I have lived in the reality of the ‘empowerment of women’ and elevating women’s voices and strengths my entire life; being paid to do it for most of my adult life as a non-profit administrator, a Board member and a consultant. It started when I insisted to my mother as a five year old that I be able to pick my own name (there were two other Susans in the class!), and continued by being a ‘tomboy’ in the 70’s and a young lesbian mom in the 80’s (long before gay rights was displayed by Billie Jean, Rosie, or Ellen).
My personal leadership development trainings and “occupations” have all been experiential and intuitively self-designed. ‘Work hard’, ‘be creative and positive’, ‘make it fun’, ‘stay connected to nature’ – these were the themes my siblings and I were raised on. Today I present myself as showering a ‘perfume of confidence’ on myself and others wherever and whenever I can.
I laughingly tell friends that I am the lesbian encouraging women to include men in the women’s rights movement. I share with clients that I am the Ellen Degeneres of women’s philanthropy – bringing humor, generosity of spirit and lightness to the intense work being done around women’s rights, safety, health, and access to power and money. I ask people to wonder why we call it “violence against women” and not “men behaving badly”. I challenge people to think of ways to feed their body and spirit; especially while doing difficult social, systemic or cultural change work. I am a 50-year-old bridge builder who stands in several camps and brings interesting conversations forward – especially around money and why we invest it where and how much is enough.
I own my basketball point guard attitude of setting the stage, the tempo and directing people who are ‘larger’ or in positions of power even when it might be difficult for us both. As my work has been focused on women and girls over three decades of movement building, I have tried to instill a sense of ‘pride’ in women – whether they are a 300 pound weight lifter, an intern, a Board member, a CEO of a start-up, an artist, or a philanthropist. This practice can be done via a “BRAG” exercise or reading a leadership manifesto. Often this helps people articulate more clearly what value they are bringing to the world/work/organization.
My vision is that our future will be a place where women easily embrace and publicly state what they have ‘done’ in the world in a way they feel comfortable with and /or state what they believe with ease (and without apology!). Wouldn’t it be magical if we were to state what we have done, what we value and what we believe as frequently and as well as we discuss our feelings or how much we care for others in our lives? I believe that we need to do both if we are to experience and others are to see our authentic selves.