As we celebrate Women’s History Month, City Hope has been highlighting the work of the wonderful women who make up our team. While I look forward to a day when there’s no longer a need for Women’s History Month, a day when not only our contributions to the world but our very presence is valued, embraced, and recognized year round, for now the month of March provides space to look ahead and not only envision it, but plan for that future.
Reflecting on my own leadership journey, one lesson that stands out to me is how liberating it’s been to find and use my voice. This has been difficult given that our society (i.e. our schools, faith communities, and workplaces) routinely assesses leadership ability by its proximity to male characteristics. Often as women, and especially as women of color, we’ve been instructed to shape-shift, to make our voices smaller and take up less space. And yet this makes belonging - and genuine leadership - impossible.
It is for this reason that my favorite City Hope value is ‘Listening Well’. Listening cultivates belonging. It says, “I am committed to seeing you, to hearing you and believing you, to learning from you. I will make room so you can be who you are.”
When I think of Women’s History Month I think less of the past and more about how we can get to that place of belonging for all women, in all spaces. The most rewarding part of my current role as Co-Director of City Hope is being in a position to create that space of belonging, especially for those whose voices have historically been minimized. For me this looks like investing in their professional development, providing opportunities to cultivate their voice and leadership, and intentionally creating more equitable work policies and structures.
What can you do in your spaces - big or small - to create belonging for women, for women of color, for queer and trans women? And if those words describe you, what do you need in order to feel like you belong? What does it look like to unapologetically voice those needs?
If COVID has reinforced anything for me, it’s that life is incredibly precious. Not just in a general sense but in the specifics. Your everyday life matters; you deserve to live it in a space of belonging. Now is the time to find your voice and your space. Now is our time as a society to make space for women to truly belong, everywhere. This Women’s History Month let’s look ahead together. Today is the day we can start shaping a future of belonging.
Peace and grace,
Co-Director, City Hope