The Wisdom of Women

by jessica martin


At this year’s International Women’s Day Event hosted by Innovation Guelph, “Ignite. Empower. Innovate. Exploring the confidence connection,” the audience had the pleasure of hearing from six local speakers about their journeys on the road less traveled. Each encountered difficulties on her path and learned to overcome them, and each shared candidly about her experiences.

Some of the FLOW team attended the event, and I chatted with April about it afterwards. She was feeling re-energized and inspired – a familiar outcome for her from attending women’s events. We enquired together into what made this event so meaningful and we were able to identify three key elements: reflection, sharing and vulnerability.

Each of the presenters encountered challenges in her work do to something out of the norm. When they encountered this difficulty and had worked through it they had the choice to just move on unthinkingly, or to reflect back on the experience and learn. Each of these women took the time to reflect on their challenges, the steps they took to walk through and past it, and what they could learn from it. Reflection is what allowed them to identify new knowledge, new skills and, ultimately, wisdom that came out of hard times.

The second element that April identified was the sharing of stories and reflections. While reflection is a key step towards benefiting from a tough experience, on its own, it only benefits the person doing the reflecting. By sharing their stories and reflections, the presenters at the International Women’s Day event also shared the wisdom that they had harvested from their challenges. This offering allowed each member of the audience from that night to share in the learnings that the presenters acquired through their lived experiences and their reflections.

The final element that April noted, may also be the most important – it is the role of vulnerability in the previous two processes. Where we feel vulnerable, we will often find the most richness. In reflection, the places we feel most vulnerable are usually where we have the opportunity for the most growth. In sharing, the times we feel most vulnerable are usually where there is the most potential for connection between storyteller and listener. By permitting themselves to show their vulnerability in their presentations, the speakers shared their most valuable wisdom and made space for a real connection with each of their listeners.

There is an image that April used in our discussion that is still with me as I write this article. She talked of allowing the next generation to stand on our shoulders, in order to reach farther than we’ve been able to, ourselves. In this way, the process of reflecting on experience, sharing what we’ve learned with others, and doing both with a good dose of vulnerability is an act of generosity: it allows those who follow us to reach farther than they could have alone.

In closing April and I offer gratitude to those who allow us to stand on their shoulders, just as we offer a helping hand to those who will stand on ours.