After a weekend in Singapore in between conferences, I feel refreshed and recovered. I am practicing my mahjong skills and delighting in all the fresh sights and sounds and tastes unfamiliar. And yet, when I pick up the paper, I see the same stories around the globe: “Help Professional Women Retrain to Rejoin the Workforce,” “The Smart Way to Do it All,” “Women Leaders Need Support,””More Women with Professional Degrees than Men,” “Weren’t We Supposed to be Beyond This By Now?”… These were headlines for articles in Singapore, Korea and Shanghai, and Europe.
Ladies, rest assured, you are not alone in your struggle and we are doing what we can to bring you together for knowledge sharing as knowledge is power. As Angela Yip, a talented artist and entrepreneur in Chinatown, helped me express my vision, I will do my best to help you express yours by creating the portal to knowledge and each other that will empower you to be the best you can be.
Day two of the Women’s Leadership and Empowerment conference in Busan, Korea. The people in this country our gracious, generous and a pleasure to work with. The women here are excited to learn more about building bridges and opening their hearts and minds to the West. I feel a bit like my children as I am just soaking in all the new tastes, sounds and experiences. We closed this evening with karaoke in a “Singing Room” which was delightful. After a day of serious talks and presentations I feel refreshed from a few good belly laughs.
The women here are serious about creating change. It is inspiring the way they are reaching out for new ideas and creating some of their own. The hosts are the founders of the Busan Women and Family Institute. It was a great honor to present the first keynote address at the opening. I was pleased to see a familiar face in the following keynote, presented by Dr. Amany Asfour of the Egyptian Business Women’s Association (one of our partners). There was much talk of cooperation and collaboration and how we can help each other grow. Sharing the belief that we are not global unless we include participation from all continents we connected immediately. Economic empowerment for women, greater access to education and knowledge sharing all were common themes. It is easy to optimistic after this experience. The Millenium Goals are attainable, we just need to work together.
Who am I? Like you, I am a dreamer
Believing the world is my oyster
In that oyster is a pearl
A pearl of wisdom
Left by someone who cherished it
Who then passed it on so that it could be cherished by another
Women Sharing Wisdom is nothing new
In fact it is as old as time
But what once was shared with few in a closed tent
During women’s monthly blessing
Now can be shared across cultures, across boundaries, across cultures
The Internet has made this possible
Who are we, we are dreamers
Believing technology will make anything possible, someday
Energized by the tools that enable us
To interact with information and individuals
Excited by the possibility of the most obscure of solutions can reach
One seeking the answer from a far corner of the globe
Who are we, we are women
We are global citizens, builder of communities, mentors,
We are mothers, entrepreneurs, wives,
We are Friends, Sisters, Daughters, Lovers of life,
We are hostesses, visitors and travelers
We long to create a better place than the one that we came into
Trying to balance the ever changing needs of our multidimensional lives
and those around us
Imagine reaching an audience engaged
Imagine connecting before a transition knocks you down
Imagine not feeling alone
Imagine leading and supporting other women who lead.
I have just returned from the TIAW Global Partnership Forum in Indian Wells, CA. I must commence with a kudos to the organizers at the Women’s Leadership Forum, particularly Dr.Rev. Cathy O’Connell, and TIAW’s Maxine Westaway, Stephanie MacKendrick and Diane Morris for pulling together such an inspiring group of presenters in the most marvelous of location. Thank you ladies!
It is hard to know where to begin with so much to reflect upon, so I will just mention some of the highlights that stood out.
* Dr. Reine Eisler from the Center for Partnership Studies spoke of the partnership model and the importance of hierarchies of actualisation rather than hierarchies of domination and rising to a call for action in awareness. I am looking forward to reading more of her work.
* Shalini Nataraj, Global Fund for Women, emphasized that women have to be at the table for every issue, not just women’s issues.
* Stephanie MacKendrick, of TIAW and Canadian Women in Communications, presented on women on boards and the 7 steps to recovery from a power deficit. 1. Build Professional Profile 2. Involve employer, share aspirations 3. Education plan 4. Networking plan 5. Applying judiciously (focus) 6. Serving on non-profit board 7. Be realistic. She also emphasized the importance of supporting the men’s liberation movement: to take their share of child and family care and free them from domination (the preconceived beliefs of).
