The Pope and Abby Wambach

Updated: Jul 2, 2018

I recently saw the new documentary, “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.” Yes, I am a cradle Catholic and I am not attempting to evangelize here in this blog - at least as it relates to spiritual beliefs! What this man has already done in his role is remarkable, opening up important conversations and embracing all, especially the poor, to a greater love.

As my family and close friends will tell you, meeting this Pope is #1 on my bucket list. That was only reinforced while watching the film. Little did I know that he would powerfully speak on the importance of women. Here’s what he shared:

“Women had a distinctly different way of looking at things than men. I have had consultant meetings about a given problem with male members and then with female members. The input of women is extraordinarily rich! It’s necessary. The world cannot go ahead if there is no complementarity or reciprocity between men and women…We have to integrate women! Because a world without the leadership, advice and vision of women cannot advance.”

Wow. He used the word, “integrate.” Our name starts with “Integrating.” He references

“advancement.” Our mission as an organization is about “accelerating the advancement of women to drive individual and organizational growth and impact.” The Pope is blessing our work at IWL!

A few days later, some other powerful words with a similar message came to me via e-mail. A close guy friend forwarded to me a link to the commencement address of retired soccer great Abby Wambach. She was speaking to the all-female graduating class at Barnard University.

In the speech Abby began by sharing her ah-ha moment at the ESPYs awards when she walked off the stage with her co-honorees, basketball’s Kobe Bryant and football’s Peyton Manning. She realized that despite the same level of effort, dedication, and commitment to be the best in her sport, she was facing a very different future than Kobe and Peyton each of them now retiring from their sports. The men had financial freedom. She didn’t. She realized in that moment that she had spent her entire career just being grateful for her success and missed opportunities to demand equality for women. And by not demanding equality in pay, it had cost her. It had been costing women. Her challenge to the female graduates was for women to move beyond gratitude:

“Women have learned that we can be grateful for what we have while also demanding what we deserve.”

She also shared an enlightening story of how wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after being absent for 70 years. During that absence, deer had overtaken the park with dire consequences for much of the ecosystem. Wolves had previously been feared as the threat. In the end, they were needed and became the salvation of the area.

Salvation. Now, there’s a word that Pope Francis uses frequently in his line of work. Female talent and leadership, like the wolves, are needed for better businesses and a better world. I think Abby’s powerful closing message to the graduates are words that align to the Pope’s perspective as well:

“Women, We Are the Wolves!”


Kim Graham Lee is the CEO of Integrating Women Leaders Foundation. She has a diverse business background including c-level leadership of start-up and growth companies and account management for some of the largest corporations in the world. Kim's professional passion is helping grow other “good businesses." For much of the past 15 years, she has led emerging Indiana-based companies primarily in the technology space. Kim transitioned from longstanding IWL Board member in May of 2017 to CEO. She also helped co-found and serves as the President of the newly-formed Indianapolis chapter of Conscious Capitalism - a global movement which also believes that businesses need more of the strengths that are considered more inherently feminine characteristic

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