The Wait is Over for the “I Will Wait for You” Poet

The Wait is Over for the “I Will Wait for You” Poet

Before–well a month before–web series such as “Awkward Black Girl” became a household names among black millenials, there was Janette IKZ (pronounced “Genetics”), a Christian spoken word artist who touched our souls with her piece “I Will Wait for You.” In the piece, she verbally strums the pain many have experienced in singleness and the pursuit of Mr. or Ms. Right Now through her carefully curated and rhythmic words. That was in February of 2011 and the video has over 2.2 million views.

This past summer Janette IKZ jumped on the web series bandwagon to bring us “The Wait is Over???” which followed her and her fiance on the path to their wedding day. The couple is now happily married and settling into their new lives, but you can watch their journey to the altar on YouTube. If you’ve never heard “I Will Wait for You” start there–the video below–and then go forward.

“I Will Wait for You”

“The Wait is Over???” Episode 1

Click here to watch the entire “The Wait is Over???” series.

Does the Couple that Goes to Church Together Stay Together?

Does the Couple that Goes to Church Together Stay Together?

Recently I read a post entitled, “Why I’m Not Attending Church with My Girlfriend.” In it writer Jozen Cummings discusses his relationship with his girlfriend, a devout Catholic who attends church regularly, while he, a former Catholic who is now a Baptist, has sporadic attendance. Gina invites him to church often but Jozen declines citing that although church is important to him and his faith in God is deeper than any “religious practice,” there are many things that have kept him away. From a periodic lack of desire to attend church to what seems like a residual ecclesial exhaustion from his Catholic altar boy days, Jozen articulates why he stays away more often than not. Undergirding his argument is what he describes as the personal nature of faith and church attendance. He begins his story by talking about how both he and his girlfriend view faith as a personal matter and concludes it with church being a personal matter as well. Of this he says,

Church is not a time for couples to be together so much as it’s a time for all of us to be with God. That’s my time for Him. I truly believe that, and yet, I haven’t been giving Him much of it. I also realize, writing about this may contradict some of what I said about taking my faith personally. But I wanted to share because I know people who look at faith and church-going as a high value in a partner. I believe Gina and I feel the same, but I also believe we might not ever attend church together and we don’t have to. As long as I go do my thing and she goes to do hers, I think we’ll be all right, at brunch, together.

My concern about Jozen’s situation—and maybe that of anyone who doesn’t consider church attendance with their significant other important—is that it isn’t a sustainable model for being in intimate relationship with another person. Intimate/Intimacy is the key word here. Whether casually dating or charting more serious territory that is leading to engagement or marriage, church attendance as a couple can unearth much about a person that you wouldn’t get if you just met up for brunch with them.

Sharing Vulnerability

To attend church with your significant other is to let them into your most personal and vulnerable space and you theirs. The church is a city of refuge from a chaotic world and thus it is the space where many can let their hair down, let the tears flow, be silent, or be slain in the spirit. Now this could be a reason not to attend church with your significant other because you may not want them to see your “ugly cry,” or maybe you don’t want them to know you sing quite off key, but these possibilities of vulnerability can open a relationship up. Does this mean that if your significant other doesn’t sing along or barely sways during praise and worship that your relationship is doomed for failure? Not necessarily. But it is something to take note of if you are more prone to charismatic expressions in worship. Or maybe you like to debrief about the sermon after church but your significant other has very little to say and seems like he or she didn’t even pay attention. This doesn’t mean they are going to hell in a hand basket. It does give you something to reflect on if church is an important part of your life. And if he or she doesn’t attend church at all are you comfortable with upholding the spiritual mantle in the relationship and, if so, how long? Throughout my time in church I’ve seen far too many wives attending church alone, managing their rambunctious children alone, taking their relationship to the altar alone, only to return home to a husband who is sitting on the couch or hitting the links. One cannot the spiritual mantle alone. Two can carry it better.

Sharing with the Community

When you attend church with your significant other you are also exposing your relationship to a community that should have your best interest in mind—“should” being the operative word. A friend directed me toward Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.(NRSV)” Many know this scripture as, “Do not forsake the fellowship of the saints…” This is important on an individual level as well as on a communal level. It is the fellowship with other believers that strengthens and sharpens us—iron sharpens iron—and the hope is that a couple’s fellowship among other believers will strengthen them, collectively, for the journey ahead. That is the hope, but as you can imagine there are some saints who are too nosy for their own good and others whom are just scandalous, therefore, protecting your relationship is important even when you are in church. If you’ve been attending a church for long enough, you know whom your allies are and whom are those you keep at arm’s length. Everyone will have something to say about your relationship—in and outside of the church—but you should be clear on who the wise counselors are in your church that can or may help you discern the direction of your relationship.

