I'd like to invite you to travel back in time with me. The 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women is around the corner and while I might not be attending this year, my experience at last year's conference is definitely a story worth telling.
When I got an email from the Boston chapter of the Center for Women & Enterprise offering free tickets, I was on that opportunity like...well, like me on any opportunity to save $165. I stayed up way past my bedtime the night before, refreshing the event hashtag and accepting/sending out LinkedIn requests to attendees I'd see there, and arranged for a half day at work. I expected to feel inspired. I knew that being in a space dedicated to the success of women would be rife with possibility, so I was sure to eat my Wheaties that morning and pack more business cards than I thought humanly possible.
I make my way to the Seaport district from Waltham, feeling (and looking, I'm sure) like a creature of the deep, but that was no matter. I was there - I had gotten my ticket, made the time, and soon fell into conversation with other attendees about their aspirations. I can't speak to any "innate" gender attributes (in fact, I lean away from them), but I will say this: people tend to rise in direct relationship to the care provided them, the opportunities afforded them, and the measure of hope they maintain in service of making a better life for themselves.
There I sat, emboldened and transfixed by the speakers, by the number of women in the space and thought to myself that so much was possible. I saw myself in Robin Roberts, in Kerry Washington, in Leymah Gbowee. Though Kerry and Robin couldn't make it in person, the technology gods made it so that we could feel the closeness despite thousands of miles. As I reflected, the questions pooled in my mind:
What lie have you been living in that's never served you? What would you do if you weren't afraid? What stands between who you are and who you aspire to be?
At events that cater to this demographic (y'know, 51% of the global population), you'll hear the signal words of feminist drinking games: "Lean In!", "Be Bossy!" and the smugly appropriated "You Go, Girl!". And while we need to lionize the notions of power and authority as they relate to women outside the home, what was refreshing about #MassWomen 2013 was its focus on our humanity. There's a dynamic set of lessons in the ways we negotiate social circumstances and affect change (Gbowee); in the ways we come to terms with the stark cards a diagnosis can deal us and emerge with a renewed sense of vitality and personal truth (Roberts).
And really, what more could we ask for?