simply: “History is calling us all to be healers.” Enough of the vicious circle of punishment, violence and revenge – and here’s to ushering in a virtuous cycle of healing.

Many sessions explored interactively how to reclaim a healthy, balanced masculine and feminine. We all have both within us, and our legacy of imbalance has caused humanity to fly like a bird with only one wing for way too long. With many men attending, I was reminded that this is not only a gender equity issue, but also extends toward reclaiming and integrating our human wholeness. Clare Dakin of TreeSisters shared a transformative embodied map that reveals a physical way to remember the need for a balance of our gendered capacities, which are inherent in our human design. 
Co-facilitators Nina Simons and Rachel Bagby hosted a Cultivating Women's Leadership Sampler at Bioneers 2015.
As Gloria Steinem has famously noted: “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
A particular pleasure for me over the past two years has been creating Media Collections on Women’s Leadership. I’ve sorted through our astonishing archive of incredible talks by boldly original and innovative women from all walks of life, across diverse cultures, ages and disciplines.

I know how much seeing and hearing these women as role models has opened new possibilities on my own leadership path. I yearn to have their examples accessible to women and girls of all colors and backgrounds, to inspire and ignite their leadership potential. I hope you will relish these inspiring talks and role models as much as I’ve loved curating them. I invite you to help us distribute them into libraries, schools, prisons and community centers to ignite and inspire girls’ dreams and leadership from all fronts.

As I scan back over the past 26 years of Bioneers programs, I’m grateful for how much my initial vision has evolved and grown. In 1996, I first started creating programs about women’s leadership and the legacy of gender bias. In 1997, I produced a keynote program entitled “Restoring the Feminine.” Central to that vision was that multicultural and multigenerational women were essential.

I learned it was not enough to support women’s leadership and gender equity. As young people today so clearly know, gender is a fluid spectrum. For true systemic change and cultural healing to occur, it’s essential that we each cultivate our own internal balance, integration and celebration of the sacred union of our feminine and masculine qualities that together make us whole.

The data are now undeniable that supporting the leadership and equity of women improves everything, from human to ecological health, a sustainable economy and even world peace. Today, thankfully, we’re seeing these memes arise and spread far more widely. Yet we have a long way to go. The obstacles are both systemic and internal. Now more than ever, we need to be spreading these ideas, models and practices.

This year we produced profound Cultivating Women’s Leadership intensives, where the women left truly transformed. They ignited and refined their purposes. They expanded their visions and sense of capacities. They embraced new definitions of leadership. We all linked tenderly and fiercely in mutual support. Many are coaching each other and collaborating, and some are meeting monthly, ongoing.

A high point included hosting Melannie Lovercheck, a veteran who served as an officer in Afghanistan, whose world-view was turned upside down by the experience. Between CWL and the Bioneers conference, her understanding of leadership transformed from a strictly male-oriented, hierarchical model to one capable of encompassing all of her humanity, including her passion for service.

I cannot begin to thank you sufficiently for supporting our work. I thank you in advance for doubling down and supporting it even further at this moment of epic change in the world when so many more women and girls are reaching out to express their leadership.

With your generous gifts, you will be strengthening, inspiring and connecting so many wondrous women and girls through our collective work. Together, we will change everything.
Nina Simons
Co-founder, Bioneers

Director, Everywoman’s Leadership
Invest in Women's Leadership Now
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