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Personal Essays

Communication flows. Let it. 

Updated: May 30

girls going up in escalator

As a strategist, mother, and mindful leader, I look upstream to understand why some women do not pursue processes or positions of leadership. While the influence for young girls to envision themselves as capable of achieving their ambitions first begins in the home, creating a vision of unlimited possibilities in the workplace is crucial for young women to begin the developmental process of “seeing it to be it”.

It does not matter if she is a barista, a retail clerk, an intern, or an assistant. It does not matter if she works locally, at home, or within a global corporation - every industry is capable of hosting the leadership and responsibility of forging pathways for girls to self-discover their potential.

Why girls? Because we live in a patriarchal nation. Young boys and men are often encouraged early on to consider their future, their impact, and how they will provide as "heads" of a household. Young girls are not as often invited to share in these future-minded dialogues. Societal norms, gendered roles, and adopted belief systems are most responsible for keeping young women small, quiet, and destined for singular purposes. Women are complex. And when society embraces her complexity, it grows more determined to establish the infrastructure capable of supporting her abilities to thrive, under multiple, and intersectional, circumstances.

"As a parent, I cannot think of a more responsible reason to bring a human into this world other than to support the flourishing of a life's full expression."

Business owners who desire to use their resources to bring about societal change become business leaders. Business leaders host the capacity, the systems, the opportunities, and the commitment for helping turn ambition into a thriving and flourishing ecosystem - for men, women, and families.

Here are three ways business leaders can create an environment that supports human flourishing:

  1. Sponsorship. Mentorship is often recommended for women as a supportive advice-giving role, whereas sponsorship is reserved for young men. Sponsorship offers the resources to actualize a vision. Mentorship is often relational and communicative, whereas sponsorship is action-oriented and can include the possibility of an investment opportunity. It’s the difference between thoughts and prayers (for emotional support) and policy and change (for actual advancement).

  2. Clear organizational flows. Organizational flows include onboarding, skills development, collaborative opportunities, and guideposts to advancement. These structures host unique junctures for shedding light on potential, unearthing passions, and exposing multiple paths forward. If there is no path, or the path is not illuminated properly, self-actualization is harder to practice and roads turn into dead-ends. The obstacle of a “glass ceiling”, where upward mobility is visible, but out of reach, the “labyrinth” of tangled up pathways, or the “glass cliff” of being hired to nurse an organization back to health, stand less chance of derailing a determined young woman when they are presented as sure and steady from the get-go.

  3. Strategic evaluations. Performance reviews are not just about job performance, they host a prime opportunity for engaging in dialogue with the whole employee. Strategic questions about organizational goals can transition to personal and professional goals - laying the groundwork for leadership to establish a fellowship, where young women’s work is more than just a means to organizational success, but a mutually beneficial relationship that can both enrich individual productivity and enhance the collective workplace culture.

One of the hidden benefits of business leaders making organizational changes to support human flourishing is word of mouth. Did you know word of mouth, even in this digital age, remains the #1 method of successful marketing? Now, think about marketing - or magnetizing - the right employee. When young adults love their job, when they feel supported, valued, invested in, and fairly compensated, not only does their performance reflect gratitude, but they are talking about how working for YOU is changing their life. They are magnetizing other high-performing employees to want to work for you, too. By having a process, a clear path, young women can begin the art of envisioning something, even multiple things, for themself.

escalators going up and down

My work within the salon/spa industry was to create an engaging assistantship program, where newly-graduated cosmetology students could onboard with us to advance their basic education, improve their skills from working, seasoned professionals, and build their business in an environment dedicated to increasing their success. Hosting this program and taking the time to create this infrastructure, positioned us as a desirable employer. And not just to any graduate, but to the most ambitious, most eager entry-level professionals.

As a parent, I cannot think of a more responsible reason to bring a human into this world other than to support the flourishing of a life's full expression. As a leader, I cannot comprehend a more responsible opportunity than to oversee an operation that champions optimal potential in those I serve. Motive matters.

At an early age, when a young girl begins to experience our patriarchal society's reaction to her voice, she will need you. When she steps into her first job, she will need you. When she begins to date, continue her education, travel the world, or serve her community - she will need you. She needs you, for protection, defense, and advocacy. Or, she will not need you at all. She will need someone with the capacity to host room for her to figure herself out, the grace to allow her to fumble with understanding, or simply to be someone who is not afraid to evolve alongside her.

Will it be you? Or, rather, can it be you? How might your role, as a parent, teacher, business owner, or community leader, create the infrastructure that supports her?

When you are ready to have a dialogue on how you can build a place for leadership, from within the space of your ownership, you can contact me here. Consulting on organizational frameworks and helping you design strategic processes that humanize your workplace, is my sweet spot.


[resource: DeFrank-Cole, L., & Tan, S. J. (n.d.). Women and Leadership.]


