The system needs to change (why I #NiagaraLSW)

I am a privileged mother to a bright and wonderful little girl.
I’m life partner to an inspiring man and ally to women and girls everywhere.
I’m an educator to many who are female and born outside of Canada, where access to formal education is not guaranteed.
Through my work as a volunteer and active community member, I meet so many people who feel apathetic, unimportant, discriminated against… people floating around like corks at sea… people just trying to stay above the fray.

Like you, I spend my days navigating through the systems I’m part of – families, workplaces (schools), and communities – and I see room for improvement.

I used to say “our system is broken” until I learned that, technically, it is not. From a Systems Thinking perspective, our system is doing exactly what we humans designed it to do. In general, it is capitalistic, patriarchal, anti-environmental and egocentric. Centuries of poor leadership decisions and limiting beliefs that have gone unquestioned. Trauma that has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s up to us now to disrupt the cycle.

Sound scary and daunting? It is. But, we don’t have to do it alone and we don’t have to do it all at once.

If we want change, we need to change the levers that control the system. That means changing mindsets of the people in power. Or, people currently in positions of power sharing the power with different people (ahem, women and girls). We change us.

We know how much work is involved to change a mind. It can take a lifetime of unlearning; a personal commitment to walk a very long and winding, uphill road. It’s hard work. It may take a while. Likewise, shifting or sharing power takes a massive amount of conscious effort.

And, it’s worth it. Maybe it’s the very journey we’re all meant to trudge on. In that case, doing the inner work for a better world is everything.

The Niagara Leadership Summit for Women is an annual event that has become part of my leadership practice. #NiagaraLSW is a statement I make to myself and the system that says: I not only say I want to do the work, I actually do it. I reserve that fourth Saturday in October for mind-opening learning opportunities and systems-changing conversations that:

  • Inspire with hope for another way, another system to co-create.
  • Spark real ideas by taking time for self-inquiry and reflection, meeting new people, and exploring new ways to apply my leadership.
  • Expose to different voices and perspectives that are not the dominant ones in society.
    One more time for the people in the back: SUPPORTING WOMEN AND GIRLS TO LEAD IS HOW WE CHANGE THE SYSTEM.
  • Connect us to a community of others who are all struggling and doing the work, together.

Together, we will transform our world – one family, classroom, and community at a time. It takes work… collective, forward motion… and it starts with just one day.


Rachel co-chairs the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women Planning Committee and is a graduate of the MA Leadership degree program at Royal Roads University, where she was introduced to Systems Thinking.