11 Nov Eighty Years Young and Leading Life Like a Twenty-Five-Year-Old: A Remarkable Woman Shares How to Have Impact
Almost seven years ago, I had the great honor of meeting a woman whose work I had known for years through the Institute for Habits of Mind – a framework for the Keys to Effective Learning book I co-authored. That woman was Dr. Bena Kallick. In light of the women’s march coming up this weekend, I sat down to chat with Bena about her work, how we can support women and foster their leadership skills, and her perspective on how women can effect change.
You are eighty years young, Bena. What is your wisdom for young women who want to make a difference in the world as you have?
Wanting to make a difference and doing something to make a difference are two very different things. When you consider the doing, it can be as local as your own family or community and as global as an issue you want to tackle in the world. The important thing is that you care about the issue and that you learn as much as possible about what you might do. You always need to consider the impact of your work. Everything that you touch is a part of a larger system so you need to think about the cultural, economic, social, political environment in which you are looking for change. Start small, be a keen observer, and have the courage to have your voice heard when you feel passionately about an issue.
To what do you attribute your success over your lifetime?
I have been blessed with incredible energy and the confidence that I can do whatever I really put my mind to. I am always learning and am never sure what the next step will be as I continue my work. There is always a new issue or problem that challenges my thinking. Just when I feel that I have figured something out, I begin to see how what I am doing might either improve, be more adaptive to the situation at hand, or that the impact of what I am doing has had unintended consequences—some good, some not so good. I try to listen hard to others and empathize and imagine how they are feeling.
What do you think women following you will need to do to be the leaders they can be?
Learn how to listen first, check assumptions, and be generous with their availability to others.
What do men need to do or be to support strong women like you?
I have always found that it is important to establish an equal footing based on the power of ideas rather than position or any other cultural factors.
What is your husband like and how have you had such a wonderful marriage all of these years?
My husband is a thoughtful man who serves as a wonderful sounding board for my thinking. He stimulates new ideas for and with me. We share our work which is very compatible. We each respect the work that each other does. He is an anchor for me and has always encouraged and supported me as I have traveled many innovative paths. Most importantly, we deeply love each other.
What characterizes your life’s work and how did you find your passion?
I am especially interested in learning—all kinds of learning in all sorts of environments. I started my work in psychology and realized that I would like to be more actively involved in making life better for kids. I love kids!
Why are you such an involved leader and co-founder of GlobalMindED?
I believe that educators get themselves locked in a box and often don’t think outside that box to other professionals or people who share their same broader mission but are not working in schools. I was fortunate to be a co-presenter in a conference in Malaysia with you and Karen Boyes when we all thought about the limitations of a conference that only focused on education. Why not have all of us in the same conference so that we can learn both separately in our fields as well as interdependently across our fields? We hatched an idea for GlobalMindED that you, in your brilliant and energetic way, have been making a larger reality than we originally dreamed about.
Bena is a remarkable woman and humanitarian. As we prepare to celebrate women this weekend, she ranks among the top contributors. May the next generation of women be filled with the energy, passion, and purpose of Bena Kallick.