* listen to the podcast episode related to this essay HERE

Updated: May 30

Have you ever bought an orange that looked nice and bright on the outside, but the juice was too sour to enjoy? Have you ever seen the model, picture-perfect, family, only to learn their life is filled with turmoil? Maybe you’ve heard “I love you” from someone carelessly causing you pain? Maybe you know someone who’s a really good liar? We never really know what’s on the inside of a person, place, or even a system, until it’s under pressure. Whether a devastating medical diagnosis, the ending of a valued relationship, or the letting go of a treasured job, the health of a relationship often remains hidden until things go south. In reflection, the signs may magically appear – like blazing torches – asking ourselves “how could I have missed those cues!”

Culture is the silent language, the unspoken message, the devil in the details. It hides out until it is named. It spreads effortlessly until identified and consumes until contained. A culture of dysfunctional communication, much like cancer, kills. Energy. Ambition. Success. Connection. What if instead of allowing dysfunction to hide out, like cancer within the marrow of a bone, we paid closer attention to signs and symptoms of organizational dis-ease? What if embracing tensions, identifying symptoms, and responding more quickly to treat the side effects of communication challenges, we strengthened our organizational health? As any survivor will tell you, cancer has a way of changing us for the better, if we let it.

As an outside hire for a leadership role many years ago, I immediately witnessed multiple personnel dysfunctions. I was charged to identify "cancer" within the team - specific behaviors decaying productivity, clogging organizational flow, and impeding company growth. Like a good steward, deeply concerned with the health of his ecosystem, the CEO sought a fresh perspective. And like a good mother, my experience and passion for the industry supported efforts of constructive criticism while listening for social cries for help. Peering through a lens of maternal leadership and responsibility, I spotted some carcinogens. Hidden within safe harbors and quietly overlooked corners were passive aggressions, tolerated bullying, and social assassinations. With connections weak, toxicity spreading, and wounds festering, this was a job for courage and hope. Spackling our holes, we declared the power to improve simply by diagnosing our dysfunctions. We named them, identified their presence, and made plans to work them out. Within a year, we were speaking openly about conflict without taking offense, we were celebrating growth with the fruit of our painful labors. We had increased organizational strength and gained momentum.

healthy lemons

Shortly after recognizing our success, my young child was diagnosed with Leukemia, a blood cancer. Cancer, just as our organizational cancer, had been hiding out from recognition, slowly zapping her life-energy, and was leading our entire family down a devastating path. This diagnosis metaphor that I was using to unite teams now became personal. It was my turn to face a disease. It was my turn to accept the maternal responsibility and leadership of laboring to improve the health of not just one person, but an entire family ecosystem.

Diagnosis has a way of blossoming a willingness to do whatever it takes to fight for something. Diagnosis surges an eagerness to shave our heads in solidarity for the afflicted. Faced with the stages of grief, I sat in denial, stood in anger, and looked for someone to blame. Then, I remembered what I asked of my team, and decided to open communication flows. First with myself, then on to my daughter, my partner, and the nurses and doctors working on all our behalf. From the inside out, the comfort of denial was disrupted, the callousness of anger softened, and the letting go of blame freed my attitude to shift perspective. I paid closer attention to the language I used when speaking to myself and others. Proactively, I designed frameworks for intentional communication to flow, allowing frustration to find its way up, and out, of our life.

healthy greens

As my daughter progressed through remission, I returned to work with a gift from cancer: something of an x-ray vision. I look for what’s neglected. I listen for the pains of onboarding, and I'm on high alert for the faint sounds of a system causing humanity harm. I search for unintentional practices, I dig for unclear language, and I peel back the stickers covering up the sight of a dead-end job. I can smell the stench of stagnant communications from miles away. Equipped with experience, data, and case studies, I carry this experience, into my work in strategic communications at Gonzaga University. Grappling with dysfunctions in a cultural context fascinates me and communication theories stand as pillars of knowledge that serve to treat wounds caused by company cogs.

What do communication and cancer have in common? They both rely on hope.

Not all dysfunctions are salvageable, just as not all cancers are survivable, but if we remain willing to fight – for something - hope will also fight for us.

Updated: May 30

“I’m not a feminist, but…I support women!”

Yes. Because white women know what happens when *we align with feminism.

It’s a risk. There’s a lot of privilege on the line. And many of us are far too fragile and far too fearful, to jeopardize our access to this *privilege. So we don’t align. We don’t support the work. We stay silent when feminism is mocked and slandered. We laugh along. We ridicule and demonize feminists - picking them apart with the same debilitating perfectionism that we police ourselves with.

Except, when we dialogue with *other women, when we listen to women outside white Christian America, (Black women, Indigenous women, women of color and culture, women on government assistance, solo moms, incarcerated women, women in abusive relationships, women tangled up in domestic violence, marginalized women, women experiencing deep depression or suicidal ideology, women at shelters, women in therapy, women at the gym DOING INNER WORK, etc, etc...) we hear a song stuck on repeat:

“I once had low self-worth."

"I suffered from low self-esteem."

"I was raised to be quiet, obey, and submit to men in authority, without question."

"I didn't have permission to use my voice."

"When I did use my voice, I was not heard."


