29 November 2007

FCEM Congress in Cairo part One

I have just returned from Cairo at the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (FCEM) annual Congress. As I sit to begin my follow up with all the wonderful and inspiring women entrepreneurs I feel I must take brief moment to reflect (more specifics to come). There was such an air of optimism, of generosity and kindness, of curiosity and cooperation and of interest in collaboration for mutual benefit. No matter their origin or circumstance, from established multinational business owners to local craftswomen, from the developed and the developing, peaceful and war-torn. They each had a story and a passion for their business and their people that I have never before experienced. The true spirit of women's networking took place in "what can we do together" or "what can I do to help you", rather than (the all too often) "what do you want from me."

The work has only just begun. Now we have much greater penetration into new markets around the world after this conference. With advocates in Libya, Bahrain, Cameroon, South Africa, Egypt, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ghana, India, Romania, Iceland, Cyprus, Korea, Afghanistan and more. Each of them wanted to know what they could do to help. I challenged them to take action, spread the word and encourage others and other networks to participate. It has been incredibly inspiring and exhausting. I am still reeling from it all. I am thoroughly encouraged and re-energized by the validation of the need for and potential impact of 2BalanceU. Connecting supplier to distributors, consumers to products and services, connections to other women. Now we just have to keep the momentum on the build and get cranking on the fund raising for growth and support of regional networks and sponsors.

Lessons from Cairo. It is a city that you must visit. Belly dancing is truly a sport and an art form. Egyptians like to stay up all night and party (starting dinner around 10pm). The pyramids are incredible, despite the hawkers and the camel pushers. You just need to learn to say "No" and mean it. "Around 7" is more like "some time after 8." "Right away" means, "sometime in the next bit of time, not sure how long, as I might get distracted on the way." "No" means "maybe if you give me a better price", which means that if you say no, they think you want to bargain with them. It is cold in November, which is nice, if you plan for the weather, instead of reading about it in the guidebook on the plane coming there. The people are wonderful and friendly and full of smiles. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and cannot wait to return to bring my family to explore more.

22 November 2007

Giving Thanks

Today is a day of thanks. Of all the American traditions, this is the one that I feel I need to celebrate regardless of where in the world I am. As I hunt down (not literally) a turkey for 5 and the fixins to go with it, I contemplate the meaning of this day.

It is usually spent with the extended family and friends. We welcome a few misplaced friends with no local family to join, or visitors that have never experienced Thanksgiving before. We each bring our specialty dish, assigned by the host (or in some cases the bossiest in the family) from the traditional favourites. Don't forget the turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, creamed onions, and of course the pies. Far too much food every year. Although the intention is to have leftover for everyone to take home.

There is much catching up on the year's adventures both in business and pleasure. The kids run around in their holiday finest building up a hunger. (Which look fine when they arrive anyway). When we finally sit to enjoy our meal, there is a moment of silence while we pass a squeeze from hand to hand around the table. Someone usually says a few words in thanks for the food, the presence of those who are there and the thoughts for those who cannot be there and are missed. We always have a moment to send warm thoughts to our angels both little and big. And then we feast.

At some point during the meal we go around the table to share what we are thankful for. It is a tradition in my family that I carry on in dinners with friends. It gives each person a chance to share, to be heard and to hear about what matters most. I do believe that it is traditions like these that have driven my passion for sharing wisdom. For it is at these family dinners that I have experienced many a pearl of wisdom "dropped into my lap".

I will miss being there this year, as I head off to another conference and Sweden is just too far for a hop over between events dragging the family along. Instead, I will settle for turkey and the fixins in Sweden before I pack my bags. The tradition of sharing wisdom at the table will still be continued. With only one guest and the kids, we will more learn about Pokemon, passing exams, Big hugs, and not liking pie and whatnot. But at least we are together. And that I will be thankful for.

So my blessing and thanks this year goes to all the wonderful and inspiring people that I have met and worked with this year. I am extremely thankful for my husband, Björn and his support and patience as my life is consumed with building and growing 2BalanceU. I am also thankful for my children and their laughter and unconditional love. Of course, I am thankful for the rest of my extended family and friends. And a special thought to Charlotte, our little angel who reminds us that life is precious and never to take it for granted, and Grancy, who inspired me from a very early age to be a global citizen and to love the adventure and challenge of the unknown.

Happy Thanksgiving!

20 November 2007

Gertrude Bell, Leader Before Her Time

I have just completed reading the biography of Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, and was so inspired that I felt I must write about her in my blog. This Englishwoman lived in the turn of the 20th century through her intellect, tenacity, compassion and vision, she was instrumental in the architecture of countries and treaties in the Arabian desert. I am humbled by reading such a recounting of history. I can honestly say it was one of the best reads I have had in quite a long time.

I can only hope that given the opportunities we have today to participate actively in politics, in business in our communities that women can continue what she began by leading with compassion, humility and strength to that which we believe in. It is not about the recognition or being a "Person" of significance. It is about leaving a legacy of a world that is more peaceful and respectful of differences while recognizing how much we have in common to bind us together.

