BTN LiveBIG: Illinois women leading on water

Despite strong data and economic proof which demonstrates that everyone benefits when young women are educated and given leadership opportunities, in many countries and even within sections of the United States, women are left out of the leadership equation.

So how do we get more women equipped to have a seat at the table in decision-making leadership roles?

Linda Lindquist-Bishop and Katie Pettibone of the Rising Tide Leadership Institute have an answer.  Inspire, education and create opportunities for women to be leaders through high-tech high-performance sports. They state that 40 years of data demonstrate that “Women change and enhance the conversation, bring a different perspective to governing, increase the health and sustainability of their communities and offer systems thinking and solutions to local and global problems.”

Lindquist-Bishop passionately asserts that “We need more leaders equipped to think through and make the right decisions to help us navigate successfully through this current sea of change, conflict and opportunity.  And women are our largest untapped leadership resource.”

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Back in 1995 Lindquist-Bishop and Pettibone were chosen for the first and only all-women’s America’s Cup team. Competing against men on the international high-tech playing field of racing sailboats, the two were stunned to hear from women all over the world who said that the A3 entry into the race broke barriers beyond the sports world.  Girls and women told them that if the All-Women’s America’s Cup Team could compete directly with men, so could they.  The team had become an inspiration to women of all ages to live bigger, more challenging lives. Lindquist-Bishop wanted to keep that spirit going.  But how?

In 2011, Pettibone was asked by the Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said to help train a handful of young Omani women to become a competitive sailing team.  Lindquist-Bishop knew this story needed to be captured and those blog posts stimulated the first ideas of the Rising Tide Leadership Institute.  Pettibone, along with 3 other elite women sailors, took these young Omani women who had never trained for any sport and built a team capable of competing 3 months later in the 2012 Sailing Arabia the Tour (SATT), a grueling 800-mile two-week race along the Arabian coast.

At first, the men’s teams did not take the women’s efforts seriously, which was no different than Lindquist-Bishop’s and Pettibone’s experience in 1995.  But after several hundred miles of competitive sailing, the Omani women were no longer “the girls,” they became fellow competitors. Lindquist-Bishop said, “You could see the change on the dock.  The men talked with the women as sailors and equals. The change was extraordinary.” They were invited back in 2013 and again this year.

Several members of the original SATT women’s team have gone on to other leadership roles and have become role models in and beyond Oman.  This left Pettibone with an all-new team of young Omanis to train for this year’s SATT. This young team was very green but they had the fire to learn, excel, and take on leadership opportunities on the squad, which resulted in an encouraging 4th place finish.  Learning skills, stepping up as leaders, and becoming role models are exactly what Lindquist-Bishop wants to teach.

When asked why Lindquist-Bishop is so driven by the goals of the Rising Tide Leadership Institute, she explained, “First you need to see it to be it.  So when women see other women competing and leading, they know they can do it too. And men need to see it to believe it, because once they do, they advocate and create competitive and leadership opportunities for women.

To add more women leaders to the equation we can’t just inspire and equip – we also have to change the acceptance for what women can achieve, with those who can provide or prevent access for women at the leadership table.”

Lindquist-Bishop added, “Women-only sports are tremendous, essential opportunities for leadership development in women.  But when women compete head to head with men, as they can in sailing, aviation, and motor sports, then a different bridge is crossed. In those arenas, the global visibility of what women can achieve is broadcast from a bigger megaphone to a wider audience.”

Lindquist-Bishop focuses on sailing, aviation and motorsports because they develop STEM specific skills (math, science, technology and engineering); they are gender-neutral platforms; and they are extraordinary team and leader development labs. “By competing successfully in these sports with and against men, we are changing perceptions of what women can do everywhere.”

Why call her institute “Rising Tide?” Because, Lindquist-Bishop explains, “our goal is to improve everyone’s life by improving women’s lives. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

For more information, see www.4risingtide.org/

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