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Elevating women for sustainability's sake
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I'm reading
Elevating women for sustainability's sake
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Elevating women for sustainability's sake
Pass it on
Pass it on
5 March 2020

Elevating women for sustainability's sake

For Fabian Dattner, the road to sustainability is paved with women leaders

Written by Fabian Dattner

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.

Photo by Ives Ives on Unsplash

When we talk about tackling the climate crisis, or reducing the proliferation of single use plastics, or stopping the voracious destruction of the Amazon, or eliminating the use of pesticides that are destroying our global insect population, we do so with a mixture of grief, fear and powerlessness. Who am I to make a dent in these problems? How can a choice I make possibly change the arc of human evolution and, as a result, that of all other species we share the planet with?

Here’s a little piece of wisdom that’s often missing in our conversations, something you know in your bones but don’t talk about (except in the most obvious contexts, for example in reference to Trump or Putin).

Consider this: behind every critical issue that we are not resolving, behind every international forum where we don’t get agreement, behind every business, country or community that acts for self-interest, is a group of people whose model of leadership is outdated. It is thousands of years old. We are surgeons applying ticks to suck blood as a cure-all. We are Viking Marauders using war tactics to control lines of supply. We are Barons holding onto our fiefdoms when the world is crying out for us to be something else, something wiser and more generous.

In the first article I wrote for Dumbo Feather, I talked about Homeward Bound’s mission to elevate the visibility of women leading with a STEMM background, and how research shows that women are inclined to be collaborative and have a legacy mindset.

For a world that must tackle the narrative of leadership and engineer it as best we can, my best advice is to see vast numbers of women moving into influential roles and shaping decision making for the greater good.

Here are my suggestions on how to do this.

  • Trust women

This is not an issue of equity: it is an opportunity for sustainability. We need to listen to women. At their heart’s core, women are generous, collaborative, inclusive and legacy-minded. They are not perfect, but they have back stories and the legacy of thousands of years of conditioning and for many, systemic abuse.

  • Hold a woman’s deepest story with respect

When a woman shares her story, it is a vulnerable and precious thing. Let it inform you of her courage and strength, her resilience and her ability to rise up.

  • Look close in for change

In your families, challenge the way you talk to each other. Are we truly inclusive or is competition, or the need for approval, shading the mood more often than it should. If we can’t generate tolerance, insight, kindness and generosity in families, it is nigh on impossible to generate it in our communities or businesses.

  • Bring wisdom to your daughters

Help your daughters find their voice and when they have this voice, help them to be inclusive. Don’t spark up competition or “I” over “we”. Don’t have them comparing themselves to you or their peers. Tell your daughters they are needed en masse in our world.

  • Look carefully at your wife, mother, sister, girlfriend, aunt, niece and see the woman that she is.

Nurture her courage, not her confidence. She does not have to be perfect or right, she just needs to take her own next step and to take others with her.

  • If you are an emplorer, pay all the women you know the same as the men you know.

You do not need to audit jobs to see if women are doing the same amount or type of work. Chances are they are doing much more. It is never men en masse who are paid less. Help women feel valued. Unequal pay is a corrosive, nasty, continuous robbing of her gifts.

  • Have women leading in equal measure to men

Great women leaders are everywhere. I promise you, your concern about finding talent is mythical. You are in a forest with a blindfold on. You run into trees and think they are walls. They aren’t. Take the blindfold off, find ways to maneuver the blockages to women advancing. When they lead we will solve complex problems together and inclusion, collaboration and legacy mindset will be cornerstones of how we work together.

Our contribution to advancing women in vast numbers into leadership may be the single most important contribution to sustainability we can make. If we had more women leading, massive numbers, we would not trade off the future for now.

On the closing night of Homeward Bound 4, in Ushuaia, 100 women bonded as family and as leaders. We had found our way through fear to a place of individual and collective courage. Skits, laughter, comedy, theatre, drama, and music all accompanied our pledge to the future.

That’s what women do.

This fills me with hope.


Fabian Dattner

Fabian Dattner is a social entrepreneur, leadership activist and founding partner at Dattner Group. She is the Founder and CEO of Homeward Bound, a twelve-month leadership program focussing on our shared purpose, courage over confidence, collaboration, expertise and choosing ‘we’ over ‘I’.

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