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  • Molly Lee

Journey to Gaia Women Lead


Thanks to scholarships from The Gaia Project For Women's Leadership and the NWGSD Board Development Fund, I was thrilled to be able to attend Gaia Women Lead in Santa Barbara, Ca. The theme was "Beyond Resistance: Heroines, Change and Building the Future." It was a remarkable 2.5 days of networking, listening, learning and resisterhood. It was held at a beautiful hotel with gorgeous views. When I arrived for the opening reception I felt sad to go inside and was delighted to find out that the reception was outside overlooking the ocean! What a treat. While we nibbled on hors d'oeuvres and sipped drinks, we made new friends. There was a great sense of excitement in the air for the coming days' program. Everyone did a great job of trying to meet and chat with as many people as possible during that time.

Day 1 Opening Circle was led by Lindsay Pera, I always appreciate when homage is paid to the land that we stand on and the native people and cultures that came before us. Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin (ECM), the founder and truly fearless leader of The Gaia Project For Women's Leadership was next up and she compared the traditional hero's journey in classical mythology and literature to the heroine's journey that we are all on. "We are standing on a precipice," is a fierce rally cry for me and for everyone in the room. She compared the hero's journey of going off to war, fighting and winning and then returning to share his gifts. She said women learn more cyclically and share what we have learned and support each other along the way. That's what NWGSD is all about!

The first keynote of the day was Dr. Kira Hudson Banks. Wow. I could have listened to her all day. Thankfully I can- she has a YouTube channel and I encourage you to check it out. Based in St. Louis, she served as a consultant to the Ferguson Commission and Forward Through Ferguson and has worked on racial equity and discrimination for 20 years.

She summarized Kimberly Crenshaw's coining of the term "intersectionality" and the history of feminism. We are in the 4th wave of feminism where intersectionality becomes a mainstream idea. Intersectionality is they key to dismantling oppression. We need to keep doing the work and centering those that are at the margins. We need to listen and support their leadership. We really have to prepare to engage in conflict to make change. Don't run from the discomfort, don't be afraid to say the harsh things- do the work!

Bari Tessler Linden, a financial therapist, followed with a keynote about "Money Koans." Using the term "koan" as a metaphor for money work. "A paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment." She suggests a meditative thought process to bring you through these puzzles of life. Acknowledge that you're in a money koan and ask yourself new creative questions and stay in those questions with intention and perseverance.

After two fantastic, thoughtful speakers in a row they presented a panel, "Women in Everyday Activism" with ECM as Chair and Keisha Shields, Julie Lieberman Neale and Dr. Felice Blake. My main takeaways and thoughts:

1) How your story affects your rise to activism. The cost of telling your story vs not telling it. The impact of the voice that each of us has and where that voice is going to take us next.

2) Using your privilege to amplify and tell stories. Getting white men to stand up. The work we are doing now- we may not live to see the fruition!

Phew- lunch break- I've written tons of notes by now and I couldn't help ponder- if HRC were President- would we all be here in this room?

The afternoon panel "Tools for Activist Leadership in the Corporate World" was chaired by Jennifer Brown with Nikki Innocent and Natasha Lamb. My top two thought provokers were

1) Gender pay gap: Women get 80 cents for very dollar a man makes- but it's 60 cents for Black women and 55 cents for Latin women. We still have so far to go! We need to get greater diversity into leadership. Sexual harassment is a symptom of an unhealthy eco-system. Thanks to #MeToo for giving women the courage to speak out.

2) "You have to see it to be it." 50% closeted in the workplace. So sad to think how many people are living in different worlds at home and at work.

As if our hearts and brains weren't overflowing, the last keynote of the day was Collette Flanagan from Mothers Against Police Brutality. Collette's only son, Clinton Allen, (a father of 2) was shot by a Dallas policeman in 2013. Again, the power of our privilege was mentioned. She said don't be afraid to be white- justice belongs to everyone and whites need to use their power. "Justice is what love looks like in public." No matter how many times you read the stats it's still a punch in the face. Cops are 20% more likely to shoot a POC. We have to swim against that tide of injustice. She discussed her own grief and all the other mothers and families' lives that are altered by police brutality. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. One attendee stood up and announced she had started a fundraiser for MAPB in the conference Facebook group and urged us all to donate immediately. Wallets came out. It was a perfect ending to a remarkable day of speakers, panelists, new friends and knowledge.

Stay tuned for a more on the Heroine's Journey and a recap of Day 2.

More info on all of these amazing presenters or ECM.



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