Author Bonnie St. John, concerned about the progress of women in the workplace, believed her daughter’s generation was more connected to texting and pop culture on her smartphone than to meaningful leadership. St. John carefully broached exploring the latter subject together for a book. Daughter Darcy Deane’s response was typical of a teen starting high school. The idea of leadership bored her.
The two were definitely on different pages, at least, where leadership was concerned. St. John says, “I wanted to write a book about the subject for women in the workplace who weren’t necessarily stepping up to leadership or raising their hands for promotions, as well as for my daughter and other people’s daughters to really help them get excited and passionate about leadership and reach their full potential.”
St. John knows plenty about reaching one’s potential. Amputation of her right leg at age 5 did not stop her from being the first African-American to win Olympic medals in ski racing in the 1984 Paralympics, nor did it dampen her spirit for graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University, winning a Rhodes Scholarship, and joining former President Clinton’s White House National Economic Council. Now, she is a motivational speaker in addition to having acclaim as a writer.
Deane, on the other hand, thought the only saving grace in the leadership project was its potential for global travel. She agreed to the mother-daughter adventure for that reason alone, but their journey became so much more than connecting with amazing women on 4 continents and the island nation of New Zealand.
They interviewed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Sharon Allen, the first woman chair of the board at Deloitte LLP; former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; movie star and activist Geena Davis; and Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, the first woman Thunderbird pilot in the U.S. Air Force among 14 other noted women. Yet, some of the most exciting moments in the book, How Great Women Lead were further interactions with the leaders’ constituencies, employees, audiences, and clients. Deane discovered leadership is not so boring after all.
One impactful moment came to Deane in Nicaragua where she and her mother met with Noemi Ocana, the Nicaragua director of microfinance loans for Opportunity International. “Darcy was so struck by the poverty.” St. John explains, “She heard about poverty before, but she had never seen it up close.” Her exposure to a few of the billions of people living on less than $2 a day began on the night prior to the Ocana meeting.
“One night we were coming out of a restaurant with a doggy bag of pizza. Kids approached us and asked for the bag. Of course, we gave it to them. Then,” St. John stresses, “they started fighting over the pizza. So Darcy, afterward, said, ‘We can’t just see that and not do anything.’”
Deane explained in her blog, “We decided to take our partnership with Opportunity International to the next level. We’ve been donating some of the proceeds from the book to Opportunity International and started a ‘text to give’ donation program. Next year, I’m going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with donors who give to Opportunity International. People can fund the organization through supporting our climb.”
Those actions sound a lot like leadership.
“Going on this journey and seeing all different kinds of leadership has made me realize,” Deane confessed, “that all people have different strengths and weaknesses. Some leaders are not great at public speaking, which was a huge shock to me. Some leaders are more effective by empowering people and doing things behind the scenes – things you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a component of leadership.”
Deane realized how she can turn her passions and talents into something related to leadership. “Girls, especially at my age are,” stated Deane, “afraid of judgment and critique from other girls, so taking a risk to be a leader feels like a popularity contest.
“It’s important,” Deane concluded, “for girls to realize that taking a risk is not so scary, and it’s really important to grow and expand above that.” Leadership can be fun.
How Great Women Lead gives voice to her mother-daughter journey to enlightenment and self-empowerment. The book (ISBN: 978-0-446-57927-8) was published by Center Street Hatchette Book Group in April 2012. It is available through www.amazon.com or visit www.centerstreet.com.
How Great Women Lead also offers readers a way to invest in opportunity for women in more than 20 countries across the globe.
“As part of our commitment to women’s philanthropy, Opportunity International has formed a partnership with Bonnie St. John through her new book, How Great Women Lead, to raise funds and awareness toward our sustainable solution to poverty,” said Jennifer Mitrenga, Opportunity’s vice president of women’s philanthropy. “At Opportunity, we seek to create a culture and community of champions that believe in women as change agents in overcoming global poverty. As mothers, sisters and daughters, we share an emotional bond with Opportunity’s loan clients, 93% of whom are women.”
In some places, the only path to gainful employment is creating it for one's self. That is the mission of the comprehensive fianancial services from Opportunity International, which include micro-business loans, training to develop professional and life skills, securing savings, and the availability of insurance to protect their assets. About 95% of the loans are repaid and millions of live have changed for the better.
Learn more by clicking here. Opportunity International helps people work themselves out of poverty. Text WOMEN to 27722 to make a $10 donation to Opportunity International or contact email@example.com to join the global movement.
All rights to this article are reserved by Gloria Blakely. Copyright 2012.