My friend Dennise and I were talking a few months back about women and power. We’re both mid-career professionals, were both unemployed, and having weekly conversations about our job search, and what it means to be older women looking for positions of responsibility and influence. Those conversations birthed The Eleanor Club, a place where women can speak directly about their areas of influence, personal ambition, and what it means to be a woman with power.
Our first meeting was last week and it was extraordinary. Dennise and I had NO idea there was such a craving for this conversation! Woman after woman came up to each of us and said “I’ve been wanting to talk about this, ask questions, explore what it would mean to expand my influence and own the influence I have.”
We had no idea, but we should have.
The current power paradigm we live in – authoritarian, hierarchical, individualistic – is becoming more and more problematic. While it is not clear whether women and men are biologically inclined to use power differently, my personal experience is that women are often more interested in power as a way to connect, not dominate. While this offers its own set of challenges, it also opens the door to an multitude of new directions we could grow as a race and individually.
Women are actively seeking ways to exert power, to leverage their existing influence, and grow their circles. We are learning to own our ambition, to state loudly and clearly that our agendas are critical to the health and well-being of our families and the planet. At our first meeting, when we opened the floor for women to speak about the issues closest to their hearts, we heard about
- community development on the micro level,
- the importance of civil discourse in theory and practice,
- amplifying the voices of women in the music industry
- building a conversation around an all-year school schedule
- the criticality of local and state elections,
- finding ways for working mothers to serve as elected officials,
- and how to protect and heal our environment.
Even though the conversation was entirely unscripted and unexpected, we can clearly see the seeds for robust discussion and action on a wide-ranging and deeply connected group of concerns. In those moments, I realized that all the women in that room had tapped into something revolutionary – our mutual commitment to actively and directly influence change through OUR decisions, our ideas, and our actions. It was an unforgettable moment.