Six Stanford women on what it means – and what it takes – to lead

Rania Awaad (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

Stanford is home to thousands of women faculty, staff, and students who teach, lead, inspire, research, and mentor. For some, leadership roles and responsibilities were intentionally pursued. For others, it happened organically over time. But for all, there is a shared passion for working toward change and cultivating the next generation of women who will continue in their place.

Over the course of March, Women’s History Month, Stanford Report talked with several women leaders – from all different professional, personal, and spiritual backgrounds – about what women leaders bring to their roles, the importance of mentorship, and the power of community.

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Rania Awaad

“The idea of women in leadership sits very close to my heart. And when I think about women leaders, I think about the many women who have shared an immense role in shaping who I am today, both in my current professional life and also in my personal and spiritual life.

“Women lead in such beautiful and gentle but purposeful ways. A leader is somebody who has taken even just a few steps before you on the path, but they’ve been able to ‘send the elevator’ back down to help you get where you need to go. Something one of my spiritual teachers often says is, ‘teach them and free them,’ which is the idea that you’re there to teach and pay forward what you have been given.

“I have medical training, but I also have theological and spiritual training, and I’m really big on holistic healing and holistic care. For people who come from a spiritual or faith background, it’s really hard to bring your whole self to the work you do if some part of that is missing. Now, some of the work I do in my lab and research is allowing folks to bring those intersectional identities into the work they’re doing.

“For a long time, I’ve joked that I’m an accidental leader. And I think some of the most effective leaders are those who it landed in their laps. But it’s about learning how to listen to other people, learning different personality types and how to work with them.

“Sometimes I see women in leadership burn out and burn out quickly. I’ve learned it – probably the hard way – but ask for help, whether it’s professional, mental and emotional, or spiritual help.”

Rania Awaad is clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences, director of the Stanford Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology Lab, and affiliate chaplain in the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life.

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Read more profiles on the original article in Stanford News