Profiling the Makers behind Project: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the Globe

It takes a village, so the African saying goes, to raise children.  It also takes a village, it can be argued, to create a project with a trajectory to create positive change.  There is a village behind this project, creating it, building the momentum, and steering it on a course of action that is already making positive shifts in women’s lives.  This blog is dedicated to the 8 makers and creators, recognizing their on-going efforts and seeing what makes them tick in regards to this project by inquiring of them “What does this project mean to you?”

Barbara Spraker is the visionary and mother of this project.  In her words, “It means engaging with amazing women around the globe as we are co-creating a future where all can thrive.  I am so completely awed by women’s leadership – and know so deeply how much our natural gifts are needed. It makes my heart sing to be able to engage with women leaders, to jointly create an energy field that invites us all to embrace and use our skills, that enable us to support and celebrate one another, and connects us in ways that enlarges our positive influence in our families, our towns, our organizations and our countries! We have so much power to create a better future – AND – have fun doing it!”

Roslyn Ericksen – I am intrigued with the power of feminine energy and leaders who are using and engaging with this type of power.  The feminine is about caring for, fostering and preserving what feeds and nurtures us; like the environment, our families and communities as well as our values, traditions and culture.  I believe that the world is calling and maybe even demanding for us (both men and women) to step more fully into our feminine power and engage the tools of the feminine like; cooperation, collaboration, relationships, and intuition.  This project is a way for us to expand our understanding of feminine power and leadership.

Pat Hughes – I recently read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, and it had a big impact on me to get more involved in issues supporting women and girls.  I was drawn to this project because of the focus on women, leadership and a global reach.  I have a long background in leadership development and an educational background in international relations with an emphasis on women’s development, and I am finding this project blends these interests and is a practical way to get involved. I look forward to learning about women’s stories, about women’s global leadership and to developing friendships with women who share a passion for positive change.

Jennifer LeMarte – I’m fascinated and curious about the spaces we create when each voice has an opportunity to be heard.  To take it a step beyond being heard, what might the world be like if our gifts of leadership are nurtured, shared, developed, and supported within a network of women?  I also wonder how the world might shift, when we as women share those gifts and create new ways of knowing, leading, and experiencing the world we are a part of.  This project creates a space for those wonderful, beautiful surprises to emerge and a showcase for the gifts we bring into being.

Kathleen Swirski – What draws me to this project is my avid fascination with what is different and the same among people around the world. I feel this project is an important avenue through which we can share our stories, learn from one another and build a strong women’s leadership network to connect and support each other globally in our efforts to enable change. I look forward to meeting with all of the women and expanding our leadership web as we join our hearts and hands together across our distances, to form bonds based on our collective strengths and compassion.

Nicole Theberge – I am so honored and excited to have been one of two graduate assistants for this project. I believe women are in an important and unique position to create a better world. I have come to believe in the power of sharing stories and creating connection to solve important issues and to enrich lives. This project presents an amazing opportunity for discovering each other’s wisdom and ideas. I am looking forward to creating those connections and learning from and with everyone involved in this project.

Laura Veith – I was drawn to Developing Women’s Leadership – Around the Globe because of its people and mission. I saw my personal interest of play as an approach to life, work and creation reflected in this adventure. It’s a great opportunity to explore ideas, to create new understandings and to play with different approaches to leadership. In short, I saw this as an opportunity to create a blueprint for playgrounds that women around the globe will be able to build based on their needs, desires and personal preferences – while having fun, creating community and designing the world we want to live in.

Wendi Walsh – I have spent my working life in the American corporate culture and have learned and used masculine energy leadership. However, I always felt that I wasn’t bringing my authentic self (feminine energy) to my leadership. This fantastic group of women as Country Conveners, Learning Partner Organizations, Kitchen Cabinet and Antioch University has opened my eyes to the masculine and feminine aspects of leadership and I’m looking forward to sharing and learning with all of you.

The summit takes place on September 28-29, 2013 at Antioch University.  The village behind the project, as well as the Country Conveners and women from our local community will be in attendance.

If you are interested in participating in this wonderful and gracious space, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:

Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Danielle Prince

This guest post comes to us from Danielle Prince, a fierce gender-justice, women’s rights advocate.  Danielle’s focus has been both local, and global, working in the field of domestic violence and refugee resettlement.  She is thrilled to be participating in the Women’s Leadership project at Antioch as it blends both arenas of her passion.  Stay tuned for more blog posts from her!

Contact Danielle at


Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Barbara Spraker is a soft-spoken powerhouse of a woman who has led the charge for the first-ever Women’s Leadership Summit to take place on September 28 -29, 2013 on the Seattle Antioch campus.  Over a year in the making, this project was born from Barbara’s cumulative experiences working on women’s issues in a global context.  A professor at Antioch University in Seattle, she has surrounded herself with dedicated, successful women who became integral in creating the project that culminates in the September Summit.

Barbara Spraker

The trajectory of this undertaking can be summed up in Barbara’s own words:

“The purpose of the Project is to amplify women’s voices, highlight the specific work that women are doing in six different countries plus Antioch University Seattle, and build community among women leaders around the globe.”  The team at Antioch, called the Kitchen Cabinet, has been working fastidiously on planning for this summit and creating a hands-on workbook that contains stories and guidelines that highlight women’s leadership around the world.  Other key figures are the women in the six countries (Country Conveners) who led their own groups of women to answer four questions pertaining to women’s leadership put to them by the Kitchen Cabinet.

