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Women Marching at the Women's March in Washington DC

Whatever the Leadership Challenge… Women Have the Answers

As we reflect on the contributions of women in our nation and the world during pivotal movements of tumult and change, we must acknowledge that in 2017 the world is at a critical juncture.  There are decisions before our political, economic, educational, health, and environmental systems that will have significant impact on generations to come.  I suggest that whatever the issues–women are an invaluable resource for bringing effective solutions.  What is needed today are holistic solutions, and there is ample evidence from the behavioral and social sciences that women tend to think more holistically.  Women explore not only the presenting issue, but the underlying factors causing the conditions and its systemic impact on all involved (Gilligan, 1982).  Noted black feminist scholar Robnett (1996) determined that during times of civil unrest, such as the American Civil Rights Movement, women leaders served as bridge leaders–a bridge for others’ understanding and interpreting to others, and between others, in multiple and often complicated contexts over time (Horseford, 2012).

Doug Paxton, Deborah Richardson, and Marguerite Welch during the 2017 Commencement.

For the benefit of creating a world that values equity and justice, I suggest a call to action for women this year is to make HERstory by modeling how to make decisions and create actions for inclusive democracy.  Inclusive democracy is when we take time to listen to each other and realize that we share a common human experience that is rooted in both our desires and fears.  It is through dialogue that we come to an awareness of how we may align, rather than continuing to drive a wedge through our differences.  I challenge women to make HERstory by exerting leadership

in dialogues by releasing our assumptions about those with divergent views and different life circum

stances which leads to us in identifying them as The Other, and instead honor our shared humanity by caring about One Another.  A call for HERstory is not just a call to women, it is also a call for men to think more holistically, to build bridges relationally and to partner, as women have been doing for millennia.

Deborah Richardson giving her keynote speech during the 2017 commencement ceremony.

In every faith tradition, and social justice doctrine, there is clarity that our best strategy for sharing this world in harmony is when we:

  • Do unto others as you have others do unto you (Christian).
  • Hurt not others in ways that you will find hurtful (Buddhism)
  • Treat others as they would like to be treated. (Platinum Rule)
  • No one of you is a believer until he/she desires for his/her brother/sister that which he/she desires for himself/herself. * (Islam)
  • What is hateful to you, do not do to another person.  This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (Judaism)
  • Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them. (Sojourner Truth)

Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sets the stage:

  • All people are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…  This is the inter-related structure of reality. *

(* quotes edited for gender inclusiveness)

HERstory is made by shifting from exclusive decisions where there are winners and losers to finding inclusive decisions that are win-win.  Dialogue leads to new understanding, which opens minds and hearts to honor the light and goodness in one another.  Let’s make HERstory this year in leading the shift of both our thoughts and practices; our communities, nation and the world will benefit greatly from the inclusive solutions that we will come to offer.

Gratitude/Photo Credit

Author’s Bio

Deborah Richardson is Senior Advisor for Partner Engagement with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.  She is a 2012 graduate of the Masters in Leadership program at Saint Mary’s College and currently a doctoral candidate in Public Policy and Social Change, with a concentration in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Nonviolence Studies, as well as a Women and Gender Studies Concentration at Union Institute and University. Richardson is the keynote speaker for the 2017 Commencement, check out her speech.

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  • Tammy

    Deborah’s speech was action oriented, engaging and inspiring!