19 November 2007

Presentation to OECD and FCEM in Cairo

Who am I? Like you, I am a dreamer
Believing the world is my oyster
In that oyster is a pearl
A pearl of wisdom
Left by someone who cherished it
Who then passed it on so that it could be cherished by another

Women Sharing Wisdom is nothing new
In fact it is as old as time
But what once was shared with few in a closed tent
During women's monthly blessing
Now can be shared across cultures, across boundaries, across cultures
The Internet has made this possible

Who are we, we are dreamers
Believing technology will make anything possible, someday
Energized by the tools that enable us
To interact with information and individuals
Excited by the possibility of the most obscure of solutions can reach
One seeking the answer from a far corner of the globe

Who are we, we are women
We are global citizens, builder of communities, mentors,
We are mothers, entrepreneurs, wives,
We are Friends, Sisters, Daughters, Lovers of life,
We are hostesses, visitors and travelers
We long to create a better place than the one that we came into
Trying to balance the ever changing needs of our multidimensional lives
and those around us

Imagine reaching an audience engaged
Imagine connecting before a transition knocks you down
Imagine not feeling alone
Imagine leading and supporting other women who lead.
Imagine balance

14 November 2007

TIAW Global Partnership Forum reflections part 2

A few days later and a little less jetlagged, I shall complete my reflections on the TIAW conference. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to share with and learn from face to face interaction with so many interesting women leaders. The energy and camaraderie was contagious. I look forward to being able to help grow the awareness of events and organisations like these through 2BalanceU. They can be powerful catalysts to change in the right direction. Working towards partnership and leadership with heart and soul.

The importance of networks both big and small and using them for support and learning is what stood out for me on day two. Have a plan, both a financial plan and a life plan but be flexible to accommodate life's surprises. Nurture ambition, if you so desire, go for it, and surround yourself with others who support your ambitions. Learn from those who have more experience, and mentor those who can learn from you. Don't be afraid to lead like a woman, with compassion and tenacity.

Some links of interest:
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
Boardroom Bound, an organization advocating better governance and diversity on boards

13 November 2007

TIAW Global Partnership Forum reflections part 1

I have just returned from the TIAW Global Partnership Forum in Indian Wells, CA. I must commence with a kudos to the organizers at the Women's Leadership Forum, particularly Dr.Rev. Cathy O'Connell, and TIAW's Maxine Westaway, Stephanie MacKendrick and Diane Morris for pulling together such an inspiring group of presenters in the most marvelous of location. Thank you ladies!

It is hard to know where to begin with so much to reflect upon, so I will just mention some of the highlights that stood out.
* Dr. Reine Eisler from the Center for Partnership Studies spoke of the partnership model and the importance of hierarchies of actualisation rather than hierarchies of domination and rising to a call for action in awareness. I am looking forward to reading more of her work.
* Shalini Nataraj, Global Fund for Women, emphasized that women have to be at the table for every issue, not just women's issues.
* Stephanie MacKendrick, of TIAW and Canadian Women in Communications, presented on women on boards and the 7 steps to recovery from a power deficit. 1. Build Professional Profile 2. Involve employer, share aspirations 3. Education plan 4. Networking plan 5. Applying judiciously (focus) 6. Serving on non-profit board 7. Be realistic. She also emphasized the importance of supporting the men's liberation movement: to take their share of child and family care and free them from domination (the preconceived beliefs of).
* Libby Gill provided a wonderfully motivating presentation on establishing our brand and authenticity. 1. You are your brand 2. Stand out from the herd 3. Craft a Sticky Message 4. Predetermine press outcomes 5. Powerful plan and flawless execution.
* Hon. Patricia Russell-McCloud, A is for Attitude had us all ready to launch with her fantastic rhythmic incantations for striving for our greatest potential. A few soundbits that stand out: "Whatever you are going through is a temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement." "Money will not buy happiness, but it will buy a consultant who will look for a solution." "Those things which make you exceptional may also make you lonely." And, "Attitude will get you from duh to ahh."

08 November 2007

Sharing the Enthusiasm for Shared Wisdom

Thank you ladies for your participation and attention during the presentation on 2BalanceU and women sharing wisdom. It is always a pleasure to meet women from different backgrounds and different perspectives. I appreciate your insight and thoughtful inquiries. Building a company based on wisdom sharing is an exciting venture. Actually sharing wisdom with women and making the connections is my passion.

Thank you to Denise DuBarry Hay, president of Women in Film and Television, and Cathy O'Connell, president of Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley, for your insightful questions and enthusiasm to advocate use of 2BalanceU by your extensive networks. I look forward to welcoming your networks and connecting them to the greater community of women. Good luck with your events this weekend in Palm Springs. I hope to catch some of each!

It was also a pleasure to meet Kay Pick, Katherine Okie, Sue Brodie and Joan Foster. Thank you to all of you ladies for taking time from your busy schedules to join us to hear about advocating tools for women sharing wisdom globally and locally. Special thanks to Mary Cossette, our inspiring angel, for hosting the luncheon and having the faith to support 2BalanceU from a very early stage. Thank you also to Joslin Ufland for providing such wonderful nourishment.

03 November 2007

Evolution and Revolution take patience

Breaking traditional cultural patterns is often met with resistance even when change is for the better. Introducing new solutions takes patience and persistence. I now watch my daughter and am proud to see her fight stubbornly for that which she feels is right. I believe that it is precisely that tenacity combined with compassion that create powerful leaders who can institute change.

Women sharing wisdom is nothing new, it is simply the method of sharing that has evolved. As a result, we are no longer simply sharing wisdom that enables us to support and sustain just our families and our communities. With the Internet, women sharing wisdom impacts the world as a global community. But first it must start at the core. The sustainability of self. If we neglect the sustainability of self, we cannot lead. The wisdom we gather in becoming sustainable at the core is what we share.

We no longer meet in red tents when we have our monthly visitor, we have women's networks. And yet, as women we must remember that we have more in common than difference. We are united in laughter at shared images of hot flashes, helpless frustration at recollections of being violated, camaraderie at defiance of glass ceilings, and pride in personal success. Women leaders are still women at the core. Encourage tenacity and support one another with compassion, it is critical for the success of evolution of leadership. As it is change, it may be perceived as revolution. May the gift of compassion make it a peaceful one.