Jo Saxton is the daughter of Nigerians who immigrated to England. She is an author, speaker and leadership coach. She is co-host of the Lead Stories Podcast and founder of the Ezer Collective, an initiative that equips women in leadership. Saxton has written “The Dream of You” and most recently “Ready to Rise.” She lives in Minnesota with her husband, Chris, and their two daughters.
Where do you see women struggle with their self-worth?
After her parents arrived in England, Saxton was mainly raised by her foster mother, Aunt May, a single woman who fostered more than 100 children.
“When you grow up hearing that your family is stealing people’s jobs, that you’re made out to be like a thief, that you’re not a contributor to society and when you’re seen as less than, it breeds this sense of inadequacy, and you may not even see the ways that you can contribute as a gift rather than as something to prove,” Saxton said.
Saxton speaks to thousands of women each year and hears a recurring theme from many of them.
“I hear, ‘I’m just a mom. I’m just a grandma. I’m only young. I’m just this,’” Saxton said. “It’s almost this apologetic language where we somehow minimize our influence and impact and the place the Lord has given us. It’s this comparative thing where we say, ‘You’re doing this, but I’m just this.’ The thing I find sad about that is we don’t live beyond what we believe about ourselves, and we certainly don’t lead beyond it. If we’re full of ‘justs’ and ‘onlys,’ those things will dampen any sense of intentional influence we have. It will hide it. It will minimize it and almost leave us with a sense of shame … we start thinking if God chose someone else, those children would be better raised or that workplace would be better served rather than inviting God to empower us in the place that we’re in.”
She added that women in the workforce face increased pressure.
“I think there is this ongoing pressure of being able to do all the things to the same degree at the same time,” Saxton added. “So, doing well at work, being amazing at home, being perfect cooks, having perfect clean houses and a Pinterest-perfect life … I think now the pressure is so much more visible and accessible.”
There are already so many voices that it can be hard to believe your individual voice makes a difference. What would you say to someone with that line of thinking?
“I think there are lots of people who aren’t doing things who are like, ‘Well, she did that. Well she does it so much better than I do,’” Saxton said. “But no one does it in the way that you have. This voice you’ve been given is a voice from God, uniquely yours. Like any parent, God loves His children to unwrap the gifts He’s given them. It’s not even about what other people are doing. You’ve been given a gift, what are you going to do with it?”
Saxton said whether it’s for one or 1,000, using our voices is service to God.
“There are people who come into contact with our lives every day and the way that you speak to that essential worker who is cleaning that cart making sure your family has groceries, they need to hear your voice. Your child needs to hear your voice. Your neighbor, who is homebound, needs that text or phone call from you,” Saxton added. “I do wonder sometimes what things haven’t been done because we’ve been caught up with comparison: what songs, books, businesses, ministries or nonprofits we’ve not done because somebody else is doing it. Well, there are like 300 million people in America. There’s room.”
Talk about the importance of Jesus’ interactions with women in Scripture.
Saxton said Jesus partners with both men and women to advance His kingdom.
“When we look at the life of Jesus and the dignity with which He treats women, it’s compelling, but I think the expectation that they are involved in what He’s doing is what I’m struck by,” Saxton said. “What I love is there’s a range of women that I see come to Jesus: married, single, older, younger, with children, without children, some who are really pursuing Him, some who’ve had quite the life. And yet we see a consistency in the invitation to follow Him, but also the commission to serve Him as well. In Luke 8, Joanna, Susanna and Mary travel with Him and His team. I’m trying to work out how weird that would have been culturally for people then. There is this consistent elevation of not just a woman’s value, but also her contribution to the Kingdom of God’s story.”