Building Community to Build Equity
In March, we celebrated International Women’s Day with the 2023 theme of #EmbraceEquity. With it, came a lot of discussion around the difference between Equity and Equality. One of my favorite descriptions comes from Cammy Watkins—I highly recommend giving the video a watch if your first thought is, “I didn’t know there was a difference…”
While I could go on about gender equity for days, there’s one specific point that Watkins makes in her overview that I’ve taken to heart in my daily interactions.
“Everyone has their own stuff. Everyone is going through something that challenges their emotional and physical capacity to be great. But there is power in connection.
Be brave and seek out those opportunities to have authentic conversations with those who are different than you. Find out what makes them unique and what brings them joy.
Now you’ve built community, and with community we have power. WE is always stronger than ME.”
When I think about my own life and my closest friends and family, I am acutely aware of the reality that everyone is going through something. The women around me with successful careers are also simultaneously taking on additional caregiving responsibilities, exploring their sexual identities, coping with loss and managing the anxiety of long-term illness in their families. All of these are in addition to the ever-present biases and discrimination that come with each person’s intersectional identity.
Regardless of what the “something” is, it’s a lot. And when we’re managing a lot, I’ve found that community is so critical in two ways.
Community Helps us Feel Less Alone
Sometimes, your struggle feels so overwhelming that it can be isolating. You feel like you're the only one who has been there and because of that, you have to go it alone. You have to navigate uncharted territory and do it without anyone else’s help. And while your unique situation may be different than those around you, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Sometimes, you don’t need guidance from someone who has been there, you just need someone to validate: ‘yes, this is really hard. You’re doing great.’
As hard as it is to share your struggles, the connection that comes from opening up, being vulnerable and expressing your challenges can make all the difference in the world. And…
Community Can Lend Support
…by sharing your challenges, you also open the door for support. As any mom-influencer account* on Instagram will remind you: It takes a village. In order for that village to be effective, you have to let it in. Ask for help and accept the support that comes to you. We’re all so keen to over-extend ourselves for someone else—often because we tell ourselves that someone else’s “something” is more meaningful than our own.
But what if we allowed our “something” to matter—to allow ourselves to matter and to be supported in all of the unique ways that we need to be supported. That’s where equity from connection comes in. By recognizing our unique needs, we can advocate for the equitable resources that can support us and move from struggle to sanity.
Your particular needs are going to look different based on your “something” but here are a few ideas that I’ve heard come up frequently in our workshops:
- Setting and communicating boundaries to alleviate collaborative burnout
- Advocate for yourself and others through intersectional allyship
- Reset the expectations around gender roles at home by focusing on Fair Play
- Addressing both the stress and stressors that lead to burnout
- Work through all of the stages of transition and change in life
For me personally, I knew I needed support when my mind was moving in so many directions that I kept leaving things open—the door to the garage after walking outside, the drawer in the bathroom, the deep freezer filled with frozen breastmilk 😫 (luckily it was fine). It seems small but when your brain can’t function on the implicit actions because it is so overloaded, it’s worrying. Support looked like acceptance when I needed to cancel plans to host a neighborhood social event, caregiving support when I needed dedicated time to tackle my to-do list AND sit quietly to let my mind clear, restructuring time-based goals for my business and an ongoing discussion with my husband to more evenly distribute housework tasks.
Did I feel guilty a few times asking for and accepting this support? Yes. But I also had community around me that reminded me that there’s no shame in receiving help—which of course is a critical form of support in itself.
I want to hear from you—what does support look like for you? What support have you accepted recently that has been a game changer? Share in the comments below—let’s build that community!
*A few of my favorites when I need some of that reassurance as a mother—very different vibes so take your pick:
Check out Gild Collective and give them a follow!
Header photo by Belle Co