Female Leadership: “There’s chicks in charge everywhere.”

Dubois and Rebecca Anders Photo credit: Sidney Erthal
Harley K. Dubois and Rebecca Anders. Photo credit: Sidney Erthal

No one takes a tool out of anyone’s hands. That seems to be the golden rule that truly fosters leadership. “The more the teacher resists the urge to take the tool out of the hand of the student, the better the student learns,” attests Rebecca Anders who has been apart of large Burning Man art since 1997. She’s worked with the Flaming Lotus Girls, helped to build the Temple of Flux and currently makes within the Flux Foundation. Her cohort for the Female Leadership lecture at the Burning Man Global Leadership is equally amazing. Harley K. Dubois attended her first Burn in 1991 and it has spiraled out of control from there. Harley is responsible for creating the infrastructure of Burning Man. She was the first person to suggest theme camp placement and has served as the City Manager for fifteen years. Now she is the Chief Transition Officer and facilitated the recent transition of The Burning Man Project.

One of the main things these women have learned by being leaders in their communities – it’s about collaboration not competition. The more projects embrace the “We” instead of the “I” the more everyone involved is able to succeed. This kind of attitude leads to the doacracy culture that we all so greatly appreciate.

Rebecca has a great example of this from her Burn in 2011. While building the Temple of Flux there was no lead carpenter. The person with the clipboard was the person in charge but that individual was constantly rotating. When it was quitting time for one, another would come in, get briefed, grab the clipboard and take their place. The balance of power was never skewed because everyone had a chance to be in that leadership role. At first the professional carpenters who came to volunteer with the temple at the Burn were fairly confused. There was no main foreman only someone standing there with a clipboard and all the information. “There’s chicks in charge everywhere,” Rebecca joked that this must have been the possibly unnerving realization of all these carpenters who were used to a very different situation. This radical model was insanely successful and to this day The Temple of Flux, which was created by a crew that was 80% women, was the only temple to finish early and under budget.

Thoughtful responses were plentiful from the crowd.
Thoughtful responses were plentiful from the crowd. Photo credit: Sidney Erthal

This success should come as no surprise. “Women have been running Burning Man since the getgo.” Harley states with sincerity and a bit of levity. Marian Goodell, Crimson Rose and Harley were incredibly instrumental in the creation of Black Rock City. Harley built all her teams by making dinner and feeding them. One of Harley’s tricks is to be nourishing and accommodating, it gets the job done.

Throughout the entire workshop and the open discussion that began to take shape between all the participants in the room the concept of the We continuously came up. Everyone needs to feel empowered and if you give value to the volunteers there’s a sense of ownership that creates a work family not just a work crew. Our consensus was that the most powerful thing that a leader of any gender can do is to give their power to others.

7 Responses to “Female Leadership: “There’s chicks in charge everywhere.””
  1. doxie from Detroit

    Two women who truly inspire me to help lead and do so gracefully!

    thank you for your leadership and examples.


  2. This has always been one of the most instructive and inspiring elements of the event for me…women in positions impact throughout the event and the organization. Temple of Flux is still one of my favorite pieces of architecture ever, and the woman mentioned in the article for me are pioneers in inventing ways for women to be shapers of culture at large. Thanks for a great acknowledgement of their work!

  3. I think that’z awezome that women have running Burning Man zince the beginning….and I think it haz looked beautiful,, powerful and amazing!
    I hope one day to be able to play guitar there with one of the DJ’z
    (I wonder are there any female DJ’z there that wouldn’t mind an alien who playz guitar with DJ’z performing with them?

    In any caze. Peace. One Love. No H8

    The Alien

  4. Playa Nai`a

    I first heard of Burning Man in the early 90’s, when my nephew co-created some playa art, although he did not attend. I was attracted to the event, but, to be honest, as a staunch feminist, I did not feel the name, Burning MAN, spoke to me. As a result, I did not consider attending for many years.
    Ten years later, living on Maui, I attended our local burn, SOURCE, ignorant of its connection to BRC. I immediately became a SOURCErer, and a team leader. That’s when I started to hear, “you’re a burner,” from my colleagues.
    I continued to hear it during subsequent years. So, when I retired, I resolved to attend, despite its name, to see for myself whether I was, indeed, a “burner.”
    2010 was my burgin year, and I was awed and amazed. I returned in 2011, when I had the luck to camp with a man who “changed my life.”
    I have been on the playa every year since, and plan to be there this year, at 70!
    Oh, by the way, I certainly do think that it’s about time we had a BURNING WOMAN.


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