By Kathy Coffey, LSC Executive Director
More than five million women marched across the world in solidarity on January 21st. From all the signs I read, there were nearly as many reasons for taking part as there were people.
Regardless of your gender, political affiliation, race, cultural background, or socio-economic status, chances are that YOU want to make a difference. You want your kids to grow up in a world that is safe and accepting. You want access to education. You want to be able to speak freely, find reliable news sources, and practice the religion or spiritual practice of your choice.
In Snohomish County, of course, we want all of these things – and within that landscape, we want to grow community leadership. We want to foster strong, diverse, informed leaders who can take on the issues effectively. So last year, we asked the community this question:
Are the barriers to leadership in Snohomish County different for women and men?
LSC collected data from more than 300 individuals – black, white, native, Latina, male, female, straight, gay – through a survey and focus groups. The information yielded mirrored that of our state and county.
Without intentional practices and strategies in place, many organizations unconsciously fail to support up and coming talent, simply because those professionals are female. When decision makers look to promote, proximity and familiarity can play a role.
When asked what the most helpful thing would be to develop as a leader, 57% stated that good coaching, mentoring, support (including peer support); and having an advocate were the keys to overcoming barriers.
So, relationships are key.
Relationships were also the top consideration of both the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition report and the Statewide Capacity Plan’s Leadership report.
At LSC, I have found an outlet in the work of empowering individuals to find their voices. Learning about where they live. Working in an act of Civic Leadership. Serving those of different means with community impact projects. [Our classes this year have partnered with 25 non-profits, government agencies, and businesses!]
What will you do next? I have a few ideas to share.
Here are three actions you can take to engage locally and make a difference.
1. SHARE. GIVE. RECEIVE.
Since relationships matter so much: don’t just share on Facebook. Share your time, your passion, your expertise, in real life. Mentor someone. Mentor a peer. Mentor a student. A favorite quote from Mother Teresa reminds us how fundamental this is. “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other’” she said.
2. TRANSLATE MOMENTUM TO ACTION AND PASSION TO KNOWLEDGE
Take time to become informed. Allow knowledge to empower your voice. Wherever your passion and interests lie – be it immigrants rights, equal pay, peace and security, reducing violence against women – do your research. What organizations or networks are active in these spheres? Learn about related legislative issues on a state and national level. Know who your representatives are and contact them. Use your voice and time by volunteering, sharing what you’ve learned, or fundraising.
3. FIND LOCAL EVENTS TO GROW YOUR COMMUNITY
Here’s one that Leadership Snohomish County is bringing to Snohomish County on April 28th.
STEP UP: Understanding and Implementing Racial Equity
Save the Date for an all-day community event convened to build understanding and context and create tools to use in your life and work to foster an equitable environ. It starts with you.
Stay Engaged. Reach Out. Build Community.