Empowering myself means being unafraid to look to others, and Move The World recently invited trailblazing women in their field to speak about empowering women.
As I shift into radical new territory where I actively challenge my social conditioning about what I once thought was acceptable in my life, stumbling upon UK-based NGO Move The World’s online Speaker Session felt like an excellent opportunity to see how others might be making change work for them.
Founded in 2016, Move The World aims to equip young people in Ghana with the tools they need to challenge both local and global dynamics head-on in a world rife with inequality and climate change, to say the least.
So what better way to do that than by inviting empowering female trailblazers to speak who are well-versed in ‘choosing to challenge,’ the theme for International Women’s Day 2021?
Introduced by co-founder Claire Hardy, the event was hosted by treasurer Kellie Lucas, and our three speakers were:
- Juliet Amoah – Executive Director of Penplusbytes (Ghana)
- Ivelina Green – Co-CIO and Co-Founder of Broadstone Credit Partners (UK)
- Rebecca Farmer – Director at Christianna Foundation and Founder of Telling Our Tales (UK)
Read on to find some empowering tips from these leading women as they help change and challenge our world, one extraordinary move at a time.
Empowered Women Empower Women
If I didn’t feel even so much as a flicker of empowerment beforehand – or believe that empowering women (or anyone) globally was ever a worthy cause – after just over an hour of absorbing the presence of these three change-making ladies and their invaluable stories and snippets of advice, I felt positively aflame with it.
Themes spanned challenging stereotypes and stepping out of your perceived ‘comfort zone,’ along with much more.
Here are some important points from these empowering women that I took from the session.
Challenging For Change
People, especially men, have hated it when I’ve rallied against ways they’ve spoken to or treated me, in ways I know they’d be happy to look into if I’d been a man.
So how do you go about making change for empowering women, or even anyone at all, when you’re up against stereotypes just for being a woman?
I guess the first step is recognising these stereotypes in your own life.
Ivelina explores counterproductive pigeonholing of women in the finance industry, illustrating that they are typically and covertly boxed-in as being:
- ‘Nurturing’ (read: unassertive, the opposite of being a money-spinner)
- ‘Better communicators’ (read: not the idea-generator, but a communicator of others’ ideas)
- ‘Thoughtful about taking risks’ (read: won’t necessarily take any risks, but will think about the downsides of doing so)
And sadly, I don’t believe for one second these stereotypes only apply to the finance industry.
Rebecca relates that women questioning the status quo – especially in the workplace – are viewed as “difficult,” whereas men are perceived as mavericks. “Asking questions doesn’t make you difficult, it makes you curious!“
I felt that in my bones… did you?
And Juliet also lends her perspective on fighting for change despite encountering cultural stereotyping in a Ghanaian context.
“Surrounded by strong women” all her life, she had a matriarchal firecracker of a grandmother to look up, to who regularly challenged male rule-makers at town-hall meetings about land.
Yet Juliet revealed that she still developed the infamous ‘impostor syndrome’ as she played small in her male-dominated work environment as “wing-woman,” not the powerful “army commander” she actually is.
Which she overcame – with no small amount of effort.
So there is hope, even as I second-guess every move I make, following my own guidance alone into what I now view as an empowered life where I make the choices, not anyone else.
Scary (but empowering) stuff.
Push Your Boundaries, Test Your Comfort Zone
It might be a cliché, but a helpful way to empower yourself could be to test the waters outside of the dreaded ‘comfort zone.’
Empowered change doesn’t happen out of nowhere, get out of your comfort zone, I’ve been telling myself lately.
And being a self-proclaimed and self-determined ‘singular spirit’ has served Juliet well in leaving the dreaded comfort zone, showing us that this is a lifelong work-in-progress.
Despite strong reservations about social media, here she is, live on Zoom to a captivated audience hanging off her every word.
“Your mind is your most prized possession,” she declares, explaining that curiosity is something to be developed and not supressed in the search for bettering yourself.
While Rebecca believes that “everyone should step outside of their comfort zone more than once,” and that this can go a long way in empowering women.
She actively lives by her values, telling us she made major waves to change the trajectory of her own life “in her early forties.”
I too have reached many milestones ‘later than I should have’ in life, such as graduating university closer to 30 than the standard 21 (and I’m eternally glad I did!).
Age really ain’t nothing but a number, and it’s amazing to see other women live that too.
As women we sometimes (often!) underestimate ourselves, but Rebecca encourages you to question whether you’ve set your comfort-zone boundaries in the right place.
We live in an ever-changing world and your boundaries aren’t what your forebears faced, so you get to choose them, and whether or not you step outside them.
And Ivelina has first-hand experience in that “every time I have left my comfort zone, I have grown,” despite profound discomfort.
By taking on more responsibility, you won’t necessarily be recompensed with more money or accolades, but you WILL grow and that’s more valuable than any trophies or cash, right?
There is so much to relay from this session about empowering women, and far more than I could reasonably cover in a humble blog post.
But the guidance of these extraordinary women will stay imprinted in me as I set myself up for a future that I am in control of, and where my comfort zone is continually challenged in ways I can’t yet know, or see.
And with the hope that others who need to find this post do so, I can see now that the burning flame of an empowered woman empowering women can make extraordinary change possible for everyone, everywhere.
To find out more about the vital work that Move The World are doing to empower young people in Ghana click here.
And click here for the full Speaker Session.