This is Tough Stuff

I love inspiring women. I love all (nice) people. I love (good) change.

I love inspiring women. On the side of my client work, I’ve dedicated my stewardship agenda to internal organizational change. I remember as an analyst asking about the women’s networking group and thinking it was kind of silly we needed one (work hard and you’ll get rewarded!). It wasn’t until the executive ranks where I saw the need a bit more clearly and dedicated my time to helping our leaders and organization tackle gender diversity challenges at the top.

In 2016, we got to cast our ballots for the first female presidential candidate. That is something remarkable.

I love all (nice) people. I came from a very small town (Roseau, MN) and remember freshman year, moving into the dorms and meeting Becca and Mike. Within the first week, it came out that they were Jewish and my mind was floored! I had never met a Jew before (seriously)! I spent the next week peppering them with asinine questions about their religion and traditions. I asked and asked and asked until I understood.

Growing up in a small town is special and I would not have given up that experience for anything. However, this experience from freshman year reminded me how sheltered we were and the learning curve that was ahead. Junior year, I interned at Penumbra Theatre, an African American Arts theatre, as a way to continue to build a diverse set of friends and family. I live in the middle of downtown Saint Paul to make sure I’m not sheltered from our state’s homeless problem.

In 2016, gays can marry. We have a long way to do with our race issues, but at least we are talking about implicit biases (that is NOT enough). And our country remains a beacon for all religions. We are blessed.

I love (good) change. I find it so invigorating to help my clients through a large change in their organization which is often scary, painful while going through it, and intimidating, but we almost always come out the other side better for it. The change we’ve seen in the last decade has been remarkable.

In 2016, all Americans can get healthcare. We have a long way to go to make it affordable, and it needs to change – but what a remarkable statement to make. It doesn’t feel like progress, but it is.

The Last 11 Days

Change is painstakingly slow and SO hard – yet, it’s been a era of celebrations for people like me at a speed we haven’t seen in a long time. So this abrupt stop – this threat to roll back all of the goodness – hits deeply. Heather Havrilesky (@hhavrilesky) explained my emotions best in one of the best articles I’ve read post-election.

I’m not humbled right now. “Humbled” implies that my ego took a small hit and now I’m ready to go. I’m fucking flattened. I am empty. I am on my hands and knees, and it all feels pointless most of the time. It does. ~Heather Havrilesky, Article

It takes a lifetime to see real improvements, and this hit has rolled back the clock… now we all wait to see how far. It’s like the old slogan, one step forward and two steps back. But because change is so slow, two steps back implies I won’t reach the same “destination” in my lifetime. I don’t need to get over that. I get to be hurt. 

Finding A Way Forward

I’m spending my energy in four spaces.

1) I’m there for my teaching friends. Every single one has told me this was “the worst week in their professional career.” The tears, fears, and conversations that were required were heartbreaking. We all owe our teachers so much for helping our children process emotions and fear.

2) I watch the appointments. Obama’s 2nd term cabinet by the numbers1

  • By Gender: 36% female (This is good at this leadership level!)
  • By Race: 17 white, 3 black, 1 Hispanic, 1 Asian American

Although what the appointees stand for and their qualifications are the most critical things, diversity of the cabinet will also be a barometer I use to determine how far the clock is going back.

3) I watch our president elect’s behavior.

He has now spent significantly more time reprimanding the Hamilton cast than he has spent
reprimanding the loads of hateful and racist activities that have happened since he was elected. It took a one-minute request to love all people from hard working Americans to get under his skin. I think this, plus the hiring of a white nationalist for Chief Strategist, validates the cast’s concerns about his ability to be everyone’s president.

I’m starting to read up on how to keep a sharp mind in an era of oppression. I wasn’t alive when Hitler came to power, but from studying history – it started with fake news, fear, and talk of registries. I don’t take the Trump to Hitler reference lightly, but it’s always on my mind and his actions in the last ten days have not eased that concern.

4) I will keep fighting for our girls.

It will start by writing a letter for the Little Miss POTUS program. I will also continue having tough conversations with adult men and women about how to support women like me, who are fighting daily to change the demographic of leaders in this country. We will never have a more qualified candidate than HRC, so unless we find an incredibly charismatic woman, I think I missed my opportunity to see a female president in this lifetime. Hopefully Vivianne gets to see one in hers.

1 Source; Washington Post Article


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