So, what did I take out of this whole experience, attending an international forum for women in Istanbul, Turkey, as a part of a team from Eileen Fisher Inc. and the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation.
NOW IS THE TIME. People say that a lot. And it seems that they’ve been saying it and things like it (the time is now) for a long time. So what time IS it? According to this experience – it’s a time of unparalleled wealth. A great majority of the world’s wealth and resources are held in the hands of a few. It’s a dire time for women. Many of our global social structures keep women in a place where their work goes unrecognized and their bodies become a battleground. It is also time in which we are seeing and feeling drastic climate change and a global race for resources. (Much of this was framed in the final plenary: The Task Ahead).
The conference was focused on Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice. Let’s think about that. Transforming economic power. What is economic power? Who has it? How do we transform power if we don’t transform the people who hold it? An emerging thought was about self-care as a political strategy. A question I have been living with for a long time (I think I was actually born into this question) is: what is feminine leadership? What would it look like to take care of the world’s women – what would it look like if we took care of ourselves? Nurtured our intuitive voice, our bodies and our spirits. If we did that for our own selves and for the world’s women – what would our social structures: governments, businesses, education systems… look like?
I realize: We don’t always agree to the social contract that we’re born into. During the summer program, Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute – we develop a set of community agreements to guide the social interactions of the group. When we do that, it’s not that things are perfect, but we see each other on a level that feels like more of an equal playing field because we look into each others eyes and, without knowing each other, agree that we each deserve to be respected.
I wonder: What the world would be like if we looked into each other’s eyes and really saw each other. Not just as a number or a consumer of products. What would our businesses look like? What would our governments (local, national and global) look like? If we focused on making ourselves happy – TRULY happy – not just pill popping/short-term-fix-happy, what would the world look like? What would our cities and houses look like? What clothing would we wear? What would our education system look like?
I read this article today about Women’s leadership: “Why Aren’t There More Women in Leadership Positions?” by Tabby Biddle. In it, she says, “Ultimately I think for more women to be in leadership positions, we (both women and men) need to honor the feminine qualities of our intuitive nature, compassionate nature, and our emotional nature. As one corporate client shared with me recently, ‘In order to keep steady at my job, I cut myself off from my emotions — and as a result, I was cutting off part of my intelligence.’”
How cool would it be if our business, governments, schools – on all levels, honored the feminine qualities of our ‘intuitive, compassionate and emotional natures’. Tabby also stated: “Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin United, talked about how values that were once considered “too female” are now suddenly vital. “I believe that women haven’t been assuming more leadership positions in the world today because the systems we’ve created often do not place the right value on the strengths that women can bring to the table,”.’
The forum also presented the thought of transforming economic power by looking at feminism – and feminist economics – as a system that could counter patriarchy. A system that would use an ecological model. One that could encompass not just the abstract numbers or theories, but also take into account the system as a whole, with indicators that would encompass people’s lives and wellness along with the traditional market indicators.
Returning to Westchester, NY and to Eileen Fisher world…. We’re working on it. I see that we’re trying to figure out – what it can look like… what the possibilities are… and how we work together to make it happen. I love the concept of using business as a movement. To really see the people that are involved in every aspect of developing something from an idea to a product to a process and a system of working with one another. I love the way that we follow intuitive energy – and how that plays a valid role in decision making – even when we don’t have a solid ‘knowing’ of what’s happening or what the future will hold. That Eileen can stand up to speak at a company meeting and talk about magic and feelings – not just of the consumer, but of the system as a whole. I love that my friend Luna, a Human Rights associate on the Eileen Fisher Social Consciousness team, is on a plane right now to China to work with the factories there… and that Eileen’s vision is to work from within the system, be it on the fringe at times, to make a difference. Perhaps this is what feminine leadership could look like….
So, Thank You. To the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation team for sending and joining me at the AWID 2012 Forum and for supporting my ability to explore… to continue to grow and to learn from others across the globe.