The Power of Women

So I am a little late for celebrating and/or sharing opinions on International Women’s Day but for anyone that knows me being late is basically how my life operates…..it’s sad I know.  Plus, it gives me a chance to marinate on everything that comes up on my social media news feeds over these certain types of special days. I especially always have thoughts to sort through when women’s day or women power events come up. Some may disagree and think ‘what’s there to think about?! Fight for women’s rights…duh’. Well, here is my two cents.

I love being a woman. I love that I can celebrate my femininity by being super girly with fashion and self expression. I also love that I can get quite rugged out on the soccer field and come home with scrapes and bruises to show for my hard work. I love that my body can create, birth and feed a child. I love that I can fix things around the house and build things using power tools. I love that I can appreciate a man holding a door for me and that I can also drive stick shift. I don’t always feel 100% confident in every situation I’m in but I am proud to be a girl in all it’s entirety. 

My only recollections of super insecurity at a young age was that I was always very small. I still am small. The one who ALWAYS had to sit in the front row for picture day, the one that got stuck in the middle seat in the back of the car and the one that other kids would say they wanted to pick up because I was so little and cute. I remember crying to my mom about the latter of those experiences and she talked me through it. She reminded me of all the great things in this world that are made so small like diamonds or dynamite. I have obviously had times of self doubt growing up but they are mostly the things you give yourself a little pep talk and then you get on with it and the lesson my mom gave me has stuck with me through the years.  

My mom wasn’t and still isn’t a huge risk taker, aside from being brave enough to take on a step child and have 3 more of her own, but she never made me feel that I had to follow in her exact footsteps. She has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and go where I feel God leads me. She was a stay at home mom by day and had a dance studio in our home with classes in the evenings. She’s always felt her calling was to be a mother first and was very clear about that while raising us. In our home luckily that was a possibility as I know not everyone has the opportunity to do what they’d like. Now more than ever there is stress to have it all, to try and find the balance between home and career dreams and everything in between. Being a girl, chic, lady or woman was never a handicap in our house but an honour. 

When I see the women’s marches and ra-ra women’s events I always feel a little torn to be honest. As much as I love celebrating that I am a women and I strongly agree with our growth in society, I think the future is still both male and female and that women don’t need to come in like a hostile takeover. Because being female rarely debilitated me from pursuing what I want out of life, in that I haven’t experienced the struggle that I’ve heard or read that so many other women have. So on the other side of things, my heart breaks when I hear of stories where women haven’t had a voice and obviously we see it played out over and over again in history. We still experience it daily, see it now on today’s news, social media and sadly coming from North America’s most talked about leadership….the White House especially. I’ve recently been attending some Women’s Entrepreneurial & Networking events and I have been quite surprised hearing other women’s stories. Women that were used, belittled, ignored, cast aside, negated. Women who simply were made to feel small in this big world. Wether it’s through intention or just plain ignorance it completely baffles me just as much as seeing racism still going on. How have we thought we’ve come so far and yet there’s still so much to be done.

When I look at most of my experiences with men so far, I’ve been pretty lucky for the most part. 

In our home I grew up never feeling limited because I was a woman. It’s never been a thought that I don’t deserve as much as a man does or that I shouldn’t receive equal opportunity. It’s just something I didn’t think about and still doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t know if these were lessons my parents purposely taught me or if it just happened. I am a feisty second born if you’re familiar with birth order so that may have a little something to do with it too! My father always allowed my mom to pursue the things she wanted to do. My dad isn’t always in tune with the 4 women in our house, which is quite a large task, but both my parents would always help us 3 daughters thrive if that’s what we desired. I did have some different rules in place compared to my brother but they were rules made out of safety and not limitations on who I could become. My brother always protected me and aside from typical sibling rivalry, he never made me think that being a girl was any sort of disadvantage. 

In the dating world I navigated through some doozies and stayed in some relationships waiting for a change. I also had some wonderful boyfriends and the ups and downs of dating for the most part is a journey of finding yourself just as much as finding a partner. I am happy to say that thankfully I waited to give my hand and heart to the right one. We are by no means perfect individually or are doing our marriage ‘perfectly’ together but I have a man who is fully supportive of the very full woman I am today and is teaching our sons to do the same. 

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When it came to work, I have never experienced a job where I was climbing the corporate ladder head to head with a man and not getting equal pay. The few times I have been spoken down to in the workplace I am not afraid to stick up for myself. I did work for men who thought little of paying their predominantly female staff fairly. Men who also threatened my job because of my decision to approach them on their dishonesty. That’s been the only memorably negative experience I’ve had in the business world dealing with men. It did scar me. It was terribly painful when I decided to leave that job. A place I considered second family and where I had a second father figure/mentor that I looked up to. After walking away I realized how much toxicity I put up with. How I watched other female co-workers being mistreated and said nothing and how I’d allowed myself to let them lead me to think there were little other options. It was 10 years of build up and it was only the surprising pregnancy of my first son that hit me in the face to make a change. I don’t think they realized exactly how they failed to lead us women and the impact their actions had on us. We’ll say ignorance is bliss for them. Now 4 years later, aside from owning my own business, I share space with some great men. I also work for amika: professional beauty brand. This is a 95% women run company and they seriously kick ass in Product, Staff, Education and Standards.

This is only a portion of Amika rockstar staff!

This is only a portion of Amika rockstar staff!