Sharing a Sacred Space

In his book, “Works of Love” Soren Kierkegaard said,

“Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between (hu)man and (hu)man. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between: man-God-man, that is, God is the middle term…if God and the relationship to God have been left out, then, Christianly understood, this has not been love but a mutual and enchanting illusion of love.”

God as the middle term in a relationship is a mediator between both parties, and part of that mediation should take place in church, well before a couple decides to go to the chapel to get married. Gathering in church together can enhance a couple’s spiritual devotion toward God and each other because it binds them to a place, a space—if you will—in time. Attending church with your significant other Sunday after Sunday gives you a neutral place where the two of you can meet and leave all of your cares behind. It is the place where you are supposed to be able to find some semblance of peace. But it is also the place where the two of you can receive the preached word of God and the Eucharist. This is of particular significance because the first binds you two together in a common understanding of the Gospel and the second binds you together as people in the body of Christ and restores you.

Going back to the story that inspired this article, Jozen and his girlfriend seem to exist in two different spiritual spaces. She is a devout Catholic attending mass every week, receiving the word and the Eucharist, while he wavers between receiving the word and not. Right off the bat we know that there are theological differences that can separate them in significant ways and make them less compatible than they think they are, but that’s not anything they will discover if they both insist on maintaining separate spiritual lives. And this is the clencher.

I hesitate to use the phrase “equally yolked” but it is deeply implicated in this discussion. The vitality of a relationship where one of the people has a strong commitment to God and ecclesial life is enhanced when both share in that commitment. For a couple that desires to stay together and go the distance, going to church together might make all the difference. Sure a couple may pray or read the Bible and/or inspirational books together outside of church, but there is very little to replace entering the sanctuary together, worshipping and fellowshipping with the body together, hearing the word together and taking communion together. In the best case scenario, when you attend church with your significant other you are increasing the possibility for intimacy. Your attending to corporate worship together can reinforce your personal worship and relationship with God because it is in the gathering together that we are encouraged and reminded of the importance of our personal relationship. Church attendance is not mandatory but it does bind us to God and each other in explicit ways that our ordinary day-to-day activities don’t bind us.

But what do you think?

  • Do couples have to attend church together?
  • Do you think that there is ever a time when it is too soon to go to church with a significant other?
  • Do you think church attendance with a partner helps or harms relationships?
  • Can a relationship between two believers be sustained if they go to separate churches or if one of them goes and the other does? (Keep in mind that this doesn’t include circumstances where people can’t attend church together because of work, ministerial calling, etc.)
  • If you asked your significant other to attend church with you and they kept declining, would it be a dealbreaker?
  • Can faith be a personal matter when two people have entered a committed relationship?
  • Like the couple that prays together, does the couple that goes to church together stay together? Are you part of a couple who went together while you were dating and you’re now married to that person? Share your story.

 

Black Women Climbing the Ladder of Success

Black Women Climbing the Ladder of Success

About a month ago, many young black men were taking the world by storm with their admissions to multiple Ivy League universities. This month, and in particular over the last week, black women have made some serious moves up the ladder of success. The black women in this story aren’t corporate America titans though, they are making their moves through the ranks in academic administration to take up the titles of dean, president, and college graduate. Find out about some of these phenomenal women below:

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The Rev. Bridgette Young Ross has been appointed dean of the chapel and spiritual life at Emory, beginning July 1. (Photo Credit: Emory Photo/Video)

After a seven month search that yielded over 130 nominations and applicants, Chicago native Rev. Bridgette Young Ross clenched the deal to succeed Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe as the new Dean of Chapel and Spiritual Life at Emory University. Ross is no stranger to Emory, having served as the associate dean of the chapel from 2000-2009 before she left to be the assistant general secretary of the United Methodist Church Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tennessee. As the dean of the chapel and spiritual life Ross will “engage students, faculty and staff in questions of spiritual meaning through collaborations with our various schools and divisions and she will both provide leadership on ethical issues confronting the university and represent the religious dimensions of Emory to the broader world,” said Emory President James Wagner. Click here for more information on Ross’s appointment.

