Friday, 31 October 2008

Next Level Leadership

I've just come back from a trip to Toronto, Canada.

I went to participate in a 'Leadership Intensive' run by Next Level Leadership, a leadership programme devised for Christian women leaders in Canada.

It was my first visit to North America, so first impressions included the amount of space everywhere, driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, and that I sounded different from everyone else!

But I was really impressed with the thinking and skilled facilitation of NLL. I was doing the first module of 4, 'Foundations of Leadership', which in two packed days covered a whole variety of issues and topics, all in a great atmosphere, a wonderful mix of the spiritual and the skilful.

Next Level Leadership's Mission is: 'We build leadership confidence in women by... integrating leadership development and Christ-centred spirituality.' Their research has shown that women need help with developing in the areas of competence, character, and most of all, confidence, so the module focused on these three areas.

Plenty for me to ponder, both for my individual journey and as a possible tool for use this side of the pond. And what do you think? Do you like the idea of a leadership programme specifically for women? It's not, as sometimes happens, a tool for women who are going to lead only women, but a safe place for women to come together and learn in a way which suits women. It was very 'intensive'! But in two days it gave a unique opportunity for learning new skills, finding new ideas, and provided a climate for potentially life-changing learning.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Gender equality in Rwanda

'The healing hands that saved a nation.'

So ran the headline of an article in the Telegraph last Saturday. Rwanda has become the first country in the world whose women MPs outnumber men.

What an amazing achievement, especially in a culture where women are used to being in the background. Part of the secret of this progress has been what one might call positive discrimination, ensuring that at least 30 per cent of all administrative and government posts nationwide must go to women. How else would things change?

Sometimes I almost despair, when I think how difficult the path of progress is for some women, whether in a church or wider context. A few steps forward, followed by a backlash - and several steps back. But in Rwanda, women are seen as key to the healing which is needed since the genocide. 'Women are better able to nurture reconciliation.' I'm not one for stereotypes, but I think this is probably true.

I believe it's important as women leaders to look beyond our own context to see the plight of women in the developing world. But I was caught by surprise when I read what these women may have to say to us. Inspiring, or what?

'Now the young girls see all these women in power and realise they can do anything. To succeed is no longer about physical force, it is about the force of your mind. We know we are capable of anything that men can do.'

And to the challenge that this might threaten men? 'We're not taking over, we're just coming along to join them.'

I long for the day when we are saying that about women bishops, or women leading larger churches! But in the meantime, I'm rejoicing at this news, and praying that these women leaders in Rwanda may teach the world a thing or two.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A woman for Edmonton

I've just received the news that the first woman incumbent has been appointed in Edmonton Episcopal Area.

That's Edmonton, London.

I have to admit I didn't know there were no women incumbents in that Area, despite its particular theological flavour. But it reminds me of how patchy women's deployment still is in the Church of England. In some deaneries there are more women than men, in others, women still find themselves on their own at chapter meetings.

Which no doubt accounts for the varied ways in which women clergy perceive the scene in the Church, and their acceptance. For some, it's 'What's the problem? I'm just getting on with the job of ministry.' For others, feeling as though they have entered a 'boys' club', it can be a very different experience.

So - great news for Edmonton and London, and I hope that Marjorie Brown, who's been appointed vicar at St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, is well accepted both in her parish and her Area.