Several months ago, I attended a women business leaders networking/happy hour event. A friend had forwarded me the invite, and I figured, hey, why not? It was actually a bit comic as the event was being thrown by an internal group at Target corporate, and I’m 99% sure I was the only non-Target employee present. I crashed a Target party, you guys. Luckily everyone was LOVELY and didn’t make fun of me. At least, not to my face.
The networking event was a follow-up to a lunchtime presentation by the president of the White House Project, Tiffany Dufu. I wasn’t aware of the luncheon and therefore couldn’t crash it, which bums me out as the White House Project is utterly amazing and I would’ve loved to hear Dufu’s speech. Luckily, she attended the networking event and although she only said about four sentences, one of them is still resonating within me.
She said that whenever she speaks to or with a gathering of women, she asks them to consider inviting other women to lead.
It’s an imperfect concept, of course. Imbued with privilege and the underlying assumption that all women can and want to lead. It also implies that, without invitation, women might not be brave enough to step up and lead on their own. But I still loved it. Because sometimes all it takes is one person reaching out and saying, “I’ve noticed that you’re smart and creative and amazing, and I think you could be great at X.” And because, all too often, we forget to talk about those things, praise each other, suggest growth opportunities, nudge. I remember all of the moments in my life when people reached out to me with words of encouragement and suggestions for new challenges. I’ve built my life on those moments. And Dufu gently reminded me to pay that forward.
Inviting a woman to lead can mean a thousand things because leadership can take a thousand forms. The traditional ones – politics, business, academics – are incredibly important and women’s voices are often underrepresented in these realms. But leading within a household or neighborhood, leading through creating bold works of art, leading by taking on more responsibility at the lab or on the farm or at the homeless shelter … all of these will have impact. All of these will empower individuals and have the potential to inspire other women. If you know a woman who has untapped potential, or a woman who seems frustrated by her lack of opportunities, or a woman who could make a real difference, reach out to her. Tell her what you see. If you don’t know her interests and skills, start a discussion. If you do, gently suggest how she might begin to build. You could transform her life’s path in the space of a single conversation.
I hope to live to see a world that invites more women to lead, a world in which women leaders help shape our collective future. And I plan to help make that world more possible by inviting other women to lead as often as I can.
Originally posted 2013-03-29 06:13:10.