March: home to Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. This tradition has been around in one form or another since 1909 and focuses on amplifying the hisherstories of sheroes who helped to shape a more female-friendly world.
While I am grateful for the grandmothers who gave everything to provide opportunities for girls like me, I often think about this time of year as a chance to set our sights forward. And where better to watch our future leaders grow than at HOBY?
As a HOBY alumna and volunteer, I have watched as a space that was once all male (HOBY accepted their first female ambassadors 14 years after its founding) shift into a space that, in 2018, was over 60% female. Look momma, we made it!
But if experience has taught me anything, it’s that simply holding a majority does not magically equal equity. I’ve seen the posts, posters, and t-shirts that proclaim “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE” but I have to admit, I disagree. As much as I support women stepping into leadership roles across the globe, this is a movement–which means, it’s time to move forward (again). Now, the future is not female; the future is feminine.
Being a Girl Boss
When I was 15-years-old, I sat in a hotel banquet hall and heard a message that no one had ever told me before: I was a leader. They said I could change my world and the world around me. And thanks to that weekend at HOBY, I’ve spent the last 18 years in pursuit of that dream.
But at the time, no one mentioned that things might be different for me than the boys that sat on either side of my chair. Despite success as an elected student leader, I rounded out my remaining high school years being known as the ‘bossy’ girl with an ‘emotional’ side. I spent four years in college learning how to be taken seriously when my smarts were simplified to ‘sassiness’ and my assertions recognized as ‘attitude.’ When I led, I pushed through with passion, determination, and strategy. But as I grew both as a woman and a leader, I constantly came back to one fact: I am treated differently than my male peers.
I’m a grown-up gal these days and have been fortunate enough to take my lived experience and turn it into my life’s work. I’ve written a thesis about it, I donate my time to empower fellow girls and women, and I co-founded a girls leadership organization with fellow HOBY alumnae.
But I am the least of it. There are women all around the world-shattering glass ceilings, powering the polls, and vowing to end violence against women. The to-do list is VERY long, and every day I see reasons why we must keep working to create a world that is ready to embrace the value of women AND what we represent.
Lead Like a Lady
For a long time, the tenets of leadership have embraced patriarchal patterns that assert power, competition, objectivity, and single-minded focus as the hallmarks of a “good” leader. However, at HOBY, we march to a different drum. We value service, diversity, and partnership and we teach it through a curriculum designed to allow ambassadors to identify how to offer their unique abilities to a community and a cause they believe in.
As leaders, I invite fellow HOBY alumni of all gender identities to embrace not just our organizational values, but to recognize opportunities to adopt what historically has been known as ‘feminine’ leadership skills. Though all genders have always been equally capable of these qualities, society usually tells us to push them aside. This March, focus on one or more of the following skill sets to improve your feminine leadership skills:
- Listening: Celeste Headlee shares a hilarious and inspiring TED talk on how to have a better conversation.
- Inclusivity: watch and listen to snippets of stories from people just like us in this quick youtube video and think about ways you can be more inclusive in your community.
- Vulnerability: though vulnerability is often seen as weakness, author Brene Brown shows you how to transform that discomfort into power.
- Communication: we all strive to be better listeners and communicators, but do you know who you are most likely to miscommunicate with? Listen to this 2-minute podcast and find out.
- Empathy: learning about other people’s stories can make us more empathetic.The Humans of New York photo series shares photos and quotes from individuals around the world, building our understanding of others along the way.
- Collaboration: scroll through this relatively quick how-to from Fast Company on how to be a better collaborator and teammate.
HOBY taught me that the best way to change the world is to start with changing ourselves. Women’s History Month started over 100 years ago to protect women’s rights and foster better lives for women. This year, celebrate by finding a way to empower yourself and strengthen your leadership skills.
Angie Magazino is a 2001 Eastern PA and WLC alumna and current HOBY volunteer. She lives and works in Washington, DC, USA, where she spends her days teaching technology to government employees and her weekends in search of the best gluten-free brunch in town. You’ll likely catch her either snuggling her pup, experimenting with her new air fryer or on a HOBY call, seemingly trying to make her phone carrier regret giving her an unlimited plan. She is (obviously) a proud feminist educator who seeks opportunities to empower all genders to foster a more equitable and safe society.
More than 450 students from 14 countries participate in WLC each year, including Argentina, Albania, Mexico, Turkey, China, Spain, Bolivia, Taiwan, Korea, and the United Kingdom. Students leave the WLC feeling empowered and equipped with the leadership skills they need to reach their goals and make meaningful contributions to society. As the global aspect on HOBY’s Pathway to Leadership, the WLC is a weeklong program designed to empower high school juniors and seniors to become mature, cognizant leaders and active global citizens. Click to learn more about how you apply to attend the WLC.