Submitted by: Molly Ware

Have you ever had a friend tell you something that so shocked your sense of reality that, in that instant, you could no longer see the world in the same way again?

Joy with friends Sarah and Taya on a women’s ride to Ferndale. Photo courtesy: Molly Ware.

For Joy Wiggins, of Global Peaceful Paths Equity and Inclusion Consulting, LLC this moment came in college when a black friend from San Antonio told her he thought he needed to leave the university because it was so racist that he feared for his physical safety if he stayed at school. “Where have I been,” she wondered to herself, “while my friend was having cotton plants placed outside of his dorm room?” This became one of many moments that continue to propel Joy in her work to help people connect across racial and gender differences.

Connecting across difference is never easy. Especially where race and gender are involved. But it feels especially hard right now in the midst of extreme polarization. And that’s why my conversation with Joy left me feeling energized and hopeful. Because what can feel impossibly challenging to navigate for many of us, is something Joy Wiggins does with ease and skill. Where some of us may be tempted to shy away from conflict that grows out of racial and gender differences, Joy Wiggins’ consulting through Global Peaceful Paths Consulting supports individuals and organizations in connecting across these differences.

Joy attending Citizen University conference in Seattle hosted by Eric Liu where she and other citizen activists discuss how to create a more democratic future. Photo courtesy: Molly Ware.

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the work of Brene Brown or not. But if you aren’t, her new book Braving the Wilderness is both very timely and powerful. And my conversation with Joy left me realizing that Whatcom County has its very own Brene Brown in Joy. Just like Brene’s work, one of the things that most stood out to me in my conversation with Joy was her amazing ability to respond to questions and comments I had about race and gender as a white woman in ways that kept me open and discouraged me from shutting down because of blame and shame. At the same time, she was able to help me see the way I have been socialized throughout my life and how that affects what I understand about race and gender. Accountability without judgment. It’s a powerful and important offering at this moment in our national history.

Joy presenting to colleagues on community engagement. Photo courtesy: Molly Ware.

It left me wanting to have another conversation with Joy. And it gave me a clear sense of the value of Joy Wiggins’ consulting work in addressing complex and emotionally charged issues that arise around race and gender within organizations. In addition to customized projects Joy does with organizations, she also leads a variety of workshops in the community and at WWU including: Developing a Positive White Identity, Storytelling to Deconstruct our Biases, Understanding Bias and Microaggressions, and How Women Can Support Each Other in the Workplace,” among many others. She specializes in designing new workshops and adapting her work based on the specific needs of her clients.

The connection I shared with Joy Wiggins in our recent conversation actually goes way back. I initially met Joy many years ago at a summer camp in another state. We were both pre-teens and didn’t really know each other well at the time. But we remembered well enough to keep looking at each other a little longer than one normally does when passing a stranger when we both ended up at Western Washington University as faculty. Eventually we decided to go hiking and pieced together our shared connection from the past, which had led both of us to beautiful Bellingham and WWU. Small world!

Joy meeting with student activists in Amman, Jordan while attending a Women’s Empowerment seminar. Photo courtesy: Molly Ware.

In addition to connections with Joy through camp as a pre-teen, WWU and her consulting work, I have also appreciated the opportunity to attend a monthly networking event for Whatcom Women Entrepreneurs that Joy organizes. While laughing over a delicious lunch provided by Sarah Chan from Calypso Kitchen, several local Whatcom Women Entrepreneurs, including me, made connections and offered ideas about how to address challenges and opportunities we face in our businesses. These monthly events are just one example of how Joy works to empower women across difference. “We all bring something to the table. It’s important to collaborate and not be in competition with each other. That’s a different mentality that women in business can bring.”

Joy practices what she preaches. Through her many speaking engagements – often focused on empowering women across difference – she helps us to imagine new ways of working together as women (and men) that unleash our collective capacity. That liberate and raise one another up. That help us learn together how to create more of what we imagine is possible as women. The Whatcom Women Entrepreneurs feels like a powerful example of this message. Along with her recent TEDx talk From Sabotage to Support: Women Liberating Women in the Workplace.

Joy giving her TED talk. Photo courtesy: Molly Ware.

I’m glad to know that Joy Wiggins’ work with Global Peaceful Paths Equity & Inclusion Consulting supports businesses and organizations in Whatcom County and beyond in connecting across racial and gender differences.

You can follow Joy on Twitter at drjoyGPP and check out Joy’s work on her website where you can watch her TEDx talk or download her ebook “Unmasking our Implicit Biases.” Joy is also working with Berrett Koehler Publishers on her upcoming book, “From Sabotage to Support: Feminism for Empowerment, Solidarity and Liberation Across Difference,” with her co-author Kami J. Anderson.

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