Without question, women are seeking and finding new forums in which to gather.
After simply too many years of television housewife cat fights, airbrushed beauty campaigns, and female leaders pit against one another, we are saying: Enough. It’s gone too far.
After too many of us have bypassed our needs and desires to please, to look good, and to fit in, we know there is something more.
After we have chosen career paths for money, not passion, and had to soothe our unmet desires with yet another designer handbag, we realize the path on which we were led was a dead end, and we have turned around looking for what we left behind.
In conferences, at retreats, in corporations, non-profit organizations, coffee shops, exercise classes, and small businesses, women are finding each other and creating safe spaces to recover what we lost and to band together in the quest to be true to ourselves, to help each other, and together, to create something new.
During this past month, I participated in three San Francisco Bay Area gatherings that are the focus of this blog: The 100 Women Foundation, The Hivery, and the G3 Conferences. If you are a Bay Area resident looking to plug into a women’s organization or if you enjoy the stories of what can happen when women gather, read on…
Through my engagement with these three organizations and many with similar intention (though each unique in its expression) over the past years, I can say undoubtedly that magic happens when women gather. When the container is safe and we remember that we have always been on the same team, we can grow together, challenge each other, learn, restore, and bring hope into our families, communities, and into the world.
Discovering The Hivery this month was in a sense coming home. A women’s co-working space set in an art gallery just over the Golden Gate Bridge in the quaint town of Sausalito, The Hivery is a gathering place of female entrepreneurs, artists, and small business owners.
From 9-5, local women gather to work on their passion projects, life transitions, and new ventures. Events at the space throughout the month offer members and guests the opportunity to connect and to learn new ways to enhance their lives and businesses together.
One evening gathering that I found particularly resonant brought together women from an array of fields and backgrounds for a discussion on, “Creating Meaningful Work with Heart.”
Panelist Karyn Flynn, Executive Director of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, shared her story about a career in investment management at Goldman Sachs that transformed into having a family and discovering her passion serving the museum’s mission, “to ignite and advance creative thinking for all children.” What an inspiring and important cause to get behind!
Panelist Carol McDonnell, Board Chair for the Environmental Working Group, discussed the challenges she and her husband faced in negotiating how she could follow her heart and accept the Board Chair position at EWG, given the time and energy it would require of her in addition to her already full schedule as a wife and mother to four children. By standing up for herself and this cause she believed in, they found a way to meet each of their needs, as well as the family’s, and they are all thriving in new ways because of it.
Ms. Flynn and Ms. McDonnell were open about the challenges and victories of their paths and the decisions along the way. Honest conversations like these offer all of us the opportunity to reflect on the areas where we are still playing small and to celebrate the progress we have made in creating lives – and work – we believe in.
The Hivery was created and curated by Grace Kraaijvanger, a former professional ballet and modern dancer. I hope to share more about Grace and The Hivery in a future blog.
100 Women Charitable Foundation
Speaking of people doing what they believe in, let’s talk about a ballroom full of the 500 women who came together for the 100 Women Charitable Foundation Annual Giving Dinner (pictured above)!
Nine years ago, the 100 Women Foundation began as a community of women from the Los Altos area who pooled charitable donations for non-profit missions they cared about. This year, the Foundation awarded six local charities with sizable gifts to support programs such as the region’s only home for homeless youth (StarVista), helping single moms in need become financially independent (WANDA), and training dogs that would be euthanized to be service animals for vets with PTSD (Operation Freedom Paws).
Throughout the year, Foundation members nominate charities they care about, and the submission team narrows the pool of nominees (this year there were 48!) to six causes for voting on by the membership community at their annual voting dinner, which I attended as a guest.
At their event, in a heartfelt and somewhat emotional experience, each charity presented its mission and purpose for the grant. Then, the membership community voted on which three charities would receive this year’s $48,000 grants and which three would receive $10,000 gifts.
The energy this sort of collaborative contribution created was truly inspiring. The 500 women in that ballroom beamed with purpose, and after the charities were awarded their gifts the room filled with the buzz of that special flavor of happiness that comes from working together to make a difference.
Speaking of difference making, three dynamic Sonoma locals, Piper Abodeely, Michelle Dale, and Anne Marie Sebastiani, set off to make a difference in their community with a gathering called G3. G3, or Gather – Grow – Go, is a three-day boutique conference experience that encourages self-reflection, connection, and new intention.
Their conference touches on all things women – from living purposefully, to health and wellness, to fashion and style, and of course in Sonoma good food and wine…and more! Having launched their first G3 Conference last November, the G3 team offered another last month and are looking forward to their next one in Vail, Colorado this summer.
Given the opportunities to reflect and set new intentions, this conference seems to be a great fit for women amidst life or career transitions. I was happy to find it during my big transition from San Diego to Sonoma and married life. While parts of our transitions are ours to travel alone, transitioning among a group of women who can honestly say, “me, too,” is sometimes all the encouragement we need to take the next brave step.
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As someone who founded a budding organization that supports girls and women, I can appreciate what it takes to follow those whispers (and sometimes screams) within that guide us to create what we believe in. More importantly, I know how much more powerfully I can follow that true path when I am among others who are doing the same.
I am afforded an infinite number of choices as a woman today. Because of the efforts of many who have paved a new way for us, women can choose to be and do almost anything we put our hearts to – though likely just not all at once (which is a topic for a future blog).
The range of choices makes choosing that much more personal and necessary. Organizations like the ones touched on here today help offer me and all the people they touch perhaps the greatest gift a woman can get – the opportunity to look within her own heart, to discover something there, and to head off in the direction of its truth – in a community of others doing the same thing each in her own way.
That is the power of what can happen when we come together. We come together not to compete and judge like our culture tries to condition in us. We come together remembering who we are at our core, in our truth, as creators, nurturers, collaborators and fellow change makers.