Back in February, I gave a talk to the Athena WE group out at UCF. If you’d like to learn more about Athena Leadership, check out my old posts here and here. The topic I was given was on the Pillar of Advocate Fiercely. Here are some of the things I talked about!
“Athena leaders become fierce advocates because they simply cannot do otherwise.” -Martha Maywood Mertz, “Becoming Athena”
Advocate for your Tribe
Michelle Obama was very familiar with fierce advocacy from a young age. In her book, “Becoming,” she talked about how her mother advocated for her when she was in the second grade. Michelle loved the first grade. She would come home and talk eagerly about what she learned and what she was doing in class. Then, she got into the second grade and her attitude changed. She was in a class with too many students and the teacher had no control over the situation. She felt deflated by going and her mother knew that this was a critical moment. Without telling Michelle, her mother went to the Principal and demanded that Michelle be moved from the class. She made an inference that her daughter was too gifted to be there and so the principal suggested that Michelle take a test to see if she could just move up a grade. Her mother then suggested that all of the students should to see if anyone else was being left behind. It wasn’t until much later that Michelle found out exactly why she was given the opportunity to move up.
When President Obama was in the White House, Michelle used her connection to maintain connections with her girlfriends by creating a Boot Camp, as she called it, at Camp David. “I’d learned many years earlier to hold my true friends close,” Obama wrote. “Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are born of a thousand small kindnesses, swapped back and forth over again.” All of the women from her past and present would come to Camp David to bond, discuss issues important to them, and have fun while being physically fit. She made a safe space for them to be themselves and support each other.
I like to think that I’ve created my own little Boot Camp in Orlando (except not much exercising…but we have done aerial yoga once). We just celebrated our two-year anniversary of Smart Women Eating Together (SWET…so kind of like exercising?). I was getting tired of the generic networking that was happening in Orlando and wanted to develop something where I could see amazing women over a meal and we could talk about the topics of the day but also talk about ourselves – our past lives and our future goals. I organized this group to give both extroverts and introverts chances to connect in a thoughtful way and I am pleased to say that so many friendships have been created because of this group! We meet once a month and over the past two years, I have had wonderful conversations and deepened relationships with more than 35 women. And in that, we have built a network of support and advocacy that I haven’t felt before!