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Erika Hayes James has been named dean of Goizueta Business School, beginning July 15.( Photo Credit: Jim Carpenter)

Just about a stones throw away, Emory’s Goizueta Business School appointed Erika Hayes James as their new dean. James, who will begin in her new role on July 15, is the 95 year-old business school’s first African-American dean. She comes to Goizueta with a PhD in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan and years of experience working at the intersection of organizational psychology and executive leadership. James hopes to facilitate a deeper connection between the business school and Atlanta’s business community and other universities. Of this she says, “I see a real opportunity to align business thought leadership in Atlanta and, in the tradition of the academy, to bring research to bear on challenges.” For more information on her appointment, click here.

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Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice the newly appointed CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Morehouse School of Medicine)

Across town, Morehouse School of Medicine is in the process of welcoming Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice as their new president. Dr. Rice, a Harvard-educated and renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, will not only be MSM’s first female president but she will be the nation’s first African-American woman to lead a free-standing medical school. As an article in The Root indicated last year, Dr. Rice’s move is a significant because of the under-representation of black women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Dr. Rice will also encourage the next generation of medical practitioners with what she credits as her secret to success, “passion.” In the aforementioned Root article she stated, “The one thing I have always been fortunate to have is passion.” As a woman, Dr. Rice is also in touch with the fact that women are, primarily, the ones making health decisions for the family and she is concerned with helping them to take care of themselves and made better choices. She is credited with founding the Meharry Center for Women’s Health Research in Nashville, Tennessee, which is one of the nation’s first research facilities devoted to studying diseases that disproportionately impact women of color. Fortunately, Dr. Rice won’t have to do much moving to begin her new position, as she is currently dean of the school of medicine and the executive vice president.

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Three generations from the same Hope Mills family are graduating with honors from different schools this spring. Kathleen Collins, left, and her daughter Tori Collins- Newcombe, center, are Fayetteville State graduates while Tori’s daughter Nmyia Collins, right, is an honor student at Massey Hill Classical and will graduate in June.

The last of the success stories is certainly not least and is also quite sweet. Earlier this month, three generations of family graduated from two schools. Kathleen Collins and her daughter Tori Collins-Newcombe both graduated from Fayetteville state with a bachelor’s degree in social work and sociology, respectively. Toni’s daughter, 18-year-old Nmyia, will graduate from Massey Hill Classical High School. So how did they do it? Obviously through plenty of hard work and studying, but they were also intentional about graduating together. Once Tori raised her children, she decided to enter Fayetteville State alongside her mother and take a heavy course load in order to graduate with her. Both mother and daughter plan to pursue masters’ degrees in social work while the youngest generation of the Collins family plans to major in biology at Winston-Salem State as the precursor to a career in medicine.

We salute these women and more across the nation and world who are making moves on the daily.

Calling All Moms

Calling All Moms

Calling All Moms for Urban FaithWhether you’re a teen mom, a divorced mom, a stepmom, a stay-at-home mom, a foster mother, a mother of a special-needs child, a mom who has lost a child, a mom who is struggling with addiction, or a perfectionist mom who’s realizing she’s not perfect, here’s the most important thing you can do to be a good mother …

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. If we’re not careful, this commemoration can go the way of other annual observances — like Earth Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents Day, to name a few — and become nothing more than a perfunctory nod dictated by the calendar. Moreover, with all the intense concern about teenage pregnancy, abortion, foster children, child abuse and neglect, and single parenting, the significance, honor, and privilege of motherhood can get lost in the mire. I’d like to make a concerted effort to not let that happen by sharing some thoughts and giving some shout-outs on motherhood.

Being a mother is a biological fact. Being a good mother is extremely challenging, especially in the face of so many competing priorities, societal pressures and cultural shifts. Everything from the price of diapers to how much water we drink can impact our effectiveness. And I’ll be honest, there are times when I’d rather not be a mom.

I have a reputation as a serious, self-sufficient girl and that often clashes mightily with the goofy antics of a teenager and the occasional depression of a chronically ill young adult. Right now my biggest private joke is what a motley crew my sons and I are: a prematurely menopausal woman, a hormonal teenager, and a twenty-something with a brain injury. Sometimes I count my blessings just to get everyone where they’re supposed to be, and that I haven’t given my oldest son my estrogen pills instead of his own medication. Did I mention I also have a teenager? Hmm … where was I??

Anyway, all of the pressure and responsibility sometimes weighs on me and distorts my view of what it really means to be a successful mom. I get caught up measuring myself against the typical litmus tests: attractive, winsome kids who are good students and active in many extracurricular pursuits, and who don’t smoke, drink, curse, or have sex, who are respectful of authority, and who love church and youth group; a family that follows an orderly but appropriately busy schedule; a great looking house that shows little to no evidence of children even being present … on and on it goes.

