How to Bring the Whole You to Work

I am writing this blog to share with you my experiences as a mother, eco-warrior, local activist and someone who is learning to live and lead from my “woman-ness” – or divine feminine.

I think it is one of the strongest things I have going!

To me, leading from the divine feminine means living your values, having authentic relationships, and loving and honoring earth and nature. In my occasional Shetroit guest blogs I will write about what I have learned in getting to this place in my life – and specifically the joys and challenges of living, loving, and working in Detroit.

Detroit can be a harsh place and it presents its own challenges to being your authentic self and living from a justice and environmental perspective.

Mostly I have learned to live some of my values (I am definitely not all the way there yet) – from switching cleaning products and changing diapers, to organization building and working with principles, and also how I measure what makes an authentic relationship in marriage and friendship.

Diana and her son, Leroi. The love at home goes to work.

For the first time I work in an environment where it is possible to be my whole self.

I have been trained, educated, and then retrained to believe that showing my emotions is a sign of weakness – both personally and professionally.

I am proud and humbled to now lead East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), an environmental justice organization in Detroit. I believe the organization has a significant role in Detroit given the number of children and families affected by environmental related illnesses.

I have also been told (and I agree) that EMEAC is an example of how women really can work together.

I talk a lot with my co-workers about true work/life balance … this means work in which you can be your whole self and not have to “code switch.”

Code switch is a linguistics term that has come to mean what happens when we change the way we talk, look or act to fit into white male mainstream culture – especially at work.

When we don’t do this code switch the work is already more balanced and we’re able to bring our softer, gentler “home life self” into the workplace.

About a year and a half ago some of our staff started referring to each other as family.

I was so happy that I went into the bathroom and cried.

Six months later, in moving further away from my code switch, I stopped going into a private place to cry in happiness (or frustration) and allowed myself to share these emotions with our staff –sometimes even at staff meetings.

I believe our society and our world would be so much better if the vast majority of us did not need to lead double lives professionally and personally.

At our organization we put an emphasis on cooperation over competition (a far cry from the white male mainstream culture).

Within our work, and in the ways we create our programs, there is a lot of emphasis on intuition, feeling, emotion, working together, grief, belief, spirituality, laughing and story telling.

This is what I specifically mean leading from your womanness in work!

We are mothers, caretakers – people who lead full lives and can bring themselves completely into their work. We are not these things in addition to our work – it is why we do the work we do.


About Diana

Imagine a work place where we can just be ourselves - our true authentic, beautiful selves. Diana Copeland believes that this is the only way to live our lives and has had the opportunity in her role as executive director for the environmental justice organization, East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), to invite others to pioneer this approach with her. In revealing her authentic self, Diana has found happiness in ways that often press against cultural norms. As a trained engineer she's escaped the male-imbued dictums of that straight-laced profession. As a leader, she is one of many on her team. As a partner, she's married to Will, a sensitive, loving man of another race and as a new mother, she's devoted to her adopted son, Leroi, whose African heritage is allowing her feminine sensibilities to explore raising a male child with the values that she herself holds sacred. These are her musings about navigating the shifting grounds of her life in Detroit.

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