Heike Prentice responds to the blog ‘LIDS ARE FOR LIFTING’…
The initial blog on this page, Lids Are For Lifting, takes us beyond the battle lines and into the land of opportunity. From here women have to work out how we adjust from fighting for land, to cultivating and building on the land we’ve won.
In other words, who will I be when the lid is lifted?
For some time, part of my identity as a leadership coach and mentor has been to point at the lids, write, speak and push against them, but now what? In one sense the lid on my personal journey has lifted, but I have no doubt there will be other lids along the way, and of course there is the much bigger issue of fighting the oppression of women around the world.
In tackling lids I have found it helpful to distinguish between internal and external lids. It is really important to deal first with the internal lids.
These include the usual thoughts of ‘I am not good enough, qualified enough, gifted enough, etc.’ I know these for what they are: lies founded on misinterpretations of childhood experiences or my own wrong conclusions based on facts. Lack of academic qualification does not equal incompetence or inability unless I believe it to be so.
Another internal lids is that I have given greater weight to the endorsement of certain men who I considered to be important in some way than ten women with more experience or greater standing. I am just being honest!
Until I owned up to the lids of my own making, and my own collaboration with systems and society, I could not effectively move forward, even when opportunity presented itself.
I have now developed a zero tolerance for my own internal lids. When I find one I do whatever it takes to get rid of it.
However, external lids are different; they are very real, and bumping against them literally hurts. They come in the shape of real men and women saying no to my promotion, my calling. They come in the shape of cultural, theological and systemic patriarchy limiting financial remuneration or ownership, sexual dignity or professional development. My mistake in the past has been to assume their existence in some way related to my character, my ability, or anything else that was basically down to me.
I have since learned never to take external lids personally. I know they exist in that particular place or person, and by simply walking on I have bumped into them. If not me it would be somebody else.
In situations like that it helps me to look at the bigger picture and remind myself of the privilege of being alive at a time in history where there is unprecedented opportunity for shifting mindsets, attitudes and systems. We honour those who went before and those who suffer now by refraining from self-pity, instead determining to do our bit when we encounter external lids on the journey. How I deal with them will be different to the next woman, but respond and act with personal integrity we must.
It is worth pointing out that external lids are very different to constructive critique. In our quest for equality we need to remain open to feedback, secure in the knowledge that what matters is a willingness to learn and grow rather than to be perfect. We cannot afford to ignore or excuse our own shortcomings by simply applying a blanket blame of misogyny and injustice. That’s when it’s useful to listen to a few other, respected and objective voices.
So what happens when the lid is lifted off? Positions of leadership and influence by their very essence, not because we are new to them, are unchartered territory. Leadership is about providing direction, inspiration, solutions, releasing and drawing on the contribution of others, and it’s about taking responsibility. That is scary and it should be.
Being scared is a healthy sentiment, it helps us to guard against arrogance and over confidence. A place of leadership should always be seen as a privilege to serve rather than a position of privilege; the difference is in the attitude. In that sense fear is good as it preserves us from taking responsibility too lightly, but there is no need to be afraid.
To be honest, only time will tell how well individual women will do without the lid. Good leadership cannot be learned beforehand, and ordinary, everyday life is the best training ground. Some of us will thrive and do exceptionally well, others will do well enough, and others will find it is not for them. I genuinely believe this truth is not gender specific, it applies to both women and men and we do well to remember that leadership is only a function, not the be all and end all of life!
Perhaps we need to do what we apparently do well: multitask! We need to keep fighting oppression within and without, but not be so consumed with it that we forget what we were meant to do, which is to plant and cultivate whatever land we have taken or been given, together with men as God intended.
To overcome fear we simply need to keep going, hold up our hands when we get it wrong and try again, encouraging one another along the way.
And let’s not take ourselves too seriously! We can treat opportunity and obstacle alike: as a gift to go even further, safe in the knowledge that God is with and for us.
Heike Prentice is a leadership and direction coach with senior leadership experience in church and charity contexts. She is currently training for priesthood in the Church of England, married to Alistair and together they have three adult sons and one beautiful daughter in law. Her passion is for the Church to be effective, vibrant and united in all its diversity, and to see more of God’s kingdom here on earth.
Image Credit: George Chelebiev