Women in transition: the need for Community
This morning I facilitated a group of the Job Booster Cocoon (JBC) in Paris with Expat communication, whom I help designing and running some of their JBC sessions. The JBC is a program designed to expatriate spouses to help them find a job that gives meaning to their careers, while being part of an international group of peers that progresses together week after week for 11 months.
The group of 10 women was working a module on describing roles models, as part of the block know yourself. The exercice is called “My Aunt Alexia`’ and It goes as follow: you are going to visit your Aunt Alexia, 85 years old, that you adore. Your friends challenge you, asking how come you go visit such an old Aunt when there is actually a party to go to tonight that you are missing out on. You decide to describe this aunt to your friend: she has achieved a lot and fascinates you.
I have been working with women for years on various continents and countries, but the results are always similar: women need to be reassured, they need a group of support, and especially during a transition or tough time. The aunt Alexias I met this morning were blurring into one: a strong woman that has gone through hardships but is standing gracefully, brave and still smiling. She has grit. She inspires.
Then I asked each of the woman “ but why did you go and see her today?” The second thing that comes clear is that they all go to Aunt alexia for comfort. They need someone or a community where they can be authentic and ask for advice, not being judged. They want somewhere where they can be comforted when it gets hard.
Women need support, they need a collective, they need a sisterhood.
In December, I ran over 50 interviews of women to start building transition transformative programs for international women. I found that in their transitions, out of these women 30% were looking for professional guidance (courses, coaches, mentors, etc.) and over 60% were looking for a support group of women in similar positions to move forward together.
Thats why to build leadership programs for women one needs to put a lot of attention on building a safe but motivating community, on building a supportive community that can comfort you and help you thrive.