Jo Saxton author of ‘Ready To Rise' spoke to Femalefirst outlining how she sees female leadership evolving today and the highs and lows experienced by women who are stepping out of the shadows. Here’s what she had to say.
Your new book READY TO RISE (published by Penguin Random House in the US and SPCK in the UK) is all about owing your voice, gathering your community and stepping into your influence. Did you have a specific type of woman in mind when you were moulding this message?
Jo - I didn’t have an age or an ethnicity in mind, because I have these conversations with women across the board. In many ways, I was writing to the women I’ve met, Christian women who felt some kind of impulse to lead, even though they may feel profoundly uncomfortable with the word ‘leader’.
Women who were leading in business and in the marketplace in phenomenal ways, but felt the church was more interested in their financial gifts than the skills they can bring; women who were leading anyway but had had no investment from those around them. I wanted these women to see their gifts, potential and call in God’s greater Story of making all things - and then, I wanted them to dive in.
Thankfully, there is becoming a wealth of writing on female empowerment and woman in leadership, what would you say your book is trying to add to the conversation?
Jo - I’m a big fan of women being empowered, I want us to realize who God created us to be, and what we’re here for. For me I guess I’m looking at it through the framework of the Christian faith. Female empowerment to me is not primarily a culturally relevant idea, its thoroughly grounded in the understanding of the imago dei – that men and women are made in the image of God. Its rooted in God’s word to humanity in Eden, to the redemptive work of Christ and God’s mission in the world.
All of that has implications not just for what we think about ourselves, but how we spend our days on earth. I want to make sure all of us, men and women are fully equipped to play our part in His Great Commission.
Each chapter in READY TO RISE concludes with a transcript of a conversation between a community of women. Can you share a bit about why and how you decided to include these?
Jo - Much of my leadership coaching and mentoring of women leaders happens in group format and these are the kinds of conversations we have. These are the experience of the women I encounter around the world who are in the trenches of everyday leadership. I included it in the book to both give people a bit of insight, but hopefully some inspiration to start groups, leadership circles of their own. There’s so much knowledge and experience these leaders have, it’s a learning community.
What would you say are the highs and lows of these conversations? What challenged you the most about conversing openly with these women?
Jo - The highs are seeing women come together and empower one another, the moment they realize they’re not alone. The way they share a dream or call and are IMMEDIATELY celebrated and encouraged and supported. The time the group is a brain trust and a resource network. The women rise together.
The lows? Well some of the things that have been said and done to women leaders, (including sadly in the church) is staggering, exploitative and at times just abusive. You’d hope we were past this by now, but #MeToo is real, #ChurchToo is real. We know better than this, and so should do better than this. And not just that – inequitable pay, and lack of resourcing, being perpetually overlooked and underestimated has left some amazing leaders so broken that it will take years to heal.
My personality type is the kind that would love rising up to sound like a passionate roar (!), but when I look honestly at my life, my family, and the women I’ve met around the world it’s so different. Rising has often looked like rising up from the ashes, rising above disappointment to do something new, discovering/ recovering gifts and purpose out of life’s tragedies and challenges – and in every place seeing the redemptive hand of God at work.
My hope is that whereever we are at, wherever our lives are at –that the readers of this book rise into their God given influence (wherever that may be) in this moment in history and encourage and empower the women around them to do the same.
What are you hopeful for when it comes to female leadership in the future?
Jo: I’m hopeful because God keeps on raising up men and women to lead for the day we’re in. He is still calling and commissioning us. And although there’s still a lot progress to make – I’m hopeful for the initiatives in the church and the marketplace that are helping to cultivate and unleash the next generation of women leaders – wherever they may be. It’s also exciting to see women leading communities and countries across the global landscape- in political spheres, in culture and in the community. Their presences normalize women’s leadership and reminds us of what is possible.
Ready To Rise (published by Penguin Random House in the US and SPCK in the UK)
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