When I feel myself sinking under that load, I remember an internal conversation I had with the Lord when my oldest son was still in high school. Long story short, God reminded me that He’s looking for faithfulness, not perfection. For someone who profiles as a perfectionist on just about every personality assessment known to man, that’s a hard message to internalize. But I believe it, and I encourage other moms to believe and internalize it, too.

That leads me to my shout-outs.

To all the teenage or premature moms: It doesn’t matter so much how your journey of motherhood began, but it matters tremendously how you navigate through it, and how it ends up. Whether you’re 15, 17, or 22, be faithful. Love yourself and your children one day at a time, or one minute at a time if necessary.

To all the moms struggling against addictions and other life issues: Whether your bondage involves drugs, tobacco, sex, alcohol, partying, self-pity, shopping, depression, rejection and abandonment issues, dangerous relationships, or some combination of these, be faithful. Dig deep and change your focus from feeling better, to being better. Give your undivided attention to recovery so that your mothering can improve. And don’t be afraid to tell your kids your story.

To all the moms in difficult marriages: Having a bad husband or an unfulfilling relationship doesn’t mean you can forego your responsibilities to your children. Be faithful. If you have to read bedtime stories, review math homework, or braid hair with tears in your eyes, do it. The tears and your kids’ childhood will pass sooner than you think.

To all the stepmoms, play moms, foster moms, godmoms, and adoptive moms: Thanks for not letting the absence of a biological tie keep you from being faithful. You’re a wonderful example for us all.

To all the church mothers: Thanks for faithfully showing us the way to God like any good mother should.

To all the moms who have lost a child: Whether it was a miscarriage, an abortion, a stray bullet, friendly fire, an accident or something else that took your child from you, be faithful to remember that progeny and to thank God for the privilege of being the mother of that child.

To all the single moms: Even though you can’t be mother and father, be faithful. Pray hard, because their lives — and yours — depends on it. I’m a witness that God really is a father to the fatherless.

To the moms of special-needs children: You may not be able to cure their disease, raise their IQ, or prolong their life, but you can be faithful. Give them the best physical and emotional care you can, and you’ll have the peace of a job well done.

To all moms out there: Celebrate yourself this Mother’s Day. If you haven’t been as faithful as you should be, it’s not too late.

Happy Mother’s Day, Ladies!

Orlando Student Has One Week to Change Her Hair or Be Expelled

Orlando Student Has One Week to Change Her Hair or Be Expelled

Yesterday morning news broke in Orlando about Vanessa VanDyke, a 12-year-old student at Faith Christian Academy who is in danger of being expelled because of her hair. VanDyke has a head full of natural hair that she has worn in a large blown-out ‘fro style for the last year, but recently, because she complained of children teasing and bullying her, her hair has become a problem. Like many private schools, FCA has a fairly stringent dress code policy that includes restrictions on hair. According to the policy, “Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction to include but not be limited to: mohawks, shaved designs, rat tails, etc.” VanDyke’s hair is a distraction by way of its size and shape and the school administration is threatening to expel her if she doesn’t cut and shape her hair. The 12-year-old now has one week to decide whether to cut her hair of risk expulsion from the school. So who should change in this situation, FCA or VanDyke? Or is there a fair compromise that can be reached?

As an institution established on Christian principles Faith Christian Academy has a particular responsibility to encourage their students toward faithful behavior which includes embracing diversity. In this day and age diversity goes beyond the color of someone’s skin and reaches down to the particular cultural practices of the person, which, as we have witnessed in the last few years, includes the different hairstyles that evolve from the culture. Significant to this understanding is teaching young boys and girls that most black children don’t come into this world with straight hair and their hair, in its natural state, ranges from being straight to being tightly curled. Unfortunately all some children know is the so-called normativity of straight hair without knowing that there is usually a high price that little black girls pay to get that straight hair like her white female counterparts. The decision of a young black girl to wear her hair in its natural state isn’t one that should be held against her, not by a playground bullies or school administration. But in order for this to become the new normative—sad to say this—it must be taught to children at an early age that the world around them isn’t going to be full of people with straight hair. Maybe teachers should take a page from Jane Elliot’s Blue Eye/Brown Eye exercise except instead of dividing the classes into a blue eyed, black eyed group they are separated into Straight Hair/Natural Black Hair groups to allow children to experience what it feels like when someone bases their discrimination and disdain for you on external characteristics. But beyond trying to teach bullies a lesson through social experiments, the children need to be taught that making fun of a little black girl because of her hair is to make fun of the wondrous way in which God created her. This should be Faith Christian Academy’s concern, that the children who are making fun of and bullying VanDyke are making fun of God’s design. The school’s handling of this situation positions them as bullies on a number of counts–according to their bullying policy:

 “Bullying can be direct or indirect, blatant or subtle, and it involves an imbalance of power, repeated actions, and intentional behavior.

