Living Future: Women, Leadership and Sustainability

Women Reshaping the World / Living Future 2012

Living Future: Women, Leadership and Sustainability
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences at this year’s Living Future conference where the theme was Women Shaping the World. Adding to the event’s richness were the keynote speakers – Dr. Vandana Shiva and Carol Sanford – two powerful, outspoken, knowledgeable and very different women. They’re both worthy of a click to their websites to find out more. In addition, Jason F. McLennan – CEO / Seattle, WA, International Living Building Institute, in his keynote shared his personal reflections on the enriching and matriarchal household of his youth that helped to shape his world view and lifelong commitment as a green warrior.

I also found the conference’s “women’s learning track,” open to both men and women, wonderfully focused on broad range of women’s leadership issues. Here is a list of some of the topics:

  • Balancing Acts: Working Women’s Business and Families can Thrive
  • Lives of Green Pecha Kucha
  • Build Women’s Leadership: Confronting Power and Invisibly
  • Women’s Leadership: Journey Through the Ages
  • Women and Green Voices of Sustainability
  • Within and Without: Exploring the Implications of Diversity

The various panels included an amazing and diverse group of women, each one a leader in her respective company and industry. Speakers ranged in age from their 20s to their 80s, bringing a rich and all-encompassing perspective to the event.

One panel pulled the curtain back on leadership diversity. Three things that one of the presenters Kathleen Smith shared struck me:

  • The higher the percentage of women in firms and women in leadership is a good predictor of overall diversity and financial performance of a company.
  • Women lead more sustainability efforts within their firms.
  • Successful integrated design requires many of the qualities identified as “feminine,” such as these top 15 characteristics:
  1. Collaborative
  2. Integrative
  3. Sensitive
  4. Cooperative
  5. Creative
  6. Compassionate
  7. Communicative
  8. Relational
  9. Focus on Relationships
  10. Connected
  11. Non-linear
  12. Transparent
  13. No “Other”
  14. Nurturing
  15. Partnering

Source: Kathleen Smith, Sustainability Service Line Leader, Senior Associate, Davis Langdon, a division of AECOM.

So when I think about this great event and Kathleen’s presentation, I have these questions:

  • How do we attract more women into design / build professions?
  • How do we change organizations to operate within systems that embrace the needs, styles and goals of women vs. historical top down command and control models?
  • How do we change the conversation and connect feminine principles to accelerating the changes needed to bring about a living future?
  • How can architectural design and vernacular change to include the sensitivities of women?

In the days following Mother’s Day 2012, both men and women can benefit by thinking about the gifts of character that your mother, sister, aunt, wife, daughter, or teacher may have given you that you can call upon to bring about more sustainable future.