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International Women’s Day 2020 – #EachForEqual

On This International Women’s Day, Let’s Salute the Women Who Show Us What True Leadership Means

When my mother was growing up in the Netherlands, men were almost always the head of the house. As one of 14 children — and the fifth girl in a row — she learned early on that men were more valuable. During the week, they would do the heavy work in the potato and cabbage fields and help with the cows; on Sundays they were able to enjoy deep discussions about politics and the economy. My mother learned early on that her role was to embroider, knit, and do “useful women’s work.”

So it’s no surprise that she deferred to my father as head of the household. As a result, my brothers were also expected to take on much bigger challenges than I was.

And yet it was my mother who, as I get older, served as an inspiration. Even though she wasn’t raised to take on leadership positions, she did — as a volunteer for a union, the Poppy Fund, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the local hospital. She still teaches knitting to people — she refers to them as “seniors”.  Although she doesn’t quite acknowledge that she is a senior too.

International Women's Day 2020

On this International Women’s Day, I’d like to honor the women who lead like women. I could write pages upon pages about the remarkable women I have met over the years, but the following leaders stand out.

Cathie Roy is barely five feet tall, but her personality dwarfs her small stature. Cathie was the editor of a community newspaper and taught me big lessons about accountability. From Cathie, I learned how to meet a deadline, how to take my work seriously, how to hold others to a high standard, and how to laugh at life. She could go from stern to laughing so hard that tears streamed down her face in the space of a few minutes — what a remarkable talent for living in the moment!

Have you ever experienced an instant connection with someone? That’s how I felt when I met Dawn Miller. When Dawn joined my Toastmasters Club on the Sunshine Coast in 2004, she offered a welcome breath of fresh air and inspired me through her communication skills and positive outlook. I was on the verge of quitting Toastmasters, but Dawn motivated me to push myself and contribute.

Dawn does not complain (never!). She is dedicated. She has served Toastmasters selflessly and tirelessly. Through her, I have learned how to tap into my creativity and to always focus on my vision for the future.

Lark Doley doesn’t channel or mimic a male style of leadership. She simply doesn’t have to. She understands that, as women, our superpower lies in collaboration.

Lark was Toastmasters International President from 2018-2019, and I watched with amazement as she pulled everyone’s ideas together while acknowledging their contributions. She does so out of a true sense of gratitude for both the obvious wins and the not-so-obvious lessons. I have been blessed to watch this servant leader in action.

Who are the women who have inspired you? Tell me about them and how they shaped who you are in the comments.

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