Thanks to Frauke for organising a great regional in Lüneburg. It was enlightening and fun to catch a little FAWCO Fever (Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas). Looking forward to building projects that can support both the Millenium Goal (especially my passion, MDG3) and other projects like the Heart Pillow, Clubs in Motion and more. It was a delight to meet all you ladies. See you all for Vilnius in March.
Meeting women entrepreneurs from around the world is always inspiring for me. This time around the feeling was a renewed sense of energy and positive outlook. The global financial crisis was unable to cast a shadow on the passion of these women. The opportunities that arise from change are embraced, rather than shied away from. I was honored speak with the founding president of honor, Madame Armand Dutry. Her presence and warmth was felt by all that she interacted with. She should be proud of the women from all corners of the globe that assembled to support each other and FCEM.
I have just returned from Cairo at the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (FCEM) annual Congress. As I sit to begin my follow up with all the wonderful and inspiring women entrepreneurs I feel I must take brief moment to reflect (more specifics to come). There was such an air of optimism, of generosity and kindness, of curiosity and cooperation and of interest in collaboration for mutual benefit. No matter their origin or circumstance, from established multinational business owners to local craftswomen, from the developed and the developing, peaceful and war-torn. They each had a story and a passion for their business and their people that I have never before experienced. The true spirit of women’s networking took place in “what can we do together” or “what can I do to help you”, rather than (the all too often) “what do you want from me.”
The work has only just begun. Now we have much greater penetration into new markets around the world after this conference. With advocates in Libya, Bahrain, Cameroon, South Africa, Egypt, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ghana, India, Romania, Iceland, Cyprus, Korea, Afghanistan and more. Each of them wanted to know what they could do to help. I challenged them to take action, spread the word and encourage others and other networks to participate. It has been incredibly inspiring and exhausting. I am still reeling from it all. I am thoroughly encouraged and re-energized by the validation of the need for and potential impact of 2BalanceU. Connecting supplier to distributors, consumers to products and services, connections to other women. Now we just have to keep the momentum on the build and get cranking on the fund raising for growth and support of regional networks and sponsors.
Lessons from Cairo. It is a city that you must visit. Belly dancing is truly a sport and an art form. Egyptians like to stay up all night and party (starting dinner around 10pm). The pyramids are incredible, despite the hawkers and the camel pushers. You just need to learn to say “No” and mean it. “Around 7” is more like “some time after 8.” “Right away” means, “sometime in the next bit of time, not sure how long, as I might get distracted on the way.” “No” means “maybe if you give me a better price”, which means that if you say no, they think you want to bargain with them. It is cold in November, which is nice, if you plan for the weather, instead of reading about it in the guidebook on the plane coming there. The people are wonderful and friendly and full of smiles. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and cannot wait to return to bring my family to explore more.
A few days later and a little less jetlagged, I shall complete my reflections on the TIAW conference. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to share with and learn from face to face interaction with so many interesting women leaders. The energy and camaraderie was contagious. I look forward to being able to help grow the awareness of events and organisations like these through 2BalanceU. They can be powerful catalysts to change in the right direction. Working towards partnership and leadership with heart and soul.
The importance of networks both big and small and using them for support and learning is what stood out for me on day two. Have a plan, both a financial plan and a life plan but be flexible to accommodate life’s surprises. Nurture ambition, if you so desire, go for it, and surround yourself with others who support your ambitions. Learn from those who have more experience, and mentor those who can learn from you. Don’t be afraid to lead like a woman, with compassion and tenacity.
Some links of interest:
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
Boardroom Bound, an organization advocating better governance and diversity on boards
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.”
Breaking traditional cultural patterns is often met with resistance even when change is for the better. Introducing new solutions takes patience and persistence. I now watch my daughter and am proud to see her fight stubbornly for that which she feels is right. I believe that it is precisely that tenacity combined with compassion that create powerful leaders who can institute change.
Women sharing wisdom is nothing new, it is simply the method of sharing that has evolved. As a result, we are no longer simply sharing wisdom that enables us to support and sustain just our families and our communities. With the Internet, women sharing wisdom impacts the world as a global community. But first it must start at the core. The sustainability of self. If we neglect the sustainability of self, we cannot lead. The wisdom we gather in becoming sustainable at the core is what we share.
We no longer meet in red tents when we have our monthly visitor, we have women’s networks. And yet, as women we must remember that we have more in common than difference. We are united in laughter at shared images of hot flashes, helpless frustration at recollections of being violated, camaraderie at defiance of glass ceilings, and pride in personal success. Women leaders are still women at the core. Encourage tenacity and support one another with compassion, it is critical for the success of evolution of leadership. As it is change, it may be perceived as revolution. May the gift of compassion make it a peaceful one.
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.
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.
Taking a moment to reflect while in transit from the Women’s International Networking (WIN) Conference 10th anniversary in Oslo back home where my family and office await. It is a powerful experience to be with 700 professional women from around the world networking, learning, sharing for 5 days. Each one had different goals in mind for why they were there and what they will achieve during the conference. All expressed a desire for change, with an interest in being part of that change. Most presented a positive hope for the future. Those who brought in unconstructive negative energy became a dance of sorts for the rest of us to turn redirect to the positive (or at least seeking solutions instead of complaining).
Last year, I came to WIN with a curiosity and desire to learn more about what women were doing to connect and share. This year, with my ear to the ground, I wanted to learn more about what I could do to not only advocate sharing but enable it. I was encouraged to see that validity in my work. A tool is needed to bridge the gap between networks, to help them grow, to help women extend their reach for inquiry and sharing.
Like many events such as these, we return home to our lives with a renewed energy and inspiration from all the new connections we have made and things we have learned. Knowing that this energy fades, I only hope that these women will seek each other out to maintain this energy. Build momentum for change in themselves and their environments not only through their networks, but also as individuals. The laughter and smiles shared is a powerful connection. Remember that there is a human behind each card that sits in the stack. As I take each in my hand, I consider the conversations, the shared expressions, the smiles and occasional miscommunications that became opportunity for discussion.
Thank you Kristin for doing your magic and pulling of another great conference.
Thank you ladies who participated in the Women Sharing Wisdom; Making the Most of Cross-Network Mentoring Workshop at the International Committee for the Red Cross on the 4th of September. It was a pleasure to meet you all and to see you all interacting in a moment of wisdom sharing, laughter and inspiration.
I encourage you to continue your efforts to be open beyond your traditional networks. Remember to make the most of the mentoring and networking available to you within your organization, but remember that there is much to be learned from unexpected connections both locally and globally. As we all move through transitions in life, be them small or great, there is much to be gained from learning from those who have passed through them before, are moving with you, or are approaching. Keep in mind the curious traveler that knows more about their destination than the resident they are visiting. Wisdom can come from many places.
I look forward to hearing about your journeys and hope you will take the time to pass on the wisdom to one who needs it. In the meantime, best wishes to you and thank you again for sharing your time.