A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be a part of a program facilitated by the Minerva Foundation called Learning to Lead. The weekend workshop saw 50 grade 11 girls from around BC ascend on UBC to surround themselves with other future leaders and learn the fundamentals of what makes a great leader.
They came in quiet, unsure and shy. A soft buzz was in the air but you could tell they weren’t sure what to expect. I’m sure some were nervous, self-conscious and overwhelmed – all at once. Hell, I was too. I had no idea what I got myself into.. was I supposed to participate? Be mentors for these girls? Did I even know enough about leadership skills to be able to do justice by these girls?
I had no idea – but as a (self-described) leader in training myself, when I was asked to volunteer my time for the weekend I graciously accepted.
The weekend started with meeting the other women who would be Den Mothers as well. It was very clear that we all had different backgrounds and varying experiences, but we all shared a common passion for leadership and passing on our wisdom to these girls. The program facilitators kicked off the weekend with some great ice breakers… and probably my favourite activity of the whole weekend: story telling.
I’ve always been a proponent of story telling. I know it might sound a bit biased given my current profession.. but before I really got into my job as a communicator I understood the value of asking about, and listening to, other people’s stories. First of all, everyone has a story and people love talking about themselves. It’s flattering, engaging and uplifting to talk about experiences that have made you who you are. But most importantly, telling your story makes you vulenerable. You’re opening up and sharing intimate details about the experiences you’ve endured that have made you, you. Initial assumptions about who you think someone is based on their appearance and possibly first impression are almost never the same after you’ve heard about their past and what makes them tick. Storytelling provides the subtle reminder that we’re all people who are craving to feel connected and be heard.
Sharing our stories is a powerful experience that is irrefutably the most important for building meaningful connections and relationships. Immediately after that experience, the girls became open, confident and comfortable around each other – setting them up well for the lessons and expereinces to come.
Over the next two days the girls went through workshops and experiences (such as a group drumming circle and a dance-off!) that saw them get clear on their values, create new friendships and truly dig into what they are passionate about. We talked about not having to be perfect at everything and the dirty little secret about life: you don’t have to be well rounded. The best leaders lead from their core values and are leaders because they are true to who they are and are able to get behind their beliefs 100%.
As much as I thought I’d be there to over see and help out when needed, I quickly realized I was learning as much as they were. The workshop was as relevant to us women as it was to the girls – many of who were hearing some of these concepts and lessons for the first time.
At the end of the weekend, I came away with two over encompassing learnings:
- I’m on the right track. As much as the weekend was for the girls – I learned a lot about myself and had a lot of realizations about where I am and where I want to go. It was rejuvenating.
- It’s vital for us to talk to young girls about these things around this age. Today’s girls have so much pressure on them to be everything and make the best choices – but all the noise surrounding them becomes paralyzing. If they’re fortunate enough to grow up in a family who is able to teach them they are enough and they can have whatever they dream – that would be amazing. That however, is not the reality. Many girls are never given the opportunity to work on self discovery and feel that they have a voice.
It’s our responsibility to educate and teach our young women they are enough and what they think and who are are – is important.
Let’s get some more women at the executive table.