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Empowerment Inspires Inclusion: Happy International Women’s Day 2024

Celebrate International Women's Day 2-24 ... the power of an "and" mindset.

If you want to influence policies, challenge harmful stereotypes, and create more inclusive environments for women, we need more men engaged including on this International Women’s Day (IWD)! Aradhana Khowala

Last night, I witnessed a man who understands that life requires an "and" mindset to bring equality, inclusion, and the amplifying effect of unity to evoke the best ideas and solutions to create a world that works for all. Thank you, US President Joe Biden, for your choice to lead. In 1964, I was five years old and engaged in my first experience of political empowerment. My mother was a fantastic role model in learning early how to think critically, engage in conversation, tap into passion, and care about the world. My mother and father were proud registered Republicans, active in the community and the issues of our city, county, state, and nation. As President Biden said last night, "Women are not without electoral or political power." Unfortunately, it was not true at the beginning of our great nation. It would take 144 years to get the 19th Amendment ratified and give women the right to vote, and many men, including famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas, passionately supported the suffragists.

At five, my first opportunity to contribute was to earn my "SSS" badge – stuff, stamp, and seal 5,000 envelopes for a campaign letter to raise money for a candidate for state Governor. With all the letters folded, every envelope licked, stamps applied, and everything sorted by zip code, I proudly brought the box upstairs to applause and hugs. To be included and acknowledged for my capability and learning how our government works inspired a heart for civics that has sustained throughout my life. Over time, I've witnessed many evolutions in my thinking about how best to generate solutions that support every person's right to dignity and a satisfying and safe life. Today, I am a registered Democrat because I am fiercely committed to an "and" mindset and want to find more local, county, state, and national representatives who align with my values. That's a freedom I exercise that every citizen in America has too – it is our democratic system that invites all women and men to participate, freely express their voice, and be included in shaping our world. 

Another line from the State of the Union oration last night took my breath away to hear a man, our US President, declare, "End the scourge against women in America." I only wished he'd said, 'In the world.' Dignity is a birthright and a responsibility that everyone on the planet has to ensure respect for each person's right to exist and live with dignity. Critical thinking and discernment are very important to evoke all ideas, leaning into our different perspectives and being open to weaving and transforming our opinions into a unified commitment to solutions that serve our communities, nations, and planet. There is always more than one right, feasible, and valuable answer to any circumstance. By definition, we'll create tension because of the differing viewpoints ~ that are inherent to the creative process. When was the last time you learned something without a little bit of a sandpaper moment that felt uncomfortable and challenged your habits, preferences, assumptions, and biases? Like, last hour, multiple times a day? 

The reason to invite many different perspectives ~ diversity ~ isn't because it's the policy or law or even just a good idea someone has. Our work today, when compared to any time we've been alive, is more complex and uncertain. By the last count, human knowledge is doubling every 12 hours. It's no longer possible for one person to see the whole – we need each other, speaking and sharing and building synergy together if we want to make optimal choices. Including the "usual suspects" in our workplace network is easy and insufficient. Indeed, innovative gold arises when we ask questions and invite perspectives from those not around us all the time. Women and men, ideating, debating, and collaborating will also generate more optimal solutions than dividing or operating by excluding those who are different by any facet of identity.

We cannot harness what we do not allow ourselves to hear, understand, and translate into something mutually beneficial. Here's a way to practice when emotions are not running high and we are alone with our thoughts. In the spirit of my theme for International Women's Day 2024, I challenge every man reading this blog to experiment with this 'empty chair' exercise by placing a woman they love and respect in the empty chair so you can listen, hear, and be delighted by a point of view, that both surprises and strengthens you and your ideas.

Here's a P.S. I do this exercise regularly, placing men I am inspired by, respect, and lean into for learning and support. I am always better for it and pick up the phone to express my gratitude. Thank you to all the men who have empowered me to be a powerful woman. We, all global citizens, are so much better together.

Happy International Women’s Day 2024 

Janet M. Harvey, MCC

Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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