This is some excerpts from my latest column in the local paper and the second in a two part series on 'tough conversations for change'. You can read the first one here. You can read the full article on the Lighthouse NOW Progress Bulletin website. I have really enjoyed the calls, emails and comments I have received from these articles. I encourage us all to continue the conversations and allow what we learn from each other to change how we act.
In my last column I talked about the break down of trust in decision makers and the unintended racism that creates unwelcoming communities. This time, I would like to open up conversations around gender inequality and the distribution of power and wealth on the South Shore. I am inviting these conversations not because I think they are divisive but because I believe that by talking about these issues we become more authentically connected across our differences. It is not our differences that are the problem it is our disconnect. The more connected we become the more capable we will be as a region to rise to our collective challenges and opportunities.
Here we go then - let’s dig in:
I have just heard too many stories over the last couple of years of outdated mindsets being applied to women of all races and ages who are stepping up to lead. From inequity in salary to brilliant people having bank loans refused on the basis of them being a woman - and therefore incapable of running the business at hand. It is like when trades people come to my house and start talking to me about what needs to be done. I immediately refer them on to my wife who is the general fixer of things in our family. (I got voted off when she found me levelling a shelf with a balanced glass of water!) It makes some uncomfortable but then they realize she knows what she’s talking about and off we go.
Gender bias undermines our ability to bring in the talent pool we need to fill the jobs on the South Shore. White men have had a good crack at leading our organizations and communities. I think it is time they move over and make space for more women leaders. This means changing attitudes, structures and work styles. The majority of people I am supporting lead change in Canada and globally are women. Have no doubt, it is largely women who are courageously leading change, often in the face of very hostile white, male and stale resistance.
Distribution of wealth and power
My experience of fundraising for projects and seeking investment for businesses on the South Shore is that the money lies with a small number of people and families. They are often pretty strongly invested in the status quo and therefore not interested in putting money towards change. Many folks have made enough money to not be financially impacted by the decline of the South Shore economy so have no financial gain and feel no personal pain. Bluntly, they have no skin in the game. It is far easier to put money towards a hospital, a university or a flashy weekend of speakers than it is to invest in the messy, highly complex and long term issues involved in creating change across a region.
The location of money in small pockets is accompanied by decision making power being among a small number of people and groups. We need to contest the previously uncontested seats of outdated leaders, start talking about who really has the power and get to the bottom of decisions that are made for localized gain rather than regional public benefit.
The way forward here it is not as simple as we are all one interconnected human species. Lumping everyone together invalidates the range of experiences of inequity and prejudice people have on a daily basis because of their economic status, race, faith, skin colour, sexuality bias etc. This is not a level playing field. Everyone is not treated equally in our society. The idea of oneness is a position those of privilege can take easily because they are not faced with regular discrimination. I think we have to acknowledge our differences to be able to get into the quality of conversations that build connection between us.
There is no simple right answer to any of the issues I have raised in these columns. There is no resolution or finish line to cross and say we are done. This is about staying in the conversation together and building relationships across our differences.
Don’t choose to be right, choose to be open.
The above is a selection of excerpts from the original article.
Read the full article on the Lighthouse NOW Progress Bulletin website
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