Igniting Social Communities of Women Leaders

For Women’s Center for Leadership (WCL), we are, at our core, all about community. Our mission is about our members.

WCL is a consortium of professional women joined in developing leadership skills, sharing knowledge and building community in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve been a member of WCL for about 10 years. My participation has evolved: from sporadically catching a monthly breakfast event at first, then attending more regularly as my daughter got older and could do more to get herself ready for school, and ultimately joining the WCL Board of Directors. I think many of our members have times when they are active, and times when they have to check out for a while to attend to other things. Many just do their best to stay in touch, even if it’s only reading the email updates and checking out a blog or two.  Having to make trade-offs like this is just part of the reality for a lot of professional women.

This past December, WCL hosted an evening Member Appreciation event.  It was great seeing so many of our members in more of a social forum. As our President, Michelle Sosinski, gave a short speech that evening, I learned a few things about our history and how we have progressed. I jotted down some of the stats Michelle shared, went home and used a free social media tool to create an Infographic of Women’s Center for Leadership—WCL by the Numbers.

When I stepped back to think about it, I was pretty impressed by the group’s growth over the past year—a lot due to the high-caliber speakers at our events and our members bringing new friends and colleagues. We have a fairly large membership with a community-building charter, so for a non-profit like WCL, we rely on member emails and social media to reach our members to inform them about the events.

But we want to go beyond that. We want to keep the rich conversation, informal mentoring and community that we experience, that is so magical when we meet, going between events. In 2013, we expanded our social media footprint to include a Facebook page and have been reinvigorating our LinkedIn Group.

We know that many of our members already use LinkedIn. We would love to see more of our members sharing great articles and ideas about women and leadership in the Women’s Center for Leadership Group. We have over 600 members in this online community.  I learn a lot from the comments made on the things I post—it encourages me to share and comment more.

Please join the Women’s Center for Leadership LinkedIn Group and jump in.

The WCL_PDX Facebook page is fairly new. We are posting info about the events, new blogs, as well as leadership inspiration and quotes. At the Member Appreciation event we “crowd-sourced” some leadership “lessons learned” and favorite book recommendations from our members.

Please “Like” the WCL_PDX Facebook Page then invite your local Facebook friends to Like the Page too.

Whatever your level of involvement with Women’s Center for Leadership is at the moment, we are grateful to have you as a member (or we hope you will consider joining).

We know it’s the members that make any community.  The driving force behind building our social media presence in 2014 is to make it easy to stay in touch with each other more regularly. We believe a community that shares experience, supports each other, and ignites the leadership potential of women can create opportunities for women…. and change the world.

Kelli Gizzi
WCL Web & Social Media Director


How Young Women are Embracing Feminism

Although we at WCL do not solicit blog posts from other organizations, occasionally we are sent one that we feel the entire membership might find interesting and thought provoking. The article below is one such piece. Please read it and comment on it and the relevancy it might have in your life.

Web Exclusive: President Spar Shares her Thoughts on How Young Women are Embracing Feminism
Original post, Dec. 2013
Republished with the permission of Barnard College, Columbia University

Dare to Use the F-Word is a new monthly podcast series created by and for young feminists. Street harassment, food activism, body image and slut-shaming are among the diverse issues discussed in the series, which is produced by Barnard College and the Barnard Center for Research on Women and aims to spotlight contemporary issues and activists. The podcast is available for download on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to the series.

In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, President Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.

Read this exclusive piece below:

Since the release of Wonder Women several months ago, one of the questions that I’ve consistently been asked is “how is feminism different today? What do you hear on campus? Do young women want to be feminists, or not?”  It’s a complicated question, without an easy answer.  Because young women, of course, don’t speak with a single voice or share a common attitude.  Some are quick to embrace the term feminist.  Others despise it. And many – sadly, for the mothers and grandmothers who opened doors for them – no longer really have a sense of what the word implies.

My own view – shaped, I’m sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises – is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name.  What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim.  They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.  They assume that all jobs – be they in finance or law or public office or industry – are open to them, and that they will receive roughly the same salaries as their male co-workers.  They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.  They presume that birth control is widely available; that relationships are theirs to make, break, and determine; and that the world is every bit as open to them as it for their brothers.  In other words, they think, without even thinking about it, that they have equal rights with men.  Which was, after all, the central goal of feminism.

What they don’t do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable.  Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did?  How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents – especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me:  how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?

