Some leaders are born women. – Geraldine Ferraro
My first encounter with leadership was in the fifth grade. On a steamy afternoon in mid-September, I paced around the side of my friend’s pool clutching her lime green land line phone with sweaty, trembling hands. My friends splashed around with “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men blaring in the background. For the twelfth time, I dialed the Homework Hotline.
This time, I heard an updated message from one of my favorite teachers I’ve ever had–Ms. Cathy.
“….and I’m excited to announce our class president is Mary Chase Breedlove.”
I was ecstatic.
During my time in office, I accomplished two very important acts of legislation:
1. Our class held a canned food drive for the local food pantry around Thanksgiving.
2. I drafted a permission slip for our guardians to sign so we could watch “Remember the Titans.” (It’s rated PG).
From that year on, I actively sought leadership. I was class president through high school, and even served as the student body president. I was told over and over that I’m a natural leader. People told me I was blessed with the ability to lead – and I hope I never take that responsibility for granted.
Why do I want to be a leader? Is it about control? Power? Security?
Am I just bossy?
While society may agree with the latter (more on that later), I want to lead simply because I want to help others. I want to figure out how to make things work. I want to make life easier. I want to empower others by leading them with compassion and respect.
In 2012, I experienced my most challenging leadership role yet. From March until August, I served as the Camp Director for CentriKid Camps team 7. I was blessed with a remarkable team and an even more remarkable assistant director – who was also a female.
Women don’t always get the best rep as far as leadership in ministry goes. I had two summers of leadership positions with CentriKid camps, and in my experience, I felt like the organization supported, equipped, and encouraged women to lead.
Ellie (the assistant director) and I faced a myriad of challenges that summer. One of the lesser ones — albeit still a challenge — was gaining respect and authority as women leaders.
Our team was wonderful, but not perfect. I felt loved and respected by them, but I was more often than not viewed as the “mother.” Nurturing, caring, compassionate. I was the mother figure — I even had a nickname (Mother Mary).
I was deeply flattered by this – but at the same time, I was the mom. Not the Director. Not the boss.
A few of my staffers didn’t hesitate to speak up in situations where, if I had been a male, they wouldn’t have interrupted me. Sometimes they’d ask me to do things like throw away the trash they were holding – which I did, because I wanted to be a servant leader – but the sexism still stung.
As director, I was the final say. The big cheese. I was responsible for all camp operations – everything fell on my shoulders. I responsible for managing a team of staffers as well as leading the adult group leaders who came to camp.
Would you ask your boss or manager to throw away your trash for you? Especially if you’re the same distance away from a trash can?
I feel like they asked things like that of me because I was a woman. I doubt seriously that male directors had other team members asking them to throw trash away.
I came across some church group leaders who would question my every move. One even yelled at me for having to cancel a week of camp due to a massive storm blowing in and destroying power for thousands of people in the area. We had no power and there was a 105 degree heat index.
I’m also not the first female director to experience sexism and disrespect from staffers. In fact, my instance isn’t half as offensive as other female directors I encountered.
So here we are. 2014. United States of America. Home of the brave. You can video chat with someone halfway across the world driving 70 miles an hour down the interstate on your phone.
Yet women are still discriminated against in the work place and don’t earn the same amount as men in many circumstances.
Why is there still gender inequality? Why is there still male-female income disparity?
Is anyone else out there still flummoxed by this nonsense?