That Feeling in Our Bones: Women & Thought Leadership by Vanessa Wakeman, for Huffington Post

My grandmother could predict the weather based on the way her body felt. If her joints were achy, she would announce that rain was coming. I would always give her a puzzled look and she would smile and say, “I can feel it in my bones.” She was often right.

The Feminine Voice and Thought Leadership

My grandmother could predict the weather based on the way her body felt. If her joints were achy, she would announce that rain was coming. I would always give her a puzzled look and she would smile and say, “I can feel it in my bones.” She was often right.

In this moment, I feel something in my bones too, but it’s not the weather. It’s women. I feel a drumbeat of desire and urgency for women to speak up and speak out to change the world.

My grandmother was one of the greatest influences on me, especially in my professional life. She always encouraged me to be a leader, to assess situations through my unique viewpoint based on what I believed was important and to always use my voice. Being silent was never an option … even when I wanted to be.

Always Learning. Always Evolving.

During my time in Corporate America I invested energy into watching the male leaders and tried to emulate them as a way to expand my influence and connect to my power. I remember being told that expressing emotions at work was frowned upon, so I learned to stuff them down even on the worst of days. Yet, I distinctly remember a few emotional men on the trading floors that had reputations for throwing a phone against a wall or screaming at the top of their lungs.

During that period, I read an article that shared words women should never use in the workplace. The article stated that women must remove I think from their vocabulary and replace it with I believe because believe is much stronger and expresses a more confident viewpoint.

As a woman, I was and still am emotional about things that I care about. Some days I think and others I believe, and I am okay with that. But on all days I am committed to finding ways to be fully expressed and integrated between my professional and personal life so that I am always my authentic self. And that is part of what has led me to be so passionate about thought leadership for women. Thought leadership is a natural extension of the traits that are commonly associated with women including emotional, collaborative and intuitive attributes.

Thought leaders are devoted to contributing valuable, original thinking and ideas to benefit the greater good. The individual is in service to the idea, issue or innovation with the goal of fostering change. Thought leaders influence and inspire us to think and behave differently.

After years of working with nonprofit leaders, I clearly see what propels them forward and what holds them back. For women, more often than not, it’s old stories that we’ve been told about how we need to show up in the world. I believe that together, we can rewrite those stories and create a new one that recognizes that the feminine experience is an essential contribution to society overall.

The Turning Point.

I find myself asking, what would the world look like if we had more women thought leaders in the nonprofit sector? Throughout history women have played pivotal roles in some of the most transformative moments and movements. How do we as a society prepare more women to develop platforms that enable them to explore new ideas and approaches to solving our problems?

As a self-proclaimed Thought Leadership Evangelist, I am championing the case for more women thought leaders. I am in full support of men that seek to bring their thinking to life, but I can’t ignore the energy and communications that I’m having with women and about women. These encounters indicate that the time for action is now.

Specifically, the overwhelming majority of the nonprofit sector’s workforce is female. From those already on the frontlines to those emerging leaders, I see a tremendous opportunity to significantly elevate the voices of women to help shape our future.

So why don’t we have more women thought leaders in social change? In addition to the belief that thought leaders are born and not made, there is also a lack of resources. Many existing models for thought leadership development and leadership are rooted in a very masculine approach that oftentimes does not reflect the feminine experience.

I know many women who have ideas and expertise that could disrupt and potentially change the trajectory of their organization and industry positively. Unfortunately, many don’t believe they have the support of their stakeholders to introduce something new, or worse, many toil in solitude, afraid of what others might think.

As a result, confidence is eroded and women don’t believe that their ideas are those of a thought leader. I am passionate about shepherding more women into thought leadership, especially those in the nonprofit sector. I know that as women recognize the inherent value of our voices and experiences, more women will answer the call and the world will be forever changed.

Sisters, your ideas matter. Your experience matters. Your expertise matters.

The world is waiting for your voice.

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