A few weeks back the New York Times Magazine laid out a beautiful and bold series of stories making the case for investing in women. In the anchor story, Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDUNN explain:
"There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution."
Later in the article, the authors make another strong statement -- describing the "dirty little secret" that women manage poverty differently, and more productively, than their male counterparts. If it were not for the oodles of research that makes this a probability rather than a stereotype, we'd be in head deep in a "sexist" controversy for reprinting it here; however, the evidence is there and it points to the similarities of our stories, as women. To steal a phrase from my friend and colleague, "it's what women do."
Yet, if the Maine Women's Fund has learned anything in the last year of storytelling, it's that women are very different, and will often balk at the "generalizations" that group them into one category or another. Which is why our own story is about culling the truths and common values from an immense amount of differences.
In a few weeks, together with Pierce Atwood, the Maine Women's Fund is hosting a leadership discussion that digs deep into the common thread of leadership through our remarkable differences. Our stake in the ground is that leaders are the women who create vision, engage others in service of that vision, and hold themselves accountable for the best possible outcomes." And from that commonality, we dig into the colorful diversity that make for compelling and provocative stories:
- The entrepreneur driven from the get go to be the best
- The innovator who creates opportunity
- The connector who plays big by owning what she knows and affirming the feminine
In November, we continue to honor this theme through the launch of our new Women's Leadership Series. Open to the public and facilitated by expert members of our community, we explore the common thread of women's strength, power, and possibility through our own diverse perspectives and experiences. Together, we'll think about the leaders we are today, and the leaders we want to be tomorrow.
Tomorrow night, a new season of the New Girls Network kicks off in Portland and Bangor, followed on Wednesday by programs in Lewiston/Auburn and Midcoast, then Waterville on Thursday. While I may get the uncontrollable giggles about the program's demand being so wide and so disburse, the true power of this expansion of this program lies in bringing the "differences" of women in their twenties and thrities, from rural and urban communities across Maine into our philanthropic decision-making.
What will these differences yield? Better outcomes, I'm sure; but what outcomes exactly is a story still unfolding.