Women are making history every day, raising the bar and heading toward parity across the globe. It was never more evident than at the recent Women’s Economic Forum (WEC) I recently attended in India. I had been invited to present the goals of the Statue of Responsibility and put women’s roles in the forefront of that initiative. There, I joined thousands of women, men too, who came to share their messages, learn about others and create a union among like-minded individuals who together can change the world. It’s this union of diverse people from around the world that has me convinced that the once-slow evolution of women leaders is becoming a movement that is placing strong, resourceful, resilient women in charge of the private sector and at the helm of ships of state worldwide.
I felt a similar wave at the Diversity Women’s Conference in Orlando last fall. The welcoming inclusion among all the women in attendance felt like a homecoming for me of women reaching out to support other women. In talking with Dr. Sheila Robinson about the upcoming conference in 2016, she said, “It’s about US.” That’s the point of the conference. It provides an event for individual women with their individual talents and strengths to come together and join their abilities to make, not just a difference, but an enormous positive impact in our world today.
An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” I would be nowhere at all if it weren’t for my sisters. In these larger groups, I began to understand that when a significant group of people also know and understand the power of the greater whole, it strengthens all of us: I am far better with you. I’m much stronger and have multiplied my resources. When I’m together with all these people in a room, I can do anything. That is truly empowerment.
All women are leaders in some capacity. Our goal now is to educate them to perceive themselves as leaders. Collaboration, cooperation, inclusion and vulnerability have only recently been valued as valuable leadership traits. As more people are willing to combine their resources and develop working relationships, we will be astounded at the ease with which transformations will take place.
When times were tough, my women friends have been there for me. That’s one of the most important things I learned from those times: to value the gift of mentorship. When we give it, we receive far more. It is genuinely a two-way street. The more freely we share, the more bountiful are our gifts.
I want to urge all women to embrace this idea: reach out to others and ask them without any reservation, “How can I help you?” I have been doing this for years and have heard the astonishment in women’s voices at the idea, “You want to help ME?” These recent conferences I attended put me in touch with hundreds of people who had the same idea, to freely help one another. Ideas, praise, celebration and inspiring stories flowed so freely, I experienced some of my most cherished moments.
Are you reaching out to help others or are you attempting to hold them back from success? When I started to get my doctorate, people (often other women) asked me, “Who do you think you are? Who will raise your kids, take care of your family?” It made me work harder to prove that I could do it, to show my daughters what they could do in life and to provide a good role model. It’s time to stop trying to hold other women back. It’s time to encourage one another and support success for everyone. This is how we can increase the momentum so that women seeking and achieving leadership truly becomes a worldwide movement for positive change.