We Need Women’s Leadership Now, More Than Ever
For the last four years, we’ve been quietly sharing the Startup Parent philosophy with every conversation and every working parent we come across. Each time I whisper it, people tell me they grab it, write it down, share it with friends. We’ve now plastered it on mugs and we’re working on postcards and sweatshirts and more.
Here’s one of our core philosophies:
We don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done.
But this week, in the wake of steadily escalating provocation, attacks, and violence at the hands of people purported to be “leaders,” we know this isn’t enough as a question. Instead, it’s a mission statement and a call to action. We must to do things differently in order to get different results. We can’t keep living life the way it’s always been done and expect change to happen.
It’s up to us to figure out the new world of work, the path forward in parenting, and to build the world we want to live in.
Here at Startup Parent, we believe the next generation of leaders will come from the world of working parents, especially working mothers, who stand up and pioneer new ways of working and living.
But how do you become the leader that the world needs? What can you do, as an individual who is struggling inside of the chaos and overwhelmed by parenting, working, and of course, this effing pandemic?v If you feel lost, overwhelmed, confused, or scared—know that it’s okay for you to show up wherever you are, how you are.
Our leadership philosophy starts with the whole person.
We need to show up as our full selves—complete with partnership challenges, marriage struggles, parenting snafus, fertility disappointments, bodily needs, career goals, and more. We won’t grow into the fully capable, brave, and spirited leaders the world needs if we keep shoving these parts of ourselves into hiding.
Your leadership potential is directly tied to living into the entirety of the life you are living. When you go through these growth opportunities, whether it’s living through a pandemic, or being postpartum, or bringing a new human into your family, or navigating a career setback—these are the moments that reveal who we are and how we show up, and who we can become. It’s when you examine the fullness of your life, when you share your truth alongside other people, that we can begin to create new futures.
Don’t leave yourself behind.
But the world of work largely ignores these very real puzzles, asking us to leave all of these growth opportunities behind closed doors and rigid routines because we are terrified of mixing family and work, and we are still clinging to the outdated idea of “traditional” family structures and patriarchal power systems.
We’re suffering as a result: this pandemic has revealed how critical caretaking is to basic economic functioning. But by keeping work, community, and family so segregated, and by asking people to shut down their emotional selves in pursuit of so-called rational thinking, our very leadership potential and leadership capacities are stifled.
Your feelings and your access to the messy reality you live in—right here, right now—are essential for your ability to lead.
So if you’re feeling stuck, or frozen, or scared, or overwhelmed, or confused about what to do—it might be because our leadership paradigms don’t model for us how to use empathy, self-awareness, and compassion as tools to connect. The modern work and power structures tell women that something’s wrong with us for feeling the way we feel. Let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with you for having reactions, emotions, and responding to the world around you. Your inherent wisdom and knowing are directly linked to your ability to feel and perceive the world around you. You are tapping into your leadership potential even if you are exhausted, bleeding, leaking milk, or you’re wandering around the house in search of a dry pair of period underwear. (That was me, yesterday.)
We won’t get better leadership by trying to stuff ourself into uncomfortable suits and competing at who can work later hours. We won’t do it by hiding how hard domestic work is, or by showing up with a perfectly groomed face and pretending things are okay. We won’t get there by trying to act like other people.
We need your leadership from where you are—as you are.
Instead, we’ve known for a long time that we need much more diverse leadership, that we need women’s leadership, and that we need new models of power. As Elizabeth Lesser says, we need to embrace “power to,” not just “power over.” We need truth telling, and we need new visions. We need you, your work, and your brave new thinking. We need your leadership to guide us. We need you to show up. We need you to be who you really are, not what an archaic model of power and “leadership” tells you to be.
Show up for what your life needs, and for what the world around you needs. Maybe showing up means quitting projects that aren’t working. It might mean setting better boundaries. It might mean getting more sleep to rest up for the work ahead—trust yourself.
Take care, take the rest you need, take action, and show up.
Even and especially as you are.
READERS ARE SAYING:
"Startup Parent's take on motherhood, work, and rejecting hustle culture is everything I need in my life right now."
"If I hear one more meaningless "productivity tip" I might scream. Your newsletter is always refreshing and honest."
"These conversations keep me going!"
ABOUT THE STARTUP PARENT PODCAST
We're a weekly show that releases new episodes every Monday at 5:30 A.M. Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or whenever you listen to podcasts. If you'd like to get new episodes delivered to you by email, sign up for the weekly newsletter with insights, strategies, and new ideas for working parents. If you'd like to sponsor the podcast, feel free to reach out. Lastly, if you like what you hear definitely leave us a review on iTunes.
ONLINE PARENT GROUPS
Our private Startup Parent Facebook Community is for working moms navigating all things parenting, business, career, and children. We also have a brand-new Linked In Parenting Group for folks of all genders to join and share resources on parenting and business. Join us in one or both groups.
THE WISE WOMEN'S COUNCIL
Every year, we gather a group of women together to talk about pregnancy, parenting, marriage, partnership, work, business, children, and all the things that come up during this challenging season of life. Applications are now open.
ASK SARAH — BONUS EPISODES AND FIRESIDE CHATS
If you’re a fan of this podcast, you’ll love the private, ask-me-anything conversations with Sarah. When you become a Patreon backer, you'll get a brand-new episode every single month. Click here to become a back and get immediate access to the episodes.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
Over the last week, the internet has popped up loads of articles about influencers behaving badly—in one case, the queen of relatability and toxic positivity shared casual, demeaning remarks about her hired help, then offered a non-apology that involved throwing her own team under the bus, then deleted the bad posts, and—wait for it, I’m sure within the next few days, tears will be next. There will be tears, and a public apology (a “real” one), and a vow to do better. It strikes me that this is strategic, because we’ve seen this playbook before. It’s a marketing strategy, and you’re being played.
It’s time we talked about what power looks like for women, and how we claim our right to power—specifically a new feminine form of power. For centuries, we’ve told men’s stories, and we’ve told stories about masculine power. That power looks like power over other people, like strength, coercion, domination, and defeat. Women have fought for years to do all the things that men have done, Elizabeth Lesser writes—to vote, to lead, to have sex, to lead universities and companies and societies, to have babies, to leave the house, to leave marriages. But it’s time to move into a new form and vision of power. Here’s what it might look like.
School is back in session, and parents everywhere are fatigued, overwhelmed, and still in the lurch. Workplaces are less and less forgiving, and yet the problems created by the pandemic are still here. What’s a working parent to do? Last week, Lions + Tigers gathered a panel to talk about specific steps parents can take to strategically plan ahead for the coming year. I hosted a conversation with Brea Starmer, founder of Lions+Tigers, Shauna Causey of Weekdays, and Blessing Adesiyan of Mother Honestly.
Kelsey Kerslake runs a design agency as well as a coaching business, and has a young kiddo at home who just turned one. Her husband is an essential worker, so she hasn’t had a minute of childcare or backup help throughout all of this. Here’s how she is rescheduling her days and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Her question—can she keep working on a reduced schedule and still have the same impact?
Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Parent
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.
She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.