Mother’s Day- Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

I love Mother’s Day for reminding myself and others to reflect on the powerful and supportive mothers and mother figures in our lives. For my mom, that was done through bridging our Minneapolis-Milwaukee gap with a phone call this morning, and a card en route (and taking its sweet time if I may say). But this year, that’s not all this holiday means to me.

While my mom will always be the Queen of my Mother’s Day, today, I was also reminded of the powerful and supportive female-driven communities I am a part of and have access to. For me, the last week was like a drum roll to Mother’s Day.

inspireSunday afternoon brought me back to my sorority chapter house for our monthly Executive Council meeting, on which I serve as the Philanthropy Advisor. While the meetings aren’t known for their brevity; for me, the time flies. I become consumed by the energy in the room and the vibrant conversation– the main topics and the side conversations I can’t help but start.

This time, I was most struck by the impact the chapter women have on our community. There are collegiate women serving the country through National Guard, they are in the marching band, orienting new students as welcome week leaders, and running student groups across campus. While it’s no longer our key phrase/slogan, I was reminded of the words, “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” I love this phrase, this mission statement for not being an if; then. It’s absolute. It’s not a goal, it’s a reality in this very moment.

The next night, the External Affairs team at Comcast offered me a seat at the Girl Scouts: Women of Distinction dinner and benefit. Once there, my guilt set in as I realized the breadth of this organization; and while I was able to rise under the preset of “once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,” I knew elementary-Sarah didn’t even skim the surface of the opportunities available.girl scouts

I heard similar values I associate with my sorority being echoed by Girl Scouts ages 16 to 70. GIRL now stands for Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader. I can only imagine how my outlook, experiences, and priorities would have shifted if those were elementary-Sarah’s guiding values. If that was how I described myself, and even more so, if that was how I described the girls around me.

Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, shared her own story of refusing to choose between earning the baking and science badge, and pursued them both. Despite being told by a college counselor, “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she went on to be one of the first Hispanic female rocket scientists.

girl-scouts-ceo1.jpg

Thursday, I was invited to fill in for a coworker at the YWCA luncheon, and didn’t even check my calendar before accepting. By attending, I was able to sit at a table of driven Comcast women and listen to speakers from all different walks of life speak to the impact YWCA has had on them. ywca1.jpg

After Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” perfectly welcomed her to the stage, Kim Nelson, former Vice President at General Mills, shared this powerful sentiment with us,

“My hope for my daughters, for all of you, and for myself is that each of us wake up everyday and live as women of power. Confident, courageous, and intent on empowering ourselves and others to change the world for better.”

medal1.jpgThe week ended with two sponsored events of Jessie Diggins, the Team USA Gold Medalist Cross Country Skiier. Even though I was taking my self-proclaimed job of photographer and videographer very seriously, I couldn’t help being in awe of the number of girls cross country ski teams that came in, together, to meet their idol and inspiration.

They were poised, and prepared with great questions of how Jessie reaches new goals. They sought advice and soaked in every word she gave them. These girls struck me as the type to describe themselves and each others as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

I saw first hand, they’ve been inspired. They will impact the world.

IMG_5587

Advertisements

How Did They Do That?

IMG_4986Always in amazement of Minneapolis Mad Women events, I’m not surprised I’m still sharing, connecting, and gaining inspiration from the March #HowDidTheyDoThat? session. Six women and one redefining-the-term-power-couple made up the panel that shared their journeys of how they got to where they are today.

Journey doesn’t mean read me your resume, for these speakers, it meant sharing stories of vulnerability, doubt, missteps, and embracing risk.

I could go on forever about the details of each stories (ask my friends, I have) but what sticks with me two weeks later is rather than checking all the boxes and moving through the motions, trust your instincts to follow your own path. Here’s a highlight of how they did it:

  • Kalei Grines, Business Engagement for Target Style, shared that she began her career hiding that she was a single mom, and later having her daughter think of the office as a second home. Once her daughter’s 10th birthday rolled around, Kalei realized she had crossed off all the goals and positions she wanted, but didn’t see her own work in who her independent, extroverted and gifted daughter had become. If something feels like it’s missing from your work/life balance, it probably is. Redefine success to include the life you want to live.
  • Jeremy and Krista Carroll, founders of Latitude, were inspired after spending time in Haiti to leave jobs they weren’t connected to and start their own business dedicated to elevating lives in third-world countries. For this leap to be possible, they asked themselves, “What’s the worst case scenario?” After confirming moving their family into Krista’s parent’s basement was indeed an option, the plan seemed less crazy. Krista credits Latitude’s success to purpose driving talent.
  • Pamela Brown, Brand Licensing & Partnership Management at General Mills, wrote a hilarious letter to her 22 year-old self that prepared her to reframe her career experiences that were to come. She called these “gifts wrapped in shitty ugly paper,” such as receiving a bad boss, terrible pay, no work/life balance; all of which helped her know what to look for in her next role. These shitty, ugly, gifts prepared her not to compromise on what mattered to her most.