"I HAD NO AGENCY to protect myself from violence, manipulation, and dependency."

two girls looking straight ahead

When we engage in dialogue with *other women, we also learn that a large part of healing - an essential element of raising dignity levels, fortifying inner strength, grasping at wisdom, standing in discernment, and taking strides toward self-sufficiency - comes from adopting feminist theories. Feminism, at the most elementary level, is the belief that *all genders should have equal rights and opportunities. Feminism counters supremacy, racism, exploitation within capitalism, patriarchy, and social ills that keep *all women down, under, and held below. It is about respecting diverse experiences, identities, knowledge, and strengths for every human within this intersectional and global community.

*The path from the dehumanization of women to the disposal of women is swift and sweeping.

“Authentic allyship is not about amplifying your own voice, but rather listening to the voices of people within that community and what they are saying. They need to be uplifted.”

– Graham Ball, Penn State Law

White-women supremacy club culture, however, prefers to throw resources at religious institutions claiming to “help women” but instead merely perpetuate patriarchal values, demonize feminism, exploiting a woman's journey for their marketing purposes. White women also prefer a good social performance, preferring work that offers public recognition for our financial "gifts." Performative allyship, according to Penn State Law graduates, is disingenuous, based on the idea of self-gratification, and ignores responsibility within a community.

Something else to consider, especially for us white women living in the north, many cities, like beautiful Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, that host a 90% white population and a .42% black population: the cancer of racism hides out within infrastructure. These places, where groups like the KKK and Proud Boys are given the silent nod to comfortably maintain a presence, are also aware that intersectional feminism was planted by the seeds of, and traveled on the coattails of, Black women. Could the rejection of feminism by white women, in addition to allegiance to supremacy and patriarchy, be rooted in racism? I'd love to hear responses from white women, except... most white women leave me on read when I ask difficult or challenging questions. *Our fragility is too often too brittle for hosting a capacity to hold the weight of engaging in productive dialogue.

Feminism also works to keep women safe from violence. Research shows Black women experience much higher rates of domestic and sexual abuse from partners than white women. If feminism works to keep Black, Indigenous, and women of color safe from violence, why don't more white women support it?

"Not only do [Black women] endure racism but we are also seen as women — experiencing the systems of patriarchy and sexism that white women face. But in a nasty plot twist, we are not entirely seen as women forcing us to experience specific injustices similar to the experiences of some Black men. Simply put, we are not seen as valuable or worthy of protection."

- Maia Niguel Hoskin.

Being caught up in the ethnocentrism of supremacy, *we white women routinely center our white Christian outlook as superior. We privately recline, enjoying the fruits of feminist labors, while vilifying feminism publicly, where "our" white men will see our allegiance and celebrate us, in-kind. I've yet to see many white influencers show up to women's marches, work for systemic change, or express outrage at racist acts. That's because white supremacy is volatile, and in order for influencers to stay visible and protected by white men, white women cannot afford to get involved.

I, too, am a "late blooming feminist", but I am also right on time. I am blooming right now for right now. Feminism, up here in the north, or what I call "The Bible Bowtie", is just another F-word. In religious clubs, white women choose the archaic term "women's lib", never allowing the full word, liberation, to roll off the lips. These women apply it condescendingly to crazy women who believe in supporting the freedom and safety of *all women.

three young women at sunset

I once believed in "women's empowerment culture." In my predominantly white county, I opened a community space for *all women, women of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs - a feminist space within a patriarchal town. What I learned, was that interest and social media alignment, follows and likes, was strictly performative, or as Oprah calls it: cotton candy.

While our doors were open to serve micro-businesses, artisans, and expand opportunities for all women, we were not members of any white women clubs, we did not serve self-promotions, or align with the patriarchal white culture of the town. Only later, after our doors permanently closed, would I learn that the closure was not singularly due to a global pandemic, but in part because of negative defaming gossip spread by women's social and civic clubs, community stakeholders, and religious zealots actively working under the surface - like cancer in the bones of a community - to destroy the project. With a 90% white local population, I came to find out there is no such thing as "Karen culture" in these parts, it is simply THE culture. Karen is a verb. It is a way of life that supports patriarchy, a supremacy of class, race, and gender.

For me, frustration breeds creativity. When I'm committed to working through challenges I make something: art, research papers, crafts, food, The frustrations of caretaking a child with cancer led me to write a book, assist my child in writing a book, and colorfully decorate our long-term stay hospital room. And now, immersed within a cancerous community culture, I created a feminism 101 zine. While I hold the belief that the misinformation surrounding feminism in white-women-club-culture is beyond repair, I also hold a mustard seed of hope for planting new community seeds for seeing a change of fruit.

White women, I am pleading with you. I am pleading for us.

We cannot allow ourselves to stagnate in the swamp of complicity and apathy. The porcelain doll that patriarchy hopes you aspire to be, is hollow. I've provided a link below for downloading my free feminism 101 zine, Coeur d'Femme: the heart of feminism. To reject that which we do not understand is to think small. Investing in growth and development is also accepting the pain of facing our ignorance. Yet, simultaneously, by doing so we usher in the joy of increasing our capacity to hold a kinder, more inclusive outlook.

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