Well, that’s an excellent question.
Most simply, I believe we can change culture by giving people tools to talk about it – to be intentional about what values are being amplified through our words and behaviours.
Culture’s one of those things that’s hard to put your finger on, though people can feel its impacts – at its simplest, it’s how people interact with one another, reflecting the values of that particular group.
One of the most frustrating experiences of my life has been being a woman in the professional world - and hearing other women’s experiences in the working world. Some of it is absolutely shocking.
I’m tired of going to conferences where the experts happen to be majority men. Of running a conference and needing to ask a man to leave for sexually harassing women. Of being bullied at work for not being nice enough or for being too nice. Of hearing about women being looked over, dismissed and harassed. Of seeing women pitted against each other to reinforce a scarcity mindset of success. Of my closest friend, who teaches at a prestigious university, needing to listen to a male colleague say that women aren’t good at math – despite another female friend running a hedge fund company… where I’m pretty sure you have to EXCEL at math. Of having every woman I’ve spoken with identify with the #MeToo movement in some uniquely personal way.
In reflecting on my core values over the last little while, I realized my deepest core value is justice. When I look back on all of my decisions, I see that they’ve all been filtered through that lens and I’m working to fully embrace it now that I see it. That realization, along with my experience, has led me to creating this project.
Sometimes other people can more succinctly capture what you’re trying to say. My friend Louise – a brilliant person whose work I deeply admire - captured what I wanted to achieve with Amplify in the tagline:
‘Inspiring women in Atlantic Canada: Not a supply problem’.
Yep. Not a supply problem.
The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of the, what feels like COUNTLESS, inspiring women in Atlantic Canada – to showcase to women and men how many there are and what they’re up to. It’s not a supply problem – it’s a mindset problem. We start to shift our mindsets by first being aware of them – and the values underlying them - and then talking and acting differently.
I’ve written down the names of 100 women who inspire me in Atlantic Canada – some of whom I know quite well and some who I don’t know at all. 100 women is barely the tip of the iceberg. While being a woman in the professional world has been frustrating, it’s also been the most rewarding experience of my life – to find female role models, peers and mentors to build each other up and make a lot change together.
My hope is that’s there’s no excuse at any regional conference in 2018 or beyond for not having diversity of perspectives on a panel (and not just gender diversity). That we move faster towards 50% of elected seats at all level of government being held by women. That we have 50% of board positions being held by women. One project like this isn’t enough to change all of that. But we all have a role to play, and I hope that this project will be one contributing factor in what feels like a cultural sea change that really got its legs last year.
To be clear, I have nothing against men. A lot of my mentors and influential role models have been men and I’m incredibly grateful for them. Part of this cultural change has to come from men – from unpacking notions of gender identify, to recognizing privilege, and to dismantling the ‘old boys club’. I’m not sure how much of that we’ll be able to take on with Amplify. There’s loads of room to affect positive change and part of my hope is that men also engage with this project – by telling us about the inspiring women they know and sharing their stories with others in their networks. Maybe we’ll even profile some men and hear about what they think of all of this. I don’t quite know how it will all play out, but I’m excited to get started.
Thanks to those who sent me your feedback directly or through the survey, and THANK YOU for telling me about all of the inspiring women you know. Please keep the names coming.