Over the past twenty-seven years I’ve been quietly supporting women’s groups, just proceeding on what feels like the right thing to do.
That started with HAVEN, a women’s shelter in the Oakland (Greater Detroit) area, probably in 1985. My intent was to become a volunteer counselor, since they needed guys in that role. However, with the briefest of training I learned that I was way too wimpy to help in that manner.
Fundraising, well, I was able to help out there, agreeing to help set up fundraising events, one including the sale of artwork. All I remember clearly is that inhaling Windex fumes, not a good idea. Also, when visiting, I had to be escorted while in the shelter. The latter was the first time that the idea of boundaries really sunk in. There are always places where a person isn’t welcome, with good reason.
Over the past ten years, people have asked me to help out with a number of causes, focusing on social media and sometimes cash. The deal is that I get involved on a daily basis when that’s constructive, and otherwise, I respect boundaries, far as I can tell.
Since I know something about computers and a little about small business, my focus has been on helping girls and women in technology as much as I’m able.
In no particular order, the groups I’ve worked with include:
- The Womens’ Building in San Francisco
- Global Fund for Women
- Feminist Approach to Technology (New Delhi)
- Support for small businesswomen in the West Bank, via Kiva
In the spirit of respecting boundaries I’m very quiet, unless I think I’m being funny, but I try to keep that in check.
Recently, I’ve joined the Women in Public Service Project, started by Hillary Clinton. They’ve challenged me: Why is women’s leadership important to public policy and entrepreneurship? Why do you support women’s leadership as the next frontier?
Until then, I’d been winging it, just doing what felt right.
However, I guess I needed to better articulate it, so …
1. Fairness. Treat people like you want to be treated.
Personally, I’m a nerd, feel that life should be fair, that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and maybe to help run things.
Sure, life isn’t fair, but that won’t slow me down. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.
2. To generalize: Women listen and work with one another to brainstorm solutions. To speak lightly of that, consider the cultural stereotype, that women prefer to ask for directions whereas men often prefer to try to figure things out and then get lost.
Note to self: JUST LISTEN. That is, don’t ALWAYS attempt to solve the problem, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN. (Courtesy of “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen.)
3. “The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.” -Charles Malik
That is, we’re living in a very small period of tremendous social change, where the people who are best prepared, who have the best listening and cooperative skills should get their chance of running things. I don’t think we’ll see revolution, we’ll see a rebalancing of power, shifting from traditional sources of power (authority and money) to power based on the size and effectiveness of one’s network.
… and finally, to self, JUST LISTEN.