THE KITCHEN CABINET: (from top left, clockwise) Pat Hughes, Leadership Developer, Author; Wendi Walsh (sunglasses), Senior ITS Manager, Parsons Brinkerhoff; Jennifer LaMarte, HR Manager; Roslyn Ericksen, Senior Account Manager, The Hartford; Kathleen Swirski, Senior Project Manager, Microsoft; Barbara Spraker, Faculty, Antioch University Seattle, Director of the Project; Nicole Theberge, Student, Antioch University Seattle, Graduate Assistant to the Project; Laura Veith, Graphic Designer and Digital Artist, founder Creative Nudel


The four questions posed to each group, both internationally and locally at Antioch, were:

  • What do you care about in your community and what projects have you participated in?
  • As you have engaged in this work, what skills have you used?
  • What additional skills and knowledge would you like to gain?
  • How do you imagine you might develop these skills?

The responses from each group were compiled into a Women’s Leadership Capacity Guide that was published in spring 2013.  This guide is available for other women – anywhere around the world – to use to amplify their voices and recognize their roles in leadership.

Women’s leadership is essential for solving the problems of the world.   If you are interested in women’s leadership and the forms it takes both locally and globally, or attending the Summit, or learning more about this innovative project, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:



iLEAP Fellows and Women’s Leadership Development

This special opportunity to meet with young social leaders from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Papua New guinea, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Honduras, and the Philippines this week provided an up-close opportunity to learn from these front line workers.

The purpose of our meeting was to explore together – actually for me to learn from them – what is truly valuable in supporting women’s leadership development in the communities where they work.  These folks are iLEAP Fellows, participating in a three month intensive learning/teaching experience here in Western Washington.  In their home countries they work in both urban centers and remote rural villages, in programs to improve health, gender equality, women’s rights, access to education, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, sanitation and hygiene education, youth empowerment, microfinance.

We spoke first about what they saw as enabling women to exercise leadership.  Education opportunities, political connections and individual personality and passion were key themes they identified.  Several spoke of their personal commitment to themselves and their communities as the basis of their motivation and key to the hard work, courage and persistence required in their work.

Here are some of the specific stories they shared:

  • Practical one-to-one and small group work to help women make connections and discover opportunities for work is important.  Vocational training for developing employable skills is necessary, including in new fields such as ecotourism, and also finding scholarships so that women can take advantage of such training.
  • In some parts of India once women are married they are quite isolated.  They are always inside the house and do not even know their neighbors.   There is much diversity of religion in these areas and concern about perceived efforts to being converted seems to reinforce the isolation.  Workers often go door-to-door to connect with these women, and continually seek ways to build trust – not only with individuals, but to foster trust within the community as a whole.  The teaching here is aimed at both creating social connections in the community where ideas can be shared and also specific information about organic farming.  Women are taught how to use the small plot of land attached to their houses for growing healthy, organic food for family consumption – such as leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions.  Those without land are encouraged to use plastic pots that would otherwise be discarded, or cement bags, as containers for growing a few plants.
  • In other countries the people do know each other.  However, as a middle class emerges, and the concept of ownership is embraced, a different form of isolation is created.  While in rural areas, families need one another, and connection is necessary, in the more urban areas as people are able to own property, or “things,” the sense of what is “mine,” weakens the feeling of being interdependent as a community.
  • In some countries money from drugs and guns creates major distinctions between the poor and those who are gaining from the drug/gun trafficking.  In this environment women are definitely leaders already – they have to be in order to survive.  In working with women here, the focus in on supporting women in developing relationships with one another, and in consulting with these women to learn what they need.  Here it seemed to be important to teach about gender equality and to provide micro-financing so women can become more economically self-sufficient.  It also became clear to the workers here that these women had no health care.  When they asked the women “What does health mean to you?” the women replied that being healthy meant being able to open ones eyes and get out of bed in the morning in order to go to work – thus, as long as one could move at all, one was healthy.
  • The critical connection between the various levels of society – in creating change – was highlighted through conversation about Indonesia.  When there was a woman president attitudes changed! (Megawati Sukarnoputri, July,2001 – October 2004).  NGOs were able to create an alliance with the National Health Ministry.  In 1998 a National Commission on Violence Against Women was created.
  • Personal power was highlighted in a final story of the afternoon.  Trained as an engineer,  one of the leaders who was part of the conversation described working in a hotel and being given a lower job – with lower pay – than a similarly trained male engineer.  How to change that?  Speak up, say what’s wrong and what needs to happen to change that!  That is using one’s personal power.  AND, following one’s own heart is also using one’s personal power.  Though Lidieth was offered a good job with the hotel, she saw the need to work with women, to help women to help themselves and chose to invest her energy in this work.  “It takes courage, but I had to do what was meaningful to me.”

These stories the Fellows shared reveal powerful strategies for encouraging and supporting women’s leadership development.  They provide inspiring examples for us to heed and to share with other women.

The Intention of this blog is to provide a space for women to Create Our Own Story.  As described in the intro of the blog:

The story about women and our place in the world, the one we tell ourselves, the one history describes, the one that holds the assumptions that influence decisions and interpretations all around the world – that story was written by men.  Our responsibility ~ and opportunity ~ is to

            Create our own Story.

The stories shared by the iLEAP Fellows through this posting are some of the actual stories of women’s leadership!