Hardiness Zones for Women
Posted June 8th, 2010
Sometimes it’s really lonely being a woman leader, isn’t it? I have found this to be true in my own experience and hear it echoed time and time again among the women leaders in my practice. And it’s no wonder why: we live in a society that tends to be obsessed with pitting women against each other. This is more than a little disturbing because – when you really look at it – it is just not in our nature to attack each other. So this loneliness? It’s a product of our culture. There’s even a name for it: internalized sexism.
Having seen (and sadly, taken part in) this dynamic with women during my corporate career and as I watch the proliferation of media that swirls around us, I can despair at how women can be their own worst enemies. Then I participated in a Hardy Girls Healthy Women training on creating Hardiness Zones for girls and felt a light bulb of hope turn on inside me.
Hardiness Zones for middle school girls, which is based on the research of Lyn Mikel Brown, is about a creating a safe community for girls to be allies for each other in an otherwise “toxic soil”. Adopting a strength-based approach, the girls in these coalition groups examine their experiences, realities and reactions so they are able to gain perspective on them and, ultimately, make choices that give them control. In these groups, girls are not necessarily friends with each other, but respect each other enough to tell the truth, validate and stand by one another. Research has shown it works. More than that, it’s just plain inspiring.
So what if there were Hardiness Zones for women? Different than a social gathering, affinity group, or mentoring programs, these would be strategic and diverse coalitions of women in the workplace designed to support women in being allies for one another. Far from another diversity program or a “fix the women” initiative, this group would be a place where other women could validate and help you to name what you’re feeling or experiencing. Imagine anger being seen as a strength for creating change instead of a personal weakness? Imagine looking around and seeing you’re not alone? What if you felt other women standing with you as you fortified yourself to resist the status quo and push for change? What if you had a place in which to process how it went with like-minded women who cared?
How might your experience as a leader be different? What might you be cabable of then?