Recently, I heard a story of an airport security guard named LaDonna who effectively changed the entire work culture of the airport. I think the reason this story spoke to me, is that contrast to the typical “American Dream” stories we hear, this isn’t a story about a woman who worked her way from the ground up–well, it is, but that’s not the point–it’s a story about one person changing a larger problem through smaller actions.

LaDonna entered into a toxic work environment run by misogyny and fear. LaDonna said that at one point, one female security guard was forced to use the bathroom on herself because the head staff wouldn’t let her leave her post.

So LaDonna continued to assess the power she did have, and leverage that to make changes. At first, it was simply surviving the job–she found ways to use the bathroom or eat without leaving her post. Then, she began training other new employees to stand up for themselves, to follow the code of ethics, to report things that weren’t okay. Over time, there was a cultural shift and those in power began having to answer for their behavior. Eventually, everyone at the top was let go. I think this story signified something far more important:

  1. Everyone can make a difference. LaDonna looked at her role critically to identify opportunities to make changes. She didn’t just do her job, she was playing a game of chess. She believed herself to be a leader, and acted as a leader, and saw herself as an equal to those in charge of her. Empowerment starts within ourselves–and to make a difference, we have to believe that we are capable of creating change.
  2. Changing the system takes time. LaDonna was steadfast and persistent, even when she was the only one in her environment who seemed It’s easy to lose perspective on change when change happens so slowly. In the early days, when it feels like nothing is happening, it’s easy to give up. Often with our clients, we see change happen with our work very slowly–but we know that to really change minds and attitudes, it takes persistence and dedication and cohesive, unwavering message.

It can be easy to feel powerless, but I was encouraged by this woman’s story, as a reminder that if we consistently live in our truth, act and don’t run–change can happen.

>Kathlee, @AkersKathlee