2007 Changemaker: Nancy Stephan

Honoring Women Worldwide

Nancy Stephan. Photo by Steven Shor.

Nancy Stephan. Photo by Steven Shor.

“It took me a while to answer the call,” said Nancy Stephan, speaking of the inspiration that sparked Honoring Women Worldwide. Indeed, the call came from visits to two different cities for two different reasons on successive weekends in 2005. On the first visit, to Atlanta, she walked the Freedom Trail and visited Martin Luther King’s home and church. But it was hearing the ‘I have a dream’ speech in the MLK museum that made Stephan recall her own feeling of inequality as a girl … and she started dreaming about honoring herself and other women.

Traveling with her grandson to Ohio, where they visited the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Football Hall of Fame, affected her too. “It really bothered me. It made me mad,” Stephan said. “All of these trophies and plaques were for men. Where was the honoring space for women?”

The museum trips were a revelation for her. They became the fuel to let a light shine.

She realized the negative impact on women, girls and families when women do not honor themselves or expect to be honored. She envisioned honoring women for their contributions to their families, work, communities and the world.

Stephan’s longtime career as an executive coach was a natural progression of her zeal to bring out the best in people. “My whole career up to now had been preparing me for this,” Stephan said of Honoring Women Worldwide.

Stephan found women to share her vision. She met first with two friends, who validated and encouraged her, then pulled together a group of culturally diverse women to become this nameless organization’s board of directors. Together they brainstormed the name Honoring Women Worldwide and developed a mission statement, operating principles and goals. They planned for monthly meetings to gather and honor women. They set a goal to build a Women’s Worldwide Hall of Honor in the Twin Cities by 2015.

When the call went out in January 2007 for the first meeting of Honoring Women Worldwide, over 100 women answered. As the word has spread, more women have joined the monthly gatherings. Each gathering begins by honoring women’s talents with music and dance performances from various cultures. Guest speakers or panels talk about the “honoring” principle set for a particular meeting. Each meeting also includes conversation circles so that individuals can reflect and speak about their own experiences. “We encourage women to celebrate their gifts and to bring [them] into the world,” Stephan said.

“When you put something out there, and you show up, you don’t know what miracles will happen. I have a belief that the right things will happen,” Stephan said. “[After a first year of gatherings] we now have opportunities to take the art of honoring out into the world in different ways, creating wellness,” Stephan continued. “This keeps me and my passion going.

“We’ve found validation that this is the right thing to do.”

Be a Changemaker
To find out more about the Honoring Women Worldwide organization visit its website at www.honoringwomenworldwide.org.”Calling all women to gather, to connect, honor each other and ultimately change our world!” These are the words of welcome from Honoring Women Worldwide, an organization launched in January 2007.