The Surprising Power of "Girl Gangs"

by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

Women’s circles aren’t “just” about spiritual growth, emotional healing, social connection, intellectual stimulation, professional success, artistic expression, or physical health! They’re about all of it. And, surprisingly, women’s circles have the power to heal the planet.
Women’s circles are as old as the human race,” says Chris Zydel, founder of Creative Juices Arts. “Women intuitively know the value of developing a trusted community that helps and supports each other in practical, spiritual, and emotional ways. Being part of a circle is essential to a woman’s overall health and wellness.”
Zydel is a creativity healer and business owner—and her eclectic identity encapsulates the essence of women’s circles. They’re not “just” about spiritual growth, emotional healing, social connection, intellectual stimulation, professional success, artistic expression, or physical health. They’re about all of it.
And, surprisingly, women’s circles have the power to heal the planet.
“We have 12 years left before imminent climate disaster,” says Stephanie Jhala, MBA, founder of A Mother’s Movement in Vancouver. “For generations we embraced the masculine. The feminine has been shunned, wounded, and defaced.
“Now, more than ever, we need all humans to embrace their caring, nurturing, empathetic, healing, and regenerative sides. I believe mothers can be the portal to restoring balance to the planet by activating maternal power.”
Jhala is a leadership coach who encourages her “girl gang”—a deeply connected community of mothers—to rise to positions of leadership and close the gender gap. “The healing nature of women’s circles starts with sharing sorrows, celebrating joys, and communicating authentically,” she says. “It then spills over into our homes, neighbourhoods, boardrooms, governments, forests, and oceans.”

An ancient tradition

Circles aren’t about one woman healing and flourishing, or even about a group of women sharing wisdom, resources, and support. Since the beginning of humankind, circles have had the power to restore balance to our environment.

“Thousands of years ago, women gathered in circles as an imperative and regular part of life,” says Jhala. “It was a place to share sorrows and joys, be heard and held. Now science shows that when women gather and create an intimate and authentic space, oxytocin is released. This love hormone is also evident when women give birth, breastfeed, orgasm, and connect. It bonds, heals, and creates feelings of love and well-being.”

A modern twist

“Girl gangs” may have started around fires in caves, but they’re blossoming in boardrooms today. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement helped plant the seeds, showing that women can make inroads at work by gathering together, setting goals, and talking about challenges.

Jodie Lightfoot launched Your Wolfpack, a circle conceived over coffee with Jhala in Vancouver, on the Lean In platform. “Stephanie had a brainchild to create a ‘girl gang’ of fierce women who support each other,” says Lightfoot. “With busy lives, we shelved the idea. Now, five years later, we both created circles.”

Your Wolfpack meetings are informal gatherings involving activities such as “mindful moment” hikes, potluck dinners, goal-setting lunches, and yoga classes. This circle connects women who are unapologetically and wildly creating their own paths, carving out their own niches, and learning how to trust their own instincts.

Circles are as unique and varied as the women involved. But one thing is the same for all: they can heal a woman’s spirit, identity, and confidence. The powerful effects of these “girl gangs” ripple outward and help restore balance to families, societies, and even our planet.

How do you join a “girl gang”?

Explore the Lean In ( or Meetup ( websites to find a professional women’s circle near you, or talk to women at work about the possibilities.

If you’re interested in a more emotional, spiritual, or artistic gathering, search the internet or approach local organizations aligned with your interests.

Entertain the idea of an online circle! Digital gatherings are a good option for women living in rural areas or communities without like-minded folk.

Did you know?

More than 80 percent of female executives played sports growing up. When girls participate in extracurricular activities, they gain leadership skills that stay with them for life.

The confidence gap starts young: between elementary school and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys.

5 steps to starting a circle

Set your primary intention
Here are a few examples: spiritual growth, emotional healing, creative expression, physical health, or professional networking. Create a unique blend!

Write a short description
Make it about your circle and its possible activities. This will clarify and strengthen your vision.

Name your circle
Be as creative or conservative as you wish; you can always revise later.

Plan when and where to meet. 
You might gather at home, at work, in a coffee shop, or under a canopy in the forest.

Share your vision with someone you trust.
Widen your embrace and invite kindred spirits to participate! Post a notice in your local paper, library, or community centre.

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