* Libby Gill provided a wonderfully motivating presentation on establishing our brand and authenticity. 1. You are your brand 2. Stand out from the herd 3. Craft a Sticky Message 4. Predetermine press outcomes 5. Powerful plan and flawless execution.
* Hon. Patricia Russell-McCloud, A is for Attitude had us all ready to launch with her fantastic rhythmic incantations for striving for our greatest potential. A few soundbits that stand out: “Whatever you are going through is a temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement.” “Money will not buy happiness, but it will buy a consultant who will look for a solution.” “Those things which make you exceptional may also make you lonely.” And, “Attitude will get you from duh to ahh.”
Empowering women in leadership is the first step to empowering the next generation. To pave the path for others we must provide good role models, respect and teach respect one another, be open to learning from and teaching others, and rising to the occasion when we are given the opportunity to lead. As multifaceted individuals, we are in a constant mode of transition from one aspect of our lives to others. Our priorities require adjusting, sometimes more drastically than others, and sometimes only momentarily.
As leaders, as women, as human beings rather than doings, empowering each other through mutual compassion and respect is critical for the long haul. Simply said, it is lonely at the top. It is important to remember that our leaders are as human and multifaceted as the rest of us. Their passions may lie in supporting their followers, but they cannot do that effectively without support maintaining the others facets of their lives.
After much listening, asking and thought, we are making some major changes to how we grow 2BalanceU. The networks need support to grow and share their work. Many of them are doing wonderful research that should be shared and learned from. Much of it overlaps with other networks efforts and could be used in a more comprehensive work. Work on empowering young women to fuel their ambition, women on boards, supporting women entrepreneurs, mentoring, the list goes on. But each of these are clearly universal themes in women’s networks around the world.
We have listened and are soon launching our global community calendar to share events. We are creating a comprehensive directory of women’s networks and organizations. We are turning off the questions and answers until user numbers make this effective. Our Groups are still available for more specific inquiry and response. We are returning to our focus of the resources that are available. Networks, Events and Resources are online, global, regional and local.
This change in format feels right, and effective for supporting the women that are the leaders of today and tomorrow. I hope that those who have enjoyed the questions will not be too disappointed at their temporary disappearance. But I believe they will be happy with the end result.
Building 2BalanceU and working with women sharing wisdom is empowering in itself. I constantly receive validation for the need for a tool that encourages women to share wisdom. As I meet with representatives from international agencies and global networks, we shared our thoughts about the similarities rather than the differences in women and what they need to succeed and be happy. They express their thanks for a tool to connect women in the field and partners of men in the field to other women in their communities. By supporting women in leadership roles we can empower them to be change agents. By removing the distractions of our differences and focusing on what we have to learn from each other we can all accomplish great things. We are both bearers of great wisdom and receivers of it. It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. We all can achieve more and rise to the occasion when we feel more balanced.
The sound of a whisper can scarcely be heard. The whisper of many can be a thundering roar. I don’t expect women to roar alone. But I do hope that women will rise to the occassion and part with a whisper. It might be in the form of sharing a burning question. It might be simply by sharing a favorite book, story, event, website or words of wisdom and inspiration passed to them. It might even be all of the above.
The feeling of giving is equal when one is sharing their thoughts. Each question inspires a thought, and in that a connection is made. We are not alone in our needs. We are more alike than we are different. I look forward to the roar created by parting with whispers in unison with women around the world. It has only just begun.
What a relief it is to be authentic. Simply watching those who try to be something they are not is tiring. I am me, with all my faults, my quirks. Being real, having faults, is an asset, quite frankly. For if I have faults, I have room to grow, more to learn, it keeps me open and alive. Understanding my own imperfection enables me to be more accepting of others. If a first impression was poor, it makes me curious, rather than turns me away. Did I judge too soon, or was I misunderstood? Regardless of the conclusion, I find it a learning experience.
In building partnerships, I have discovered a new strength driven by my passion for building bridges. Truly believing that what we are building is a tool that is beneficial for all networks as a way to grow, build their community and their audience, raise their voice, and find alliances. I am driven. I can stumble because I am real. I stand to take the next step with caution at first to avoid the same fall. But my passion allows me the strength to stand tall even when rising. Not with pride of self, but confidence in doing the right thing.
That is not to say that it is easy, but it sure is gratifying.