When I first started my career, a woman told me to never get anyone a cup of coffee—ever. I understood where she was coming from. We’ve all read the stats: Women earn less than men. Women aren’t in as many leadership positions as men, and there are significantly less female CEOs than men.
This well-intentioned woman had been fighting workplace battles longer than I have been alive and had probably been undervalued a lot in her career. But thank goodness I live in a different time, a time when women should be able to embrace who they are, whatever that means for them.
Four years ago, I helped Connect Sports launch our Women in Sports Tourism Forum. I’ve met people who are amazing, who are fighting known and unknown battles, who are strong and tender, who lead and follow (sometimes at the same time), who are smart and driven—the list goes on. The point of this event is to put all these talented professionals in a room or on an outdoor lawn and see what happens because I’m here to tell you it’s limitless.
Men have done this exceedingly well for years on the golf course, at the clubhouse or gym. We need to learn from this and find places that work for us to form those relationships and connections.
Options are out there: conferences, retreats, yoga classes, etc. We need more women teaching and supporting women. There needs to be an understanding that we aren’t in competition with one another.
It’s about providing a place and opportunity to meet other women and see that while we live different lives in different cities, we struggle with a lot of the same issues. Relationships built over crazy, uncomfortable teambuilding exercises are sometimes the ones that lead to an unexpected business connection or a career-changing conversation. Or you may simply meet a new friend—who couldn’t use more of those?
I use #forwomenbywomen when I talk about WIST because that’s exactly what it is. I may be “captain of the ship,” as it were, but I’ve reaped the same benefits I am hoping attendees enjoy. I am in awe of what we can accomplish all while balancing active personal lives. These people have become much more than industry colleagues who help shape the content and topics of the forum. They’ve shaped me, too, and made me better personally and professionally.
One last note: Don’t forget about men. A remarkable thing I’ve found is much of the time we spend talking about the men who supported and mentored women. These men matter.
As I reflect back to the “coffee counsel,” I think about what advice I would pass along to women entering their professional careers and it boils down to this…be you, be unafraid to be you and seek out those people, men or women, who will advocate, support and foster all you have to offer. We have come so far but can always learn from those who’ve fought before us.