Bullying is cutting someone off from essential relationships.

Bullying includes isolating the victim by making them feel rejected by his/her community.”

There is an imbalance of power at play with FCA currently threatening VanDyke with expulsion unless she cuts and shapes her hair–they have the upper hand and she has nothing to do but be subordinate. FCA is cutting VanDyke off from the essential relationships with friends she’s had she since starting at FCA in third grade. FCA is isolating her by threatening expulsion and making her feel rejected by both the school administration and students all because of her hair. It seems clear that the school is not practicing what it preaches to its student about the “Golden Rule,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Because surely if the school was practicing what it preaches and really being concerned about “avoiding practices which cause the loss of sensitivity to the spiritual needs of the world and which have an adverse effect on the physical, mental, and spiritual well being of Christian students” VanDyke could not and should not be moved. FCA has made Vanessa VanDyke’s hair a distraction and now they are trying to force her to change it—read conform her hair to their standards. But maybe VanDyke has a particular responsibility in this situation.

Do we protest too much when a situation such as this could be remedied with a ponytail, a bun, a French braid, etc? VanDyke’s hair is beautiful and she should be free to wear it as she pleases, but in exercising freedom to wear her hair as she pleases, is she still accountable to others? Yes, the other kids making fun of her need to be sat down and taught a lesson. And she shouldn’t be penalized by the administration for the way she way she wears her hair. But is there some particular course of action she must take beyond fighting to wear her hair as she pleases? The one thing that I can’t shake is the possible vanity of this situation. What does it mean to fight for the right to wear your hair is big as you please at the expense of other things? Maybe there are other ways that her hair could be worn. I know that many would argue that this is conceding to the politics of respectability, but we should question what it is we do with the freedom of expression we have. In this case, it is one little girl’s freedom to wear her hair as she pleases but should that trump everything else? FCA bears the brunt of this situation and the school administration must understand what it means to categorize a child’s hair as a distraction over say bullying, but I don’t want to miss an opportunity to discuss what a fight for individual freedom of expression costs and whether that cost is always worth it.

Not many people outside of the diaspora understand how connected black people are to their hair, even when we’d rather not be connected to it. We struggle with our hair but for many—present company included—the moment we go natural we discover what a great gift God has given us in this hair. One head of natural hair presents many possibilities for a little black girl or an adult black woman. It can be worn in a big blown-out ‘fro, a teeny-weeny ‘fro, a twist out, a braid out, in braids or in twists, wavy, or pressed straight. That isn’t even a comprehensive list of the possibilities that reveal themselves for natural girls and women. Suffice to say that to go natural is to be faithful stewards of what God has given us as God has given it to us. But I’m also fearful of what it means when that hair begins to eclipse other parts of our lives. When we become obsessed about our hair to the detriment of other parts of our lives and we are willing to sacrifice things for it. VanDyke’s hair is glorious but at what point does the fight for it become vainglorious? To be clear (again), FCA is losing this battle because all eyes are on them as the umpteenth school to use a child’s hair as grounds from suspension or expulsion. But as we continue to see more and more cases of children being sent home for wearing their natural hair in a particular way, what can we do about it? What is the executive decision that parents must make about their children’s hair? How do we negotiate full self-expression in the midst of the dominant culture that remains disinterested in it, without sacrificing things that are significant—in VanDyke’s case it is access to quality education at a private institution? As you can see, there is no simple answer to this. VanDyke will be damned if she does change her hair because many will think she sold out and she will be damned if she doesn’t change it because she might be expelled. To conclude this and say we must learn to pick our battles may show a sign of defeat, but maybe, just maybe, we have to sacrifice some things for a short time just to get where we need to be. For FCA this means stepping off of their “hair as a distraction” soapbox in order to allow a little girl to continue to grow and thrive and for VanDyke it may be that every now and then, she pulls that beautiful hair back into a still beautiful bun or ponytail or alternatively beautiful style.