To be sure, there are many young women today who proudly wear the label of feminism, and are expanding both advocacy and theory in fascinating ways: leading the global fight against sex trafficking, for example, speaking out against domestic violence, and pushing at the very definitions of sex and gender and identity.  But there are others, too, the reluctant feminists, who carry the mantle even if not the name.

Continue the conversation by spreading the word about the amazing feminists we cover on our show.

Happy 2014!

I hope this New Year brings you happiness, health and new adventures.

Last year, I decided that instead of making resolutions, I would pick one word that would guide me throughout the year.  The one word that spoke to me was EXPLORE.  And, this I did… in both my work and personal life.  I allowed myself time to get away and visit a few places I’ve never been … Orcas Island, Solana Beach, Hoover Dam, the Joshua Tree National Park .  It may sound like a cliché, but these places touched my soul.  There was a different feeling of engagement while exploring these beautiful locations … everything seemed different and interesting.  Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University, sees the benefits of vacationing as part of being mindful.  There might be some aspect of going to a new place that expands our memories in a youthful way and returns us home with more creative ideas.

For 2014, my one word is MINDFULNESS.  It’s the word that I will focus on every day, all year long.  I know that it will take intentionality, but it will provide me the compass that will guide my steps throughout the year.  Psychology Today defines it as; “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

I recently decided to explore and expand my knowledge of executive coaching by enrolling in the Master Coach Program through the Hudson Institute of Coaching.  In our first session, Mindfulness came up as a practice with many benefits.  As I continue on my journey this year, I realize that in my coaching work, I serve as a catalyst for human change … encouraging reflection to create more meaningful lives.  How can I help individuals grow and develop?  I believe it will be through what I myself learn about mindfulness and growth this year.

Join me.  I encourage you to think of one word that could possibly make a difference in your life this year. One word that could transform your approach to work, leadership, or personal pursuits. What will your word be?

Michelle Sosinski
WCL President

What About My Needs!

Recently, I watched an Omega Institute for Holistic Studies live webcast “Strength, Courage and Wisdom” with TED icon Brené Brown and Zen priest Joan Halifax Roshi.

They were talking about finding your strength and how important it is to know your capacity and own it. I loved that Joan Roshi said, “Remember to take an in-breath.”  Then she posed the question “How can you take care of the world, if you don’t take care of yourself? You must love and show kindness to yourself.”

“The female identity is being a care-giver or a do-gooder,” added Brené Brown. The conversation went on that it’s unfortunate that if a woman does take that in-breath, in our culture she is viewed as narcissistic. What I pulled from that part is that to have power, we also need to take care of our needs and not care how others perceive us. Sometimes you have to enlist the help of others and put down that do-it-all shield.

Talk is cheap, right? To really do this, you have to overcome your fear of what others think or any other feelings of inadequacy that you harbor. For women, it takes courage to take some of those “in-breaths” in our lives. And to really have power, you have to be your true self and speak your own truth. You have to speak up for yourself. If you have a supportive family and friends, it may be a little easier to do this kind of woo woo stuff in your personal life, but what about at work?

A report by Accenture “The next Generation of Working Women (2012)” finds women are less likely to speak up than men.

I think a lot of women are afraid to take those “in-breaths” at work. It’s hard to shift out of that do-it-all-myself mode, or they are worrying about work politics and perceptions. When something needs to be done, even if it’s thankless work, I see women pick it up. As a result, I see a lot of really exhausted, frazzled women in high-tech—it’s no wonder they don’t speak up more.

But men do speak up. Early in my career I had a department manager who came to our remote office once a month. When he arrived everyone would line up at his desk and say, “I need you to sign my expense report, I need your input on this report, I need you to go visit this customer, and on and on.” This was his job. But one day half-way through the line he stood on his desk in our big open office and said, “You guys are so needy.” Then he screamed, “What about my needs!” He did this with humor, but he made his point.

After that people would approach his desk and say, “How’s it going? Can I help you with anything while you are in town? And would you sign my expense report?” It was a totally different dynamic. I actually got a lot more advice and input from him after this crazy episode, too. I learned that sometimes you have to speak up and state your terms.

Since then, every time I want to speak up, I stand on my desk (in my head, because I wear heels a lot!) and scream (also in my head) “What about my needs!”

While I’m in this ridiculous position, screaming in my head, my fears seem a little ridiculous too. It gives me courage to be true to myself and state my terms. And when I think about it: nothing terrible has happened. More often than not, I do get what I need!

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
-Coco Chanel

Kelli Gizzi
WCL Web and Social Media Director