I wanted to share some highlights from the Women of Impact event that I attended on March 7, 2018, the day before International Women’s Day.
How often do we say or do something that makes someone feel not included? Maybe more often than we care to admit. Bias happens, even with body language. I have bias when I’m walking down the street, alone, in a big city. I might cross the street if I see a man approaching in a dark hoodie, for example. Yes, I am just being precautious, many of you might say. Perhaps I could make intention that every engagement is going to be meaningful. Opening my heart more, even to strangers (of course with care), is going to make my world a happier place.
“In diversity, there is beauty and strength.”
– Maya Angelou
My head was spinning from the high dose of empowerment that I received at the WOI event. Impactful messages were coming at me from all sides: “Look in the ordinary and find extraordinary…”, “Work together for lasting change…”, “Be the change that you want to see.” One of the most powerful statements came from Rebecca Jacoby, our former CIO: “All success is built on self-awareness. Know yourself.”
I was completely enamored by the two young entrepreneurial women who shared their stories about how they are solving the world’s problems. Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, founder of ProjectVive, and Elizabeth Nyeko, co-founder of Mandulis Energy. The common thread was that they each were driven to help others over helping themselves. Mary Elizabeth’s company makes a speech generation device using bioengineering. She shared that while her sortie sisters were eager to start out in the workforce with their newly stamped degrees, all she could think about was giving a voice to people with disabilities. Elizabeth’s company is centered around agricultural engineering in Uganda, turning waste from rural farmers’ crops into electricity and cooking fuel. Elizabeth had been in medical school when the realization came that she could not be a doctor when there was no electricity in her village.
The afternoon session was entitled “Unconscious Bias,” facilitated by Rory Goldberg and Y-Vonne Hutchinsen. I had no idea there were so many layers to the meaning of bias: intersectionality (overlapping identities), prove-it-again, tight-rope (too feminine; too masculine); maternal wall; performance attribution; leniency, and like-me. I came away with a new appreciation for adopting more sensitivity with both verbal and non-verbal communication.