Finding Sovereignty in Social Work

*This post was previously published while I worked at The Prevention Researcher on September 30th, 2009; a journal on adolescent development.

“To own and wield the wisdom of leadership is to claim ourselves, to recognize the strong force that we already are, to stop falling into the traps of social conditioning that would keep us small, and to stand in full sovereignty over our own lives.” –Dede Henley in The Secret of Sovereignty

Personally I’ve always pushed myself hard, whether it is to do well in school, to become a more advanced soccer coach, a better pet owner, a more rounded person, or a stronger life partner and friend.  During the spring of 2008 I went to a one-day conference on Women’s Leadership sponsored by the Dede Henley Group.  Inspired by this one-day conference, I signed up for a 9-month course called “Women Leading Women.”  Our entire class met once a month for a half day and once or twice a month in small groups to work on leadership building exercises and to process the curriculum with one another.  I graduated from this course this past July, and I have continued to meet with members of my class once a month.

During the conference we had the opportunity to hear Dede Henley speak.  Hearing her personal story and commitment to self-improvement was empowering.  Some key points she touched on were the low level of self-care, extreme self-doubt, and lack of confidence women leaders have.  Ms. Henley explained that while more and more women are in leadership roles, they are still are being paid unfair wages, are less likely to be CEOs and still undermine their importance in their organization.  One piece of information that really stuck with me was the fact that corporations and businesses that are more equally lead by women AND men are the most successful (http://www.catalyst.org/publication/82/the-bottom-line-connecting-corporate-performance-and-gender-diversity).  This got me thinking about the agency I work for, Integrated Research Services, Inc.  One way I’ve see our company really progress over the three years I have been here, has been the strengthening of my working partnership with the Director, Dr. Steven Ungerleider.  As an Administrator I’ve found, the better he and I communicate and work together the better our entire team works together, both with us and with one another.

This month I had the opportunity to read NASW’s “A Broader Vision for the Social Work Profession” by Elizabeth J. Clark, and I was struck by some of the similarities between Dede Henley’s course curriculum and the vision of the social work profession.  The strongest similarities between the two were the messages of hope and calls to take action in life.  Ms. Clark states “As a profession, we have the capacity to prevent hopelessness, to restore hope, and to change society for the better.”  She further discusses how social workers impact social justice, advocacy, and change and describes them as “holders of hope.” Much of the Women Leading Women course focused on re-realizing the hopes and dreams of our childhood or younger adulthood, while hoping and dreaming more for our future starting with NOW.

As I look towards the latter part of 2009, with 2010 around the corner, I am reminded that finding hope in the challenges of the here and now is of utmost importance.  I’m eager to utilize the resources I’ve been given and am committing myself to the calls to action that both the NASW and The Dede Henley Group have provided us, in particular to find ways to be that “holder of hope” and continue to find ways I can empower myself and others to create change.IMGP2477