USA: Antioch University Seattle students

by Brittany Blondino

The United States of America is a country that occupies most of central North America.  It is bordered by Canada, Mexico, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  The United States also includes Alaska, Hawaii, and several U.S. Territories throughout the Pacific and Caribbean.  It is the third largest country in the world, both in terms of land and population, with approximately 315 million citizens (United States, n.d.).

European colonization began in the 1600s and with it came the spread of diseases that adversely affected many of the indigenous populations.  By the late 1700s, the British colonies grew dissatisfied with their ties to England, and they fought for independence during the American Revolution(United States, n.d.).

The United States are considered a federal constitutional republic with a system of checks and balances to ensure the voice of the people is heard.  The Declaration of Independence, which declared independence from Britain, is used as a standard for human rights on behalf of disenfranchised people across the world.  Equality is one of the highest ideals of the United States and has attracted immigrants from other countries for centuries.  Though the constitution provided voting rights only to white, property-owning males, the country has worked to become more inclusive over time, abolishing slavery in the late 1800s and allowing women to vote in 1920 (United States, n.d.).

Antioch University was founded in 1852, and from its beginning held social justice issues of paramount importance.  Antioch University was the first university in the United States to appoint a woman as a full professor in 1852, and formed a policy in 1863 that no applicant should be rejected on the basis of race.  The university is also unique in the way it approaches learning.  The students are not graded, but rather encouraged to pursue their passions, read about topics that interest them, and prepare presentations on that material (Antioch, n.d.).

Antioch’s Seattle campus (AUS) was opened in 1975 and serves approximately 900 students per year.  AUS programs focus on empowering students to become leaders for positive change in psychology, education, creative change and liberal arts.  The students and faculty combine theoretical frameworks with work in the community to forward the university’s mission of environmental, economic and social justice.

Why Women’s Leadership is Important to the United States

Although the United States is one of the largest and wealthiest countries of the world, inequality still exists between genders, and shows up in issues such as women having less access to healthcare, unequal financial compensation for the same work, and gender-based violence.  For many years the United States has valued “masculine” leadership qualities, such as problem-solving, assertiveness, and task focus, because those qualities helped the country rise to an industrial and global power.  Many women have had to rely on the same masculine qualities to obtain and maintain leadership roles.

Increasingly, the conditions exist for women to have an equal seat at the table.  Women of the United States, a country that has worked so hard for equal rights, are in a unique position to step into their inherent leadership qualities and encourage women around the world to step into their power.  The feminine side of leadership qualities, such as relationship building, caring, and thinking about the long-term effects of collective actions, are increasingly recognized as essential qualities to move toward a thriving future for all citizens and for the earths’ inhabitants.  Antioch University Seattle supports leadership development by focusing on teaching students about making sustainable choices for themselves, their communities, organizations and the global community.

Biography of Convener Roslyn Ericksen

Roslyn is a Senior Account Manager with The Hartford, a national insurance agency.  She has been in the insurance industry for over 15 years, working with large employers to provide health and welfare benefit programs.  Roz became intrigued by the impact a company’s culture and “personality” had on productivity, morale and the use of benefits.  In particular, she is drawn to the issues of absenteeism, happiness in the workplace, and how these issues enhance or hinder an employee’s connection to the company and to other employees.

In December 2011, Roz graduated from Antioch University Seattle with a Masters in Organizational Psychology.  Her focus of study was the power of the feminine, especially in western corporate environments.  She studied the gifts of the feminine such as cooperation, collaboration, relationships, nurturing, and intuition, and how these gifts could be better supported, accessed, utilized, integrated and incorporated within the corporate world.  Roz also works with human service groups in Seattle, including Northwest Center, Provail, United Way and Plymouth Housing Group.

Conversation Circle

In the Conversation Circles, the group explored following four questions:

1.  What do you care about in your community and in what projects have you participated?

2.  As you engaged in this work, what skills have you used?

3.  What additional skills or knowledge would you like to gain?

4.  How do imagine you might develop these skills?

1.         Roz convened a dozen female Antioch students for two conversations.  The AUS women care about and participate in activities that affect their local and global communities including, social justice, homelessness, tribal food autonomy, birth support services, education, abuse, mental health, environmental health, healing, how gender inequality poses challenges for men, healthcare, and leadership.  The group also explored what it means to engage with their communities, how to support other women, how to balance careers and motherhood, and the importance of the caregiving professions and how the monetary fiscal reward for those professions is out of balance in proportion to the value given.

2.         A beautiful picture of women’s leadership emerged from this conversation.  The skills claimed were listening, accountability, ability to see connections, maintaining awareness of the group intention and purpose, supporting others to solve their own problems, reframing circumstances, holding the space for others to move through difficulties, sharing stories, being genuine, vulnerable and authentic, mentorship, fairness, and consensus building.  These skills highlight the many facets of relationship, for those in communities, among individuals, or by individuals with themselves.  These skills also help to strengthen those relationships and facilitate the movement from what exists to what is emerging.

3.         The additional skills they would like to have focused on qualities that facilitate connection.  Self-awareness was a big theme, including honesty with themselves about the skills they bring, what they enjoy and have energy for, and accessing their intuition and that of other women.  Another major theme was the ability to set boundaries, including knowing what they can and cannot handle and being able to hold others accountable for their actions.  Many participants also expressed a desire to learn how to effectively handle or mediate conflict, in service to deepening connections between those in disagreement.

4.         To develop the additional skills the participants desired, the women acknowledged the need to practice, practice, and practice!  They also must be willing to make mistakes and learn from them, take risks, surround themselves with people who are supportive and caring, and keep learning.  They acknowledged there is much to learn by approaching daily life as learning opportunities, or traveling and being open to different cultures.  The participants were energized by these conversations and glad to be a part of a project supporting Women’s Leadership around the globe.

> Next: Part II. Four Questions Synthesis