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A woman standing on a snow covered hill looking out across a river


Blog Post

Reflections on this International Women's Day 2024

March 8, 2024

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my social identities. About my francophone roots and lineage as well as being a woman.  When you do the work of equity-centred leadership, unpacking and connecting with your many identities is critical to how you show up as a leader and change-maker, and it shapes how I show up as a coach and consultant.

I guess that’s why earlier this week, during a committee meeting I was facilitating as Systems Coach for a group that exists in the gender-based violence (GBV) ecosystem, I kicked off our meeting with a not-so-well-formulated, big question that went something like this:  

“When you think about your identity as female, with all the other intersections of your identity, what does that mean to you? As we approach International Women’s Day (IWD), what does this mean to you?”  

I fumbled a response, struggling to find the words to answer my own question!  I decided to start with someone else’s words and read a passage from the first feminist book I ever read, written by the incomparable bell hooks – Feminist Theory, From Margin to Center.  First written in 1984, now 40 years ago, it talks about intersectional feminism, challenges white women, and puts class privilege on the table – challenges that we are still navigating today.  

When I’d finished reading bell hooks’ words to the group, I continued reflecting on the different roles I had as a mother and grandmother, and the importance of my lineage.  Others followed and talked about their lineage, shared personal stories of strength, mothers who had navigated new lands, grandmothers’ Indigenous wisdom, fathers raising daughters, and legal advocates in the early days of the movement. Others reflected on how patriarchy shows up in our work and the importance of the “feminine”.

My awareness and curiosity about my identity as a woman had emerged as an imperfect but important question about what it means to be a woman in today’s world. And that question, rooted in a shared identity, changed the way in which this group gathered, listened, and held space for each other’s stories, opening a portal to a deep, heart-centred connection.  Someone in our group reflected on how this was the “feminine” at work and medicine for our times.  Crossing the threshold of a shared identity, we were able to witness each other’s wholeness, including our diverse identities, experiences, and ways of knowing. An unexpected balm during a work meeting.  A drop of healing, like an essential oil.

This was the “feminine” at work.

I was recently asked to be part of a “Grandmothers of the Movement Panel”, where staff and board from 9 different organizations in the GBV sector will come together to co-create a vision for the future. The invitation came from an Executive Director I’d worked with in the sector. In her message, she reflected on how the knowledge, wisdom, and herstory of the sector has been passed down orally, and how in the mass exodus of staff through COVID, that mechanism of learning through storytelling has been lost. She told me that when she was an emerging leader, more than fifteen years ago, Executive Directors across the region would gather once a month, without fail, for a whole day. They would bring in potluck, and knit and crochet while they critiqued capitalism, dismantled the patriarchy, shared their fears, their heartaches, their dreams, and retold their stories. This was how she came to understand the herstory of the GBV sector and step into her leadership.

I am grateful to have been invited into this circle.  Grandmother is an identity I don’t often pair with my identity as a coach and consultant, and it led to a deep reflection on lineage. How did I come to be here in this moment, seen as a grandmother by this Executive Director? I thought about how I came to this work, who influenced me, whose voices I sought out and listened to. I traced my evolution, and the identities I collected along the way. It led me to consider the responsibilities I hold. What right I have to be at this table. Whose voices I will amplify. Who else will be represented.

Grandmother is an identity I don’t often pair with my identity as a coach and consultant.

As we approach IWD 2024, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge my lineage, and the shoulders I stand on - the shoulders of many important women, girls, and gender diverse people. Some from my own lineage and others from outside of it. Even though there have been many influential White women in my life, and they have been part and continue to be part of my circle, my most cherished moments of learning and deepening my understanding of gender equity came from my relationships and working with young women and girls, 2SLGBTQIA+folx, Black women, women of colour, Muslim women, and Indigenous women.  

In this post-pandemic era, as the rights of women, girls, and gender diverse people in Canada and around the world are being eroded, I remember my accountability to those who came before me and those who walk with me today, and those who I have yet to encounter, but who will ask, how did I use the privilege and power in my multiple identities as a White, hetero, cis-gender, currently able-bodied, French settler woman to fight for gender justice for all.

As a “Grandmother of the Movement Panel”, as I look to the future, I am reminded there is more work to be done.