But what do you think? Doth the school protest too much about her hair or doth she protest too much about her hair? This is what her and her family will be deliberating on this Thanksgiving. We give thanks for hair, but do we give up things for it too? Weigh in with your thoughts.

Leading Well: What We Don’t See

Leading Well: What We Don’t See

Takes initiative. Confidence. Competence. Visionary. These are all characteristics that come to mind when we think of strong leadership—particularly male leadership. Unfortunately, even today, some of those same characteristics are viewed as negative traits when applied to women. Instead of being a go-getter, thinker, strategic planner, or capable team member, she is viewed as bossy, strong-willed, or rigid.

Without a doubt women are leading in more ways than ever before. And yet from Sheryl Sandberg’s national best seller, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, it appears that many women are still leading blindly. Sandberg encourages more women to sit at the table, jump in, grab opportunities, and keep their hands up. After all, “it is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.” As leaders, women must get comfortable taking the initiative.

In addition to taking the initiative, women need to become avid learners. Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s chief technology officer, reports, “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” For competent leaders, it is fairly easy to learn the business of our companies and organizations and our job descriptions. Women rarely fail because of what is written on paper. Women often fall behind professionally because of unmet expectations and unspoken rules and that is where many of us need more education.

A few months ago I read a book titled, The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead, by Carol Kinsey Goman. While I do not agree with some of the scientific information shared in the book, I was blown away when I read the chapter, He Leads, She Leads. I would guess that most of us don’t intentionally think about our body language. When we discuss “body” in connection with “professional women,” the conversation quickly turns to determine whether or not we are dressing modestly enough for the workplace. We don’t want to show too much cleavage, we don’t want our skirts too short, or our pants too tight. We don’t want our colors to be too flashy (after all, we do want to be taken seriously and not to look like a party girl). Never be too sexual or suggestive (that’s not the way that a competent leader wants to climb the ladder). We don’t want to dress too old, but want to appear young (but not too young) and fresh. We don’t want to look out of shape or lazy because we want others to know that we can get the job done. But as women leaders, do we really think about our body language?

We need to learn our own body language, its signals, and discern the body language of others if we want to lead effectively. Goman shares that research “offers insight into why corporations have relatively few females in senior leadership positions. It has everything to do with body language—but not in the way you might anticipate.” Goman shares thirteen gender-based differences in nonverbal communication. Perhaps the most important difference is that women are better at reading body language and should therefore use this skill to our advantage. Be attentive to the nonverbal messages in the room.

Both men and women also have strengths and weakness concerning their methods of communication. In addition to reading body language, women are generally better listeners and are more compassionate towards others. Since men are generally “overly blunt and direct, insensitive to emotional reactions, and too confident in [their] own opinions,” women who understand their communication strengths actually have the power to shape conversations.

Be careful because, “communication strengths turn into weaknesses when overdone.” Women leaders do not want to become “overly emotional, indecisive, or lacking in authoritative body language signals.” However, they should be mindful that followers are looking for warmth and authority in their leaders. If you are a woman who is educated, professional, have a title, or work experience, you already have authority. Own it! At the same time, be you. People want leaders who have personalities. When people are drawn by your presence and your professionalism, you win as a leader.

Here is Goman’s advice to women seeking leadership credibility. Lean In by:

Keeping your voice down.
Claiming your space. (Compensate for men’s larger and taller statue by standing straight, broadening, [your] stance, etc. [The goal is to] take up more physical space.)
Smiling selectively.
Watching your hands. (As a woman particularly, you will be viewed as much less powerful if you self-pacify with girlish behaviors)
Curbing your enthusiasm.
Speaking Up.
Straightening your head. ([Literally.] Head tilting is also a universal sign of acquiescence and submission. When you want to project authority and confidence, you should hold your head in an erect, more neutral position.)
Employing a firm handshake.
Keeping your eyes in the business zone. [Focus on the other person’s eyes.]

Dressing like a leader.Trying a little tenderness. (Showing emotion is not only a good thing: it is a powerful leadership strategy.)Looking at people when they speak.Stop solving problems. (Try being a sounding board rather than a problem solver.)Lightening up. [Don’t take yourself too seriously.] 

Women and men need each other, even in professional working relationships. Women can become more effective leaders by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and paying attention to those of their male counterparts. Presentation is critical when considering expectations and unspoken rules. Women need to learn the power of their nonverbal communication, while understanding that both professionalism and personality are important for leadership growth, development, and advancement.