Two months after women rallied for equality on seven continents, Carla Goldstein is bringing the ideals celebrated that day to female leaders. As chief external affairs officer for the Omega Institute and cofounder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y., she’s helping scores of women reclaim a more authentic self. NationSwell spoke with her about how women can take charge in the direction of the world.
What goes on at the Omega Women’s Leadership Center, which you co-founded?
Our main focus is on helping women, as they gain more power, to use their leadership to transform the way that power is actually used. One of the consequences of gender inequality is that pretty much all of the power systems were designed without our input, participation or needs in mind. Power operates through dominance, when what we really need are human beings who are interdependent. We need models of cooperation, not conquest. The fundamental question for us is: How do we bring women’s needs, voices and perspectives into the systems that govern how we all live together?
The Center has a three-pronged approach to rethinking power: personally, relationally and globally. How do you alter the current structures?
One of the fall-outs of gender inequality and this culture of hyper-masculinity that values results and reasoning is that we’re cut off from multiple human intelligences: that of the body, intuition, relationships. Women particularly have a challenge of living in a constant state of adaptation. That can render an inauthenticity: We’re saying the thing that’s going to let us keep our jobs; we’re doing the thing that fits in. It can be challenging to bring our own values to the table with the kind of fierceness that’s called for. Our curriculum follows four Vs: values, voice, vision and voyage. At the personal level, what we’re teaching is a process to clarify their values and identify when their voice aligns with them. Similarly, vision is so often predetermined by others (like their families or their companies), so we help women bring in their own authentic, unique visions of what their life should be like and the world should look like.
Where would you speculate your drive for social justice comes from?
Now that I have children, I see they carry this inherent shock when they learn that the world operates on the dominance model. When I was a kid in the Sixties, I had parents that explained to me, “Well, yeah, it works this way, but it’s wrong. And we can change it.” A lot of kids don’t have that message. When it comes to dominance, we either learn that it’s just the way it is and to get up as high on the ladder as you can, or that it’s wrong and to do what we can to change course.