We Need Women in Leadership Roles, Including the Home

Have you ever heard of the “Mommy wars?” It’s the sad, judgemental insecurity-laden false narrative that pits mothers against each other to see who can be the best.

Homebirth or hospital birth, breastfeed or bottlefeed, preschool or not, work outside the home, work in the home (something EVERY woman does, of course) or do outside work from home, pursuing a college education after marriage or kids, lots of kids, no kids or just a few kids, political involvement, PTA or PTO involvement, homeschool, public school, private school or charter school. Why is it that some people think there is only one right answer for how to be a mom?!

I don’t think there is. I think it’s fabulous we have choices and I don’t presume to have the answers for how other people should raise their families. I’m grateful that my idea of motherhood involved adopting 20 children to add to the four that joined us by birth and I am also fully aware that none of my children (so far) feel like that is their path. I’m excited that they are all anxious to pursue their own course in life, wherever that may lead.

In the same way we see the “Mommy wars” play out when people are insecure in their own choices, I think we also see “leadership wars” – especially when it comes to women in leadership. Somehow, it turns into a competition with each other, when really, it should be a competition with ourselves to be the best self possible.

“But I’m not a leader!” is a cry often heard from women. It’s not just anecdotal. That attitude is born out by recent research by Dr. Susan Madsen. Dr. Madsen found that “There are many girls and women in the state of Utah believing they should not, cannot, be leaders. They believe that’s not their role.”

I beg to disagree – women are inherently good leaders!

We Need Women in Leadership Roles, Including the Home
Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book

Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book recently addressed an audience of thousands of women and shared with them her conviction that women are born to lead and born to influence.

Ms. Dew, a well-known speaker and business leader, told the crowd that a good leader does not need to know everything, that the best leaders surround themselves with great people, are always learning and serving and that they engender trust from those that follow them.

Does that not sound like a mother?

Leaders are optimistic, she said, and help others do more and become more than they can do on their own. Leaders are courageous and kind and they look for ways to lift others, even while asking them to do hard things. “It’s easier to motivate someone to do something difficult than something easy,” she said. “We have an inherent need to progress. There is nothing inspiring about the status quo. No one is happy living beneath themselves. One of the strongest of human desires is to feel useful. “

Every woman who has ever coached, prodded, cajoled and helped a child live up to their full potential knows what this is like. We can and should be powerful leaders within our own homes. Our children need to see examples of strong women leaders and their very first example should be their mother.

Being a mother and leading in our own homes does not preclude women from leading in other ways.

We Need Women in Leadership Roles, Including the Home
Becky Lockhart, former Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives

Former Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, gave an interview shortly before her death and said: “There’s something to the visual, actually seeing a woman as Speaker. There’s something powerful to that because other young girls and women say, ‘I can do that now because I’ve actually seen one.”

That is leadership. That is powerful.

Former state Senator Pat Jones is the CEO of the newly formed “Women’s Leadership Institute,” an organization aimed at helping corporations add more women to their corporate boards. In England, Helena Morrissey, Chief Executive at Newton Fund Management, a fund worth almost $100 billion, is working on a similar project – getting more women on corporate boards. Oh, and she has nine kids, too.

We Need Women in Leadership Roles, Including the Home
Pat Jones, former Utah state senator and CEO of the Womens Leadership Institute

That is leadership. That is powerful.

This week, 30 women from Utah, including the editor of Utah Valley Magazine, Jeanette Bennett, went to New York to speak up for motherhood at a UN event and to work to have family included in the post-2015 UN agenda.

That is leadership. That is powerful.

My friend Carrie Ann is a single mother and cancer survivor who greets each day with a smile and radiates optimism. I’ve never met anyone who loved life as fully as Carrie Ann.

That is leadership. That is powerful.

My friend Monica has buried two daughters, victims of a devastating degenerative neurological disorder and still found the strength to become a foster mother, opening her heart and home to wounded children.

That is leadership. That is powerful.

My friend Cydney served as PTA president at her children’s school and that community involvement led her to run for and win a seat on the city council.

That is leadership. That is powerful.

My friend Laura lost a daughter to suicide. She has been open in sharing her grief journey and in helping parents and teens work together to prevent even one more suicide, all while knowing she can’t reach them all.

That is leadership. That is powerful.

The list of women leaders that I know could fill pages. Most will never be in the public eye, most will never serve on big corporate boards, but all of them exert powerful influence on the lives of people around them.

This world, this nation, this state and this community need women to step up, speak out and lead.

I recently heard Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad say: “I have found my cause. Now go find yours.”

When we as women become secure in our own leadership abilities, when women claim our inherent gifts of leadership and influence, when we find our cause, we will be unstoppable.

And we will change the world.

Originally published in the Daily Herald. 

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