Written by Janece Shaffer Tuesday, June 05 2012
I have had the pleasure of being part of the Womenetics community for almost six months now, and I was in bed the other night – not sleeping – thinking about what I’ve learned. This is what I’ve come up with – not the summary of what I’ve learned but something that I wanted to tell you about.
So when I started the job, one of my first responsibilities was reading all of our POW! Award nominations. The nominees came from all walks of life – from academia, law, business, nonprofit, technology – and I remember saying to one of my colleagues, “Doesn’t it seem like these women have had to deal with so much?” And it was true. The applications were filled with stories of women overcoming unbelievable obstacles. Like Meredith Moore. She survived losing her mother, going through divorce, having the birth of her first child and dealing with a life-threatening brain tumor all in the span of about a year. And where is she now? She is a triathlete and a rock-star leader in her field. And her story – not the specifics of the crisis she endured – but her ability to meet crisis and overcome was echoed time and time again in that pool of superstar women.
OK. Fast forward. So I’m doing an interview this past week with a wonderful woman I met in Chicago at the Womenetics event on Human Trafficking. (In case you don’t know – we do great events!) Her name is Julie Savitt and you can read her story but here’s the headlines. Julie fell in love with a man whose dream it was to drive a truck, and so they decided to launch their own construction company. Three kids later and Julie’s husband is deported. She finds out that he’s been borrowing money from the clients, and now she is $250,000 in debt, with three kids, a flailing construction company, and she is alone. You know what I’m going to say. She turned the whole thing around, and she did it in a pink construction helmet in a field where men still say, “I don’t work with women.”
Great story, right? But after she told me about her life and what a struggle it was simply to make it to 4 p.m. every day, she said something that clicked for me. She said that she thought the women of her generation had to suffer, had to face a crisis and persevere to find their strength. Coping with epic challenges allowed them to know what they were truly capable of. And from what I’ve seen…she’s right. Those darkest moments paved the way, in many cases, for the greatest successes.
And then Julie said this: It was her hope that the next generation of young women wouldn’t have to suffer to succeed, to truly know what they are capable of. She hopes for them, instead, an easy self-awareness, and unshakeable confidence that catapults them to even greater heights. Her words stayed with me…they shouldn’t have to suffer to know.
And I don’t think they are, suffering. Look at the young women we’ve been featuring. They are bravely, boldly finding success on their own terms. I think about Jennifer Dunphy who launched a global media company and refused to be tied to a single location or a 9-5 timeframe. Instead, she spends time in cities around the world and allows technology to bridge the distance. I think about Sumaya Kazi, a brilliant young woman in San Francisco, whose website called Sumazi - is in the national spotlight because of its ability to connect the right people at the right time. And Sumaya is sharing the story of her success with women around the world. There is Eden Full – 19 years old and the recipient of a $100,000 grant to continue work on her SunSaluter - a product that creates energy by using no electricity itself and could change countless lives. These young women know what they are capable of – everything!
And this seems worthy of celebration, and that’s why I’m writing - to celebrate the women of one generation who kept going, who found their grit and ultimately their glory. And to the next generation of young women who seem to know going in that they are capable of great things. Imagine their potential to “move the needle.”
One final thing – a funny thing happens when you are on a steady diet of stories about passionate, successful professional woman. You start to imagine new possibilities for your own life. It’s good to be in such great company. I hope you will continue on this journey with me.
And so here’s to asking the questions and seeing where the answers take us.
What’s keeping you up?
Learn more about how these successful women overcame obstacles and became leaders in their field:
Triathlete Meredith Moore jumped over many hurdles in life and not just in competitive sports. Find out how she used her competitive edge to thrive despite the loss of her mother, a battle with brain cancer and divorce.
Imagine your husband is deported, and you're left with $250,000 debt from a company you started together. Learn how Julie Savitt turned this nightmare into a booming construction company.
Jennifer Dunphy refused to let a 9-5 job limit the pursuit of her dreams. Now she is traveling the world and bringing cities together with her flourishing global media company.
Janece Shaffer, senior editor of Womenetics, is also an award-winning, professionally produced playwright. Her plays have been produced in theatres across the country including the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Alliance Theatre, and Taproot Theatre. She also has more than two decades of experience in the communications field and has held communications positions at Emory University, The NAMES Project Foundation/AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Alliance Theatre. Shaffer holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in communications from Georgia State University.