On the front page of the May 31 Seattle Times Sunday Edition, Jessi Bloom was named “a rock star in the ecological gardening movement.”
I did a victory dance in my office when I saw the online version of this article—because permaculture was in the headlines, and the feature included eye-popping photos and text capable of making many suburbanites pick up the phone to call a permaculture designer. AND because this very visible rock star is obviously a very powerful woman—Jessi is a pioneering businessperson, award-winning designer, in-demand speaker and author, as well as a weightlifter, ex roller-derby queen, and a mother.
This reminded me of another visual feast I enjoyed the Spring of 2014—when I first saw the sumptuous film, “Inhabit” in a local theater. Often, when I hear about a big permaculture event, my enthusiasm is tempered by an expectation of seeing a homogenous representation of the folks in permaculture. Instead, I was relieved to see people from many walks of life included, and one-third of the permaculture luminaries showcased were women—including two women that I consider colleagues and friends—Pandora Thomas and Lisa Depiano.
Why does the gender of permaculture rock stars matter? An article in the 2013 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology sums it up: “Women are less likely than men to be associated with leadership, and the awareness of this stereotype may undermine women’s performance in leadership tasks. One way to circumvent this stereotype threat is to expose women to highly successful female role models.”
In 2013, when I interviewed women for the “Pattern Language for Women in Permaculture” article, most said that women were not at parity as teachers, designers or “rock star” status in their regions, and instead were underrepresented in these roles, while overrepresented in the unpaid or underpaid organizing roles. If women were at or above parity as leaders in a region, it was because there was a strong, supportive group of women in permaculture present.
In short, the more often women / people of color / or any other diverse identity see role models who look and think and act like us, the more likely we are to step into leadership. Since the world needs all of us to step into audacious leadership to co-create our regenerative future, diverse leadership leverages win-win outcomes.
In the comments field below, please celebrate other women who are rocking their permaculture livelihoods.