I recently read a few articles about the value of being in a sorority (most were about college sororities) hoping to be inspired and find some interesting content for my April BUDDIE Blog post. One of the articles stood out to me and was about the things a Sorority doesn’t tell a woman about being in a sorority. To follow is my translation of the big ideas in that article to Sigma Phi Gamma:
Being in sorority is a time commitment
You know there will be meetings and socials and service, but you also need time for reading the BUDDIE, BUDDIE Blog, and emails from the Chapter, Province, and International levels. There are the pop-up run outs for coffee, breakfast, pizza, or wine. Then, there are the extras: phone calls that require your undivided attention – supporting a Sister, sharing information, gossiping (which is not what we should be doing), requests for help, etc. All of this can add up to significant amounts of time in a week or month. The list of ‘extras’ here are mostly expectations – they are important to being a member and a supportive Sister.
The Chapter might have problems
Your Chapter isn’t perfect. It’s made up of women of all ages, backgrounds, professions, and interests. Every woman has ideas about how the organization operates, where you meet, when you meet, and the service work you do. We don’t have to like everything – just love the mission of why we became a member: Friendship, Service, and Community!
You won’t always be so involved
The Pledge period is the honeymoon. Everything is shiny and fun. Everyone is welcoming and very friendly. And, if done right you will make fast-friends with every member of the Chapter, but sometimes this isn’t possible due to personalities, age, work, and social interests. Over time you might find yourself drawn to specific Sisters. That’s okay if you remember other significant parts of why you became a member: service to the community and to people who need a hand-up; and participating in something bigger than yourself for the greater good of all the women in SPG across the world.
There are strict rules
We are governed by sets of rules: Chapter, Province, and International bylaws and standing rules that help us work well together. Not every rule sits-well with every member. There are membership dues and per capita; there are attendance expectations; there are rules of conduct; there are sometimes fines and penalties for not meeting obligations. As an organization with nearly 100 Chapters we need structure even when we think it’s silly or it doesn’t apply to us. I think of it as the ‘traffic light’ set of rules – we have green, yellow, and red lights to keep us safe and in our own lane.
You won’t be best friends with everyone in your chapter
When I look back at the founding on my Chapter I can say today that half of us were destined to be best friends and the others just friends, some falling away over time. I remember wanting to be like the ladies in Psi Chapter (our Big Sisters) who were very in-tune with one another and very social. This reflection remains the same today, although I now know there are small clusters of very close friends within the Chapter, and at the end of the day they remain true to one another regardless of the ‘depth’ of friendship from one woman to another. I would say, in a Chapter of 30 women, it’s likely you’ll be very close to eight to ten women. You don’t have to be best friends with every Sister, but you will want to respect, admire, and love them all.
Members come and go
Women join and drop out of sorority for all kinds of reasons: time, interest, money, job changes, or moving to a new town. A Chapter’s membership will ebb and flow overtime. It’s always a good idea to check-in with members from time-to-time when someone leaves the Chapter to make sure your operations and activities haven’t gone astray. Don’t let the amount of money women are expected to contribute (dues, per capita, charities, activities) is pushing women out or preventing women to join. Are you actually doing service work? Many women join to be ‘doers’ and that means doing more than having meetings. What is your Chapter doing to have active engagement in service?
An active member has a moral obligation to lead
We all have the ability to Chair a committee, run for office, hold an office, and serve as a leader. We all know there are women in our Chapters (some of them 25+ years) who have never served in an elected office. In the beginning there are reasons (new job, babies, caring of sick parents, etc.) but eventually you need to step-up. Yes, leadership takes a bit of time, thoughtfulness, and desire – and we each have a moral obligation to do our part. Letting, and depending on others, to lead and put in the extra effort while you sit on sidelines is not the SPG way. I promise leadership will not kill you!
And in the end…
You may not have truly understood about the obligation to volunteer, lead, participate, read those emails and newsletters, show up for an intervention to help a Sister, or even some of the secret aspects of sorority – with a definite guarantee I can say, it is all worth it. Sigma Phi Gamma and its members make a positive difference in our lives on the day we join, and overtime as we have life-moments (a wedding, a baby, a death, a new job, a dream and even a broken dream) that change us as women. Sigma Phi Gamma is a way of life for many of us and I know first-hand how much my Sisters love and support me, call me out when I’m wrong or misinformed, or show up for the coffee, wine, or just because.