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Working Together

When I was in Chicago over the holidays, my mother told me that the Women’s March for Chicago will be called off this year. The official reason organizer’s have given is that they’ve already spent their energy and resources on a mid-term March to the Polls voting push, however, there’s a lot of speculation and controversy as to other reasons for the cancellation. I’ve also just read about a march in California being cancelled because of a lack of participation of women of color, which is just the tip of the iceberg of bigger issues around the fight for equality.

The cancellation of these events makes me sad for a couple of reasons. Coming together, as women and allies, to publicly stand up and stand together to say, “no more” and fight for equality, for all of us, is what the Women’s March symbolizes to me. This is what I think we say to the world by showing up. I understand that it is a complicated issue. The differences between the equality of what women of diverse backgrounds are fighting for is an entirely other kind of reality then what I live with. Looking at the wage gap of what women make compared to men makes this painfully obvious. Did you know that while white women make 81.3% of what men make, it’s much worse than that for black women (68%), and even worse for Hispanic women (62.2%)? While this is painfully wrong and must be addressed, these and many issues we all share would be better served by learning to listen to each other and work together as allies – not enemies. Cancelling events because people aren’t willing to work it out is disappointing.

What cancelling these Marchs says about women being able to work together also makes me sad. Every time I hear women talk about how hard it is to work with other women it makes my heart hurt. In business, people are often pitted against each other to “get ahead” and some women take this very seriously. Insecurities, fears and other emotions get stirred up and our worst tendencies come out. Competition is a patriarchal value, that we as women don’t have to ascribe to. We need to learn the matriarchal value of collaboration, focus on the vision, and learn to come together. Letting these values divide us have beaten down our efforts every single time. This is not the time to pull apart – this is a time to unify.

When we can’t unify, it costs us. It cost us the Equal Rights Amendment. This simple statement which says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” would have constitutionally protected the rights of women – and men. If women would have been able to come together in the 70s to address really big issues, like breaking down the barriers women face in achieving long-term economic self-sufficiency, imagine how much further along we’d be. We need to recognize that we’re never going to agree on everything – and understand that unity is not uniformity.

No one said working together was going to be easy. One of the things, that women who make things happen have in common is their feistiness. We are strong, opinionated, stubborn, mouthy broads who aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe to fight for what we believe. There are going to be clashes. That’s okay. Sometimes we’ll have to go with the consensus. But when we don’t get “our way,” it is not okay to take our wagon and go home. We must stay, support and contribute to the greater good and not get bogged down in the minutia that won’t matter in the long-run.

I’ve spent a lifetime working with these feisty women, starting with my own mother. I love it. Another thing women who make things happen have in common, is their passion for excellence, which inspires me. Part of what I love about being a member of the National Federation of Press Women/Wichita Professional Communicators, Heifers, and Chair of the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum has been the formidable women I’ve gotten to know and work with. I’ve learned a lot about how to work on these committees, so of course I have tips to share with you. I hope this will help your collaboration efforts for the greater good.

Speak your truth with respect. With this crowd, you’ve gotta be bold and ready to speak up to make your viewpoint known. No one may specifically ask you what you think, so when you have something important to say, be assertive enough to put it out there. The more concise you are, the more you’ll be listened to, so stick to key points that can be discussed.

Don’t make it personal. How information is given and received is important, so don’t make or take things personally. Personal attacks obviously don’t work in collaborations, so don’t go there. Probably too often, we read things into conversations and feel attacked, which may or may not really be the case. Whatever the truth is, it’s always better to let that stuff go. Afterall, being free of praise and criticism, to not care what other’s opinions are of you, is the secret to happiness. (Have you been to the Own Your Power class yet?)

Listen with love while others speak. One of the nicest, most respectful things we do for others is to truly listen to them. Not just think about what we’re going to say next. I believe what people most want is to just be heard, and it’s when people don’t feel they’re being heard that things go to extremes. This also means listening with an open mind, by suspending judgement or decisions until discussion ends.

Pick your battles. I’ve found that when things get argumentative, and they will, that I have to decide how important that fight is to me. Some people will argue, just for the sake of arguing. Usually it’s more important for that person’s need to feel “right,” leading to time wasting conversations over semantics and what-ifs on issues they may not even care about. Fight for what you feel strongly about and let the rest go.

Keep your eye on the vision. The most important thing is taking action to keep moving you closer to your goals. YOUR goals, not someone else’s. When you know where you’re headed, you can’t afford to let yourself get distracted by what other people are doing or think you should be doing. You decide your direction and how you’ll move through the world. We join organizations and collaborate with others for a reason, which becomes your vision for community work. Focusing on that, and what you hope will be achieved through your actions, is the best we can do.

I spoke in last year’s Women’s March, and this year I’ve been honored to serve on the committee to select speakers. I am excited that we have incredible speakers and entertainers lined up, and that we achieved our goal of inclusivity to look at the complicated issues of equality. The Women’s March Air Capital theme this year is Claim Your Voice and is on Saturday, January 19. We’ll gather at the Keeper of the Plains to start walking at 1 PM. If you don’t want to march, meet us at City Hall at 1:30 PM for the rally. Here’s an article that came out in the Eagle with more details.

I hope that you’ll come out for this important opportunity to show our unity. I’ll be at the rally and look forward to seeing you there.

We are stronger together,

Headmistress Jill

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