After the eight panelists shared their stories, someone asked what their two non-negotiables are in a job. After brainstorming on the way home, and for the last two weeks, I’ve decided my non-negotiables are creative outlets and work/life balance

  • While I currently create content, webinars, graphics, white papers, that is not the only way creativity must show up for me. It’s thinking creatively as well— finding a new solution, trying things that haven’t been done— that make me feel like my whole self is coming to work.
  • Work/life balance isn’t actually a matter of balance. An amazing mentor once told
    me, “If something is in balance, it’s not moving.” So for me, it’s having an employer that allows for flexibility and life outside of work, and for me to be an employee that doesn’t make them regret that. I’m a better employee when I have IMG_4539time for early morning yoga, and evening hours spent away from screens.

I’m lucky that my first role and organization offer these two non-negotiables. At #HowDidTheyDoIt? I realized how many different paths and experiences people come from. We are all too unique to march to the beat of someone else’s drum, or cling to a set in stone five year plan.

For me, remembering that is like a full body exhale. Rather than worrying about being behind or getting ahead, get the most out of every experience and opportunity so you can one day be the panelist saying, this is how I did it.

Just Keep Leaning

Sitting in an meeting I was observing for work, I looked around at the pondering faces of leadership consultants, all two-three times my age. Their questions began overlapping with others’ reflections, and any chance for clarity seemed to be drifting father away.

After thinking of a related explanation involving advertising agencies, I debated whether I should jump in, considering I wasn’t invited as a participant. By the time I convinced myself I was qualified enough to be sitting at the table and needed to lean in, the conversation had escalated and despite my attempts to interject, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

Rather than accepting defeat or regretting trying, I waited for a time of transition and told the man who had started the conversation my perspective from the creative/strategic communications world. Nodding thoughtfully, he thanked me for offering the insight. lean in

Regardless of details, it’s the fear of being wrong that glues your arms to your sides or your lips to a crease. The interaction with the one consultant and positive self-talk I used to motivate me to be involved was inspired by the Sheryl Sandberg novel, Lean In.

One of my favorite things about this book, which has been on the tip of many tongues for two and half years, is seeing how it resonates with others. For me, it played a significant role in the development of my professional life, as I stopped envying others’ experience and started pursuing and creating opportunities for myself.

On the other hand, some say it excluded different socio-economic classes that may not have the job stability to demand more responsibility or equal treatment. They also say there is no advice for breaking down initial barriers when entering the workforce.

A dear friend that always challenges me to see the world through a different lens, pointed out, “By telling women to ‘lean in’ she is putting the blame on women for the patriarchal society we live in and that they need to do all the work to break the glass ceiling…[women] are not the problem.”

While I understand and mainly agree with these criticisms, I believe it’s this demand to get it exactly right, to be an expert, that keeps our hands down and lips closed.

Advice for navigating the corporate world did not and will not resonate and inspire every reader as much as it did for me, but that doesn’t mean Sandberg fell short. Not everyone’s goals or lifestyles involve pencil skirts or equal pay, and because of this, I don’t think her target was every individual of every lifestyle. We’re asking a lot of Sandberg to cover so much ground, rather than diving deep into what she knows from experience, which happens to mainly take place in the corporate world.

If we wait to have the knowledge of every single piece of the puzzle before taking action, it results in a lack of confidence in your ability to create change, to take risks, and to create your own future.

IMG_0886Furthermore, even if we did wait for all the data and qualitative research, it’s human experience that trumps all. It’s when others express their perspective, their truth, that we make these lasting connections; not when they regurgitate what they learned from a book. For me, writing and publically posting my blog is my way to continue combating the voices that tell you to be smaller and fly under the radar, where there’s no risk of being wrong.

Whoever you credit to the shift, and there are many to thank, there has been a passion sparked that has removed negative connotations of the f word. It’s allowed more men and women to have conversations about feminism unapologetically; case in point, the recent Golden Globes.

Recognizing that nothing and no one will ever perfectly hit the mark, it’s our responsibility to highlight strengths to inspire others to build upon them, and illuminate shortcomings to empower other individuals to fill the gap. In my opinion, that’s leaning in, too.