When I was accepted to present “Transformation of Organizational Gender Bias Starts with the Female Leader” at the Oxford Women’s Leadership Symposium, I fell under the spell of the magic name – “Oxford” – THE prestigious University in England. I also felt under the spell of another magic word – “accepted.”
The MAGIC of “Oxford” operated in three ways:
1- I overlooked all the “details” indicating that: a) it wasn’t a BIG symposium, b) it wasn’t well organized, c) it wasn’t necessarily the best use of my time, energy and money (oh yes, because I had to pay for my participation, travel and expenses).
2- I boosted my intellectual skills and produced in a very short time a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation gathering: a) five years of notes with my dear client Amy whose case study I wanted to present, b) one year and half of reflections with my dear co-facilitators, Robin and Debbie, who specialize in gender research and women’s leadership program design, c) my dear own reflections on the Ego-system and gender issues.
3- I transcended the jet lag and two nights of insomnia, and had energy BEFORE, DURING and RIGHT AFTER the symposium to function at full capacity during my three days of facilitation with an important client in New York City.
My time in Oxford was meaningful. I loved the city and I met 12 wonderful women – who had fallen under the spell too – coming from all over the world (Australia, United States, Ireland and Kenya).
Each presenter showed commitment, courage and thoughtfulness. I’ve learned about gender equity in medicine, climate change affecting women in Bangladesh, the leadership presence of women in politics in Kenya, the art of transformation for young girls in Ireland, the taboo subject of honor killing in our modern world, the resilience of women leaving abusive relationships, and finally, simply learned about Mary Somerville’s existence.
A few moments of intellectual ecstasy were shared as we gathered and a lot of surprising synchronicities emerged between us. I wonder if these women worked as hard as I did, and I wonder if their path to Oxford revealed its “aha” moment to them.
Oxford did reveal its “aha” moment to me. I reconnected with a pleasure that I unfortunately missed in my 20’s when I was studying at the Sorbonne (another magic name), being so preoccupied by my self-worth. I re-discovered the intellectual and emotional pleasure of thinking, studying and searching with a sense of purpose.
I became obsessed with this idea of finding a “centered leadership voice.” I mean enhancing a voice that is clear (even when I feel confused, shut done or angry), authentic (even when I feel phony), courageous (even when I feel terrified), caring (even when I feel alone), and influential (even when I feel powerless). All of these might be especially true for women who have more cultural obstacles to overcome in organizations, remembering they apply to men too.
A reconnection with my unconditional gratitude for all the women mentors I’ve had in my life, since a small child, including my mother whose 70th birthday was on April 4, inspired me with another “aha” moment. I will write a book (is it the next one? Is it part of my Bumpy Road series? Is it something else? I don’t know yet) on my formative years as a teenager, and the lessons I learned from my mentors through the years. Each one of them guided me to search for my “centered leadership voice.” Then, I lost a little bit of my “aha” clarity and became caught up again in the flow of consulting, facilitating, coaching, and traveling back home.
However, a sparkle lit up inside of me. In due course, presenting at the Women’s Leadership Symposium at Oxford evolved to be the best use of my time, energy and money.
I write these lines today to remember the power of magic names and share more meaningful experiences with you all. Do you have magic name experiences? I’d love to hear your thoughts!