A letter of love and hope to Zoe

One of the joys of my second act of life is watching my ten-year-old granddaughter, Zoe, grow into young womanhood and explore all the richness of life.  Another joy of my second act is helping leaders and women succeed in business. Amy and I call it helping people get their big on:  think big rather than small, be the big person and do what’s right whether or not it’s popular, trade in the tiny dreams for big ones, forego the personal glory and pay it forward for the greater good. All those things we want to see in our young leaders, whether male or female.

Today, International Women’s Day, both of my joys intersect. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is connecting girls, inspiring futures. Hence my letter to Zoe, a confident young girl on her journey to becoming a confident young woman, a powerful leader, and anything else she chooses to be and do.

Dear Zoe,

Today is International Women’s Day. While there won’t be pizza, okra and apple pie to celebrate (perhaps there should be…), it’s a big day for you and other young girls across the globe. Why? Because you’re our future.

You frequently ask us to tell you a story. Today, I’m doing something different. I’m asking you to start living out a story, your story.

Twenty years from now I want to sit down with you and listen to your stories. I want to know where you’ve taken your life and how you found success, fulfillment and love.

I want to hear how:

- You never lost your belief in yourself and how it propelled you into new adventures because you were never afraid to take the leap

- The courage you displayed in fiercely pursuing your brown belt at age 9 never left you, and that you shared it with others to help them find their way because girls can do and be whatever they want to do and be

- Your compassion for saving stray animals and befriending the underdog has made you a beacon of light for family, friends, co-workers and colleagues and maybe even a broader stage

- Your boundless creativity and gift for storytelling have served you well, allowing you to chase innovation, not letting misguided beliefs and stereotypes limit your opportunities and experiences

- Your belief in inclusion never wavered and kept you from falling victim to short-sighted ideologies that shut out people with different viewpoints, and

- You kept being the boss and the ringleader, never doubting for a moment that you would always be liked and be powerful, too.

I know some of these concepts probably don’t make much sense to you today, but they will as you experience more of life. Trust your Mum-mum on this one.

There are days when I wonder if the gender gap will ever be closed. Then an image of your purpose-filled little face appears, and I know your generation of women is in good hands.

With love and hope for the future,





International Women’s Day: Symbolism and Practice

I love holidays and yet I don’t love holidays. Huh?

On one hand I love the celebration and spirit of community that comes with holidays. There’s camaraderie and fun and love and shared experiences. Yet on the other hand, holidays can be an easy-to-use remedy if one forgets to regularly tell Mom or Dad that you appreciate them or you forget to thank your assistant often enough.

Either way, holidays are symbolic. Symbolism is important. So are day-to-day practices.

Today, women across the globe are celebrating the 100th International Women’s Day. There’s press coverage. Speeches will be given, and articles written.  Some women will be standing in solidarity on bridges at noon. It’s a day to both celebrate advances and reflect on the gaps yet to be closed.

All this is good. It shines a light on gender equality issues.

What’s even better is keeping that light shining tomorrow and the day after, and the day after. Keep women’s issues front and center as business and societal issues, not just women’s issues.

Some proactive things one can do to keep the light shining every day:

  • Reach out to a young woman and offer to be her mentor or sponsor
  • Start a women’s initiative at your organization
  • Join a mastermind group and share learnings, experiences and gain confidence
  • Find two colleagues and partner up to practice the Rule of 3
  • Ask a female co-worker to lunch and get to know one another. Keep widening the circle.

What other ongoing activities do you want to add to the list to keep the light shining?