As I mentioned above, I think the future is both male and female. I do whole heartedly believe that we need both genders to make things happen and that each gender provides such unique qualities to this world. Author Lisa Bevere states in her book Nurture that “Men need women. The daughters and sons together capture the fullness of God’s image in human form (Gen. 1:27). The men are the strength and the women the heart. Might without heart or compassion can be cruel, just as a heart without authority is weak and vulnerable.” We are supposed to be complementary to each other learning how to use all of our gifts to sharpen one another. It shouldn’t be a race or competition between either sexes and even between our own. Women are usually naturally made with this instinct to nurture or gather. Just as men are quite often the providers or hunters. As much as we as women want to be liberated I am reminded that there’s this zone of confusion….this inner struggle of trying to balance all that we want. Ali Wong hilariously and not so discreetly opens this convo up in her stand up show “Baby Cobra”. We want to be this stay at home mom but also have a desire to climb the corporate ladder.  And yet, even though we think we can do all these things on our own we are still drawn to a man in uniform. A man with a wedding ring on or a father taking care of their kids. It’s because although we want to gain more independence we also love the connection of safety, stability, being protected and provided for. So how do we navigate through this? 

Right now, I am in the early stages of raising and growing a family. I have an entrepreneurial mindset and spirit but yet love my role as mother in our home. I want it all. I definitely want equal rights for women because at the end of the day regardless of religion, race, gender or sexual orientation we are human. Just that fact alone should automatically qualify us be treated fairly and equal and we need to offer the same to our male counterparts wether it be in the home, community or the workplace. Whatever side you fall on at the end of the day we need to be building each other up. It’s just that simple.

Now, International Women’s Day and celebrating women isn’t just about the need for women to rise to the equality of men but also that within our female community we are willing to lift each other up. We need to think about how we are treating other women that we come into contact with. Maybe it’s not just women that we have to get along with in the workplace. How are you treating other women when you go to pick your kids up at school….are there mom’s that you allow to feel stuck on the outside or unincluded? How are we helping moms we see out in public when their kids are having tantrums? I still have this memory engraved in my thoughts from a time I was in NY on vacation. I was pregnant with my second son and my husband and I saw a woman crossing the street with her baby in a buggy and I have NEVER seen bags under someones eyes so large. I wish I would’ve just taken a moment to stop in the busy street and ask if her if she was really ok. I am really trying to work on taking actions instead of those missed opportunities to reach out. How are we treating women in minorities? How do we behave and encourage when we see a woman on the rise and reaching success? Are you congratulating, envious or criticizing? I know it can be a catty world and that we all have different personalities and connections with people but we need to think about how some of our smallest actions can have a big or lasting impact. It’s been surprising to me over the years when a friend or client will mention something that I’ve said to them that I didn’t think would be so meaningful or would stick. Especially within our own gender we need to constantly be speaking life to others.

To any women reading this, IWD isn’t just about standing out publicly. We need to also be practicing self love and care. It is an overwhelming world and can seem like a daunting task to make space for ourselves. In the season of life I am in right now it has been especially hard but I know that when I am finding balance I can present my best self in all areas of life. I am watching countless young women struggling with anxiety, depression and self worth. Our suicide deaths just within our own city is escalating and some of those already this year have been young women. We need to do a better job leading our young by setting an example starting with us. Maybe it’s a slight diet change, exercise, travel or updating your look. Maybe it’s signing up for a course, reading more or listening to uplifting music. Maybe it’s choosing to let go of toxic friendships or relationships. Maybe it’s just choosing more time for you to have a cup of tea, light a candle or enjoy a relaxing bath.  Maybe it’s leaving a job or starting your own business you’ve always dreamt of. Maybe it’s choosing to forgive yourself or let go of shame and baggage that’s no longer yours to carry. It’s not the same recipe for everyone but it’s equally important for every women to look inward and see where we can grow. It doesn’t have to be big or perfect but it’s taking a first step that leads to wholeness. In that we can be a better light to others and find more love, strength, courage and peace in this world. 

As much as social media can be great for business building I strongly believe that a lot of us girls/women need an Instagram or Facebook detox. I still don’t quite understand the need to post selfies or the perfect pictures of your life all the time. It’s all become ‘normal’ but it’s a trap into needing reassurance and acceptance from others and we all get caught up in the comparison game. We need to be authentic and honest about our struggles. I love sharing my embarrassing stories with clients and friends. Not because I want attention but because if I can help someone have a laugh or realize that my life may be just as insane or complicated as theirs (or worse) then I’ve helped them feel human and take away possible shame. Aside from my remarkable mom, I am so thankful to have 2 amazing sisters, a spectacular sister in law, wonderful super chic friends and other strong women surrounding me. It really does take a village and they never make me apologize for being the complex me. 

After attending more and more women’s events such as STEM Niagara and GNCC and hearing different stories I am proud of International Women’s Day, women’s events and how far along we’ve come. I’m thankful for the outspoken women who’ve made change in history and even for those quiet women who keep on keeping on. There is room for all of us and any contribution which celebrates our unique femininity and captures our strengths. I joke that I attempt to be superwomen but often feel like my cape gets stuck between my butt cheeks (I also could never actually be a superhero because of my lateness I’d continually miss the action). It’s a constant work in progress. If we can all work on self love, respect for others and setting a good example to our opposition wether male or female we will continue to move mountains. Some great books to start or continue this journey where you will feel empowered and inspired are some of Lisa Bevere’s books: Lioness Arising, Fight Like A Girl and Without Rival. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. I pray over your journey and thank you for tuning in.

Much love & blessings,

Ali xo