Demanding more of Feminist Leadership

I have been thinking about the weighty and complex topics of feminism and leadership for many years and, specifically Feminist Leadership more recently as part of a research project, Moving Mountains, now in its second phase.

Detail of a pile of white cloth scraps that have different derogatory everyday words for women and feminists printed on them in red.

I will be sharing some of the outcomes of my current research in online spaces, places and discussions in the forthcoming months. Next week I am leading a session at the Museums Association conference where the theme will be Feminist Leadership as a Super Power we are in need of at a time when hyper-masculinity abounds in political global leadership and where the need for seismic change in institutions is more than overdue. I want to explore with others the potential of intersectional Feminist Leadership in the work underway to make museums, their structures, their methods of working and their collections relevant and sustainable. In this session I will be asking attendees to share a demand they are making of themselves just now as part of their feminist leadership responsibilities. My thinking is that we all have a capacity and responsibility to lead whether we are parenting, nurturing the talents of others, taking on a role in a cultural organisation, steering activist campaigns or showing up to call out inequality in the home or workplace. If we do understand ourselves to be, or to be seen to be leaders then what are the demands we make of ourselves to use any capacity we might have to bring about change?

It only seems reasonable to offer up my own set of personal demands. I first shared a version of these publicly when I was given the honour and responsibility of taking over GWL’s twitter feed for the first time in early Lockdown.

This list is growing and changing as I learn and discover more reasons to shift my behaviour, but here are the demands I am currently using:

Feminist Leadership Demands:

Use the term Feminist Leadership when this is called for and where it has positive, political impact.

Use the term Feminist Eldership when it is called for and where it has impact.

Honour, cite and bring to the fore Elders and appreciate how you can learn from the anger, honesty and kindness of women, non-binary and trans people of all ages.

Appreciate that Black and Brown women and women from the Global South are in the vanguard of understanding and modelling (of feminist) leadership and ensure that they are centred.

Make sure y/our professional and personal ‘go to’ people include those who know most about how it feels to be righteously angry and marginalised including the voices of disabled people.

Advocate for and practice kindness.

Practice Active Listening and Lifelong Learning.

Check in on the alignment of y/our Values, Vision, Roles/Responsibilities and nurture a dialogistic and reflective culture where it is in your power to do so.

Actively Hold Space and Host where it is called for and where you have the power to do so.

Respect, Earn and expect Respect.

Create space/s creativity and make space for learning.

Honour and safeguard Feminist Institutional Knowledge.

Learn, take courage and derive hope from the diversity and the continuum of Feminist Leadership.

Identify and work to counter divisional behaviours, structures and thinking.

Appreciate y/our potential to help create ethical Feminist Leadership approaches including the nurturing of confident, ethical leadership in others.

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