This is an excellent time to support and nurture the leadership of young women in seminaries and universities, starting young families and launching careers, in feminist organizations and faith-based communities. At a time when the “stained glass ceiling” hampers full participation of women in religious communities all over the globe, when women make up only sixteen percent of elected officials in the U.S. and when women struggle to bring their feminine leadership qualities in hierarchical organizations, it is essential to lift up, encourage, and learn from the next generation of feminists, religious pluralist theologians, thought-leaders and grassroots activists.
Young women (under 35) have emerged as a dynamic source of leadership and vision at Women of Spirit and Faith. We have come to rely upon their creativity, vitality and generous spirits, whether they are bringing insight and energy to our women’s gatherings or guiding us into the future as active members of our leadership circles. On a recent webcast, WSF Co-Founder Kay Lindahl reflected “We heritage leaders know where we have been, but the young leaders can see what is coming.” We know from experience that the future is in good hands entrusted to their wisdom and leadership.
At the same time, young women tell us that they often feel isolated and long for more meaningful connection with other women. They are searching for mentors and role models who can help them integrate spirituality and feminine values into their careers, their families and communities. They seek new models of leadership that are collaborative and compassionate. The young leaders who have become active in WSF often express deep gratitude for the support, mentoring and nurturing they receive in our circles. One of those young women, Laura Paskell Brown, says WSF brought “a wave of change that has transformed much of my life.”
WSF has launched a Young Leaders Council to engage young leaders, creating unique events and projects to nurture their leadership. The YL Council seeks to nurture and amplify the voices of young women in order to contribute to change in ways that honor both inner spirit and collective wisdom, exploring the following themes:
– To name young women’s needs and desires for greater leadership development in both the professional and interpersonal realms, and to cultivate a network for support and collaboration.
– To identify trends and themes in women’s leadership and spirituality of particular consequence to the future of interfaith activism, feminism, scholarship and women’s empowerment.
– To vision a world more supportive of women’s full participation/inclusion in religious and spiritual leadership.
– To explore the nuanced bonds and edges of women’s friendship through conversations about trust, competition among peers and the exploration of new paradigms of feminine power, leadership and spirituality.
– To model an alternative form of leadership that promotes trust, support and community through a collective and collaborative process. And to create a safe and compassionate space for young women to develop and amplify their voices. (should this be a new point in the list?)
The Women of Spirit and Faith Young Leaders Initiative will result in greater collaboration among young women to step forward and lead in interfaith and feminist organizations; cultivate deeper bonds of trust and friendship among the next generation of women leaders; strengthen women’s voices, confidence and participation in the interfaith and feminist movements; and provide a clearer understanding of where the interfaith and feminist movements are headed, all with a deep emphasis on aligning thought and action with their true core values and their true spiritual selves.