Women Rising!

Photography by Robyn Leigh

By Shelley Hill Young

Carolyn Rivers and Sandy Morckel believe that qualities traditionally described as feminine – feeling from the heart, working in a spirit of collaboration, listening to one’s intuition, nurturing – are qualities that should be embraced and encouraged because they can change the world.

They are qualities that aren’t taught and are often not appreciated by a patriarchal society.

But Carolyn, the founder of The Sophia Institute, and Sandy, founder of consulting business Solutions for the Greater Good, say that with the #MeToo movement and the increase in women being more willing to take a stand and to take on leadership roles, there’s a new balance emerging that is not tied to stereotypical relationships and roles for women and men.

“We are always cultivating power within instead of power over,” Carolyn says. “It needs to be further cultivated.”

We are at a crossroads, and old society roles are beginning to break down, she says. “What we are investing in is this is a time to break through to a more conscientious world.”

Carolyn and Sandy want to help bring about the change. They’re working together to present  Women Rising!, a three-day gathering Feb. 7-9, designed to encourage women and men to embrace their feminine qualities and use them toward transformative change. Pat Mitchell, the first female president and CEO of PBS and now vice president of the Sundance Institute and co-curator of the TEDxWomen conference, will be the keynote speaker. The Sophia Institute hosted a Women Rising! Soiree in November to announce plans for the gathering.

“There’s something about seeding change when you gather a large group of women together,” Carolyn says.

Carolyn says when she was younger, she felt a deep yearning to “get to parts of myself that I didn’t know, that felt highly creative and spiritual.” She started seeking out learning experiences across the country. The journey led her to create The Sophia Institute in Charleston 17 years ago. She hopes that those who attend Women Rising! might discover their own inner wisdom and commit to using it to work toward change.

The Friday and Saturday of the gathering will be filled with six to seven “big conversations,” which may include a single speaker, a dialogue between two speakers or a larger panel discussion.

“There will be lots of ah-ha moments,” Sandy says.

Sandy says she had an ah-ha moment when she first heard Pat Mitchell speak, and it became clear that we are the ones we have been looking for to make a difference. “Pat called us all to tap into our individual talents and skills and don’t be afraid to let them shine,” Sandy said. “The future of our world is counting on it.”

Sandy and Carolyn hope to encourage younger women to participate by launching Sophia Millennials and providing scholarships for some to attend the Women Rising! gathering.

“As more and more people get exposed to this work, they find their new tribe and we expand our family,” Sandy says. “The more we continue, the more (change) will happen in bigger ways.”

Carolyn says the important questions that will be discussed include: How can you be a leader from a heart-centered place? How do we bring the rise of the feminine into the culture? The workplace? Our homes? Those discussions led to conversations about glass ceilings in the workplace and economic parity, she says.

The feminine quality of intuition can help guide us to find solutions, Carolyn says. “It helps you chart the uncharted.”  

Carolyn wants us to reimagine a world where all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. “This is an opportunity for us all to show up,” she says. “This is not a time to sit on the sidelines.”

Tickets for the conference begin at $90 for the opening night, $250 for the two-day gathering and $350 for the three-day gathering. For more information about Women Rising!, including a list of speakers and ticket information, visit thesophiainstitute.org/events/women-rising-gathering.