Everyone Was a Womxn at Some Point

Posted by Octavia Yearwood, Sep 11, 2018 0 comments

What does it mean to be a woman in a leadership position at an arts nonprofit in today’s world?

Everyone was a womxn at some point! Then she gave you time and fostered a space within her to help you become what you are. The more women realize that from being able to give birth to being the backbone to almost every successful company, what’s clear is that we are the leaders and have always been the most popular artist. It’s always been that way; we’ve just been the silent partner, the main investor, the proverbial “legs” with others leading as the body. THAT, however, is what’s changing. So what it means to be a womxn in a leadership position at an arts nonprofit in today’s world means being what we’ve always been, but with a voice to say what you want, what you need, having the will to take what you deserve, build what you see, and being the face that represents that.

What challenges/obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them?

My biggest challenge has been resources to scale out in a real way. I am a womxn, black, queer, and an artist so creating is natural for me, but those things also come with their own level of bias. I would like to think perhaps my idea wasn’t good enough or fleshed out enough, right? I’d like to take responsibility for the shortcomings that have kept me at a certain stage, but the truth is, I have to do more than the average white presenting person to even be considered. So those things can take a toll. I find myself constantly making efforts to rack up content and accolades just to be able to be “valid” or “worthy” enough to be able to bring what I am doing to scale. I’ve overcome this by being badass and just doing it myself, but also collaborating and tapping into the amazing and talented friends I have. This is not sustainable, but it’s made me able. I also do not ask for my friends to do things for free, so I bring value—monetarily in most cases, along with the press or publicity it will bring. I’ve been most successful at overcoming these challenges by not perpetuating them.

How do you encourage other women to become leaders in their organizations or sectors?

The first way of encouraging them, for me, is to talk to them and get them talking about what it is that they actually want to do. I find women are task masters. We can take on a task, identify the task, but the hiccup is tapping into what you actually want. So when I speak to a womxn, I want to know her aspirations (which are not always a goal, but that’s because it’s sitting around in the back of her mind being an aspiration). I want to know what it is that she’s been wanting to do—and it doesn’t always have to be connected to her work or purpose. A lot of times, womxn aren’t doing great career-wise because they aren’t feeding their spirit enough personally. If you want to be the best leader you can be, be the best you. The work and being a leader is only a reflection and expression of everything else you are. I encourage womxn to be bold enough to be who they are.

How does working in the arts today influence your leadership?

Art has always been a gateway to myself. I learn so much about my wants, dreams, capabilities, value, etc. when I engage with art. Art’s claim to fame for me is freedom, but a close second is its ability to be a never-ending conversation—as beautiful as a first date where the conversation just flows and flows and you’re smitten because you never knew you could have so much to say. Art also allows for various perspectives to exist as one and is completely non-binary; when you realize that it makes you a stronger leader because it makes you flexible. Flexibility is such a valuable tool for a leader.

How can the arts empower other women to take leadership roles?

First of all, we are already the leaders as far as role; we just aren’t given the title.

Equity. Value her. PAY HER. Listen to her. Womxn will find purpose in anything they love, it’s one of our superpowers; but if you want to empower her it’s time to show her more and tell her less.


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