Happy International Women’s Day! This year sure looks different than previous IWD’s and I have been doing my best to attend online panels, surround myself with positivity, and reflect on all that has happened for women as a whole this past year. The stats around women and women of colour leaving the workforce due to COVID are alarming, but in today’s post I am choosing to share a triumphant story amidst the worrying trends.
I completed my Women in Leadership Executive Certificate from Cornell University online in 2020, and was recently asked to submit my #IDIDIT story to the eCornell team. Because of this year’s pandemonium, it felt funny to write about my experience at first: there are so many things that people all over the world have lost, marched for, survived, achieved, withdrew from, and waded through the last 12 months. An executive certificate didn’t seem important.
But as I reflected on the past year a bit more, I realized it is okay to celebrate the successes. It is okay to celebrate what we have achieved as individuals. It is okay to be proud of ourselves. And it is more than okay to support one another and celebrate one another’s achievements- no matter how large or small they may seem. In fact, it’s doing women, men and ourselves as individuals a disservice to keep quiet about what we have been educated in throughout the past year, and any silver linings or achievements that may have come out of the chaos.
I could fill multiple moving trucks with everything I have learned the last year- it is arguably the most challenging time my generation has had to work through (so far). But I wanted to post a quick blog about what I learned from a professional and feminist standpoint since Women’s Day 2020. Below is my edited, awarded submission to the eCornell team about my experience as a woman suddenly at home with a newborn, a 5-year-old homeschooler, a husband working long days through a fear-inducing global pandemic, and an eagerness to continue learning and growing professionally, despite how tiring the days were in lockdown. Bottom line- we have all gone through some intense, terrifying, enriching, awakening, and anxiety-inducing experiences since Covid began, but we all have insightful and meaningful stories to tell too. I acknowledge I am coming from a position of privilege. There are more thought-provoking, inspirational stories to come out of the past year, yet it was emboldening to share my own experience. I hope this post causes you to pause and reflect on how amazing YOU are, and to take a moment to reflect on some positives and successes you have achieved over the past year. Women are amazing, adaptable and resilient: we continue to prove to the world just how to get it DONE.
Two years ago, I signed up for the Women in Leadership executive learning certificate through eCornell. I was so thrilled to come across this course, but delayed in starting right away. At the time, I was extremely busy with my career in advertising sales, became pregnant, had an energetic four-year-old and a hard-working partner at home… not to mention I am always someone with loads of social plans and wrote biweekly blogposts as a passion project. Things were busy, and there were always excuses to postpone starting something new.
That all being said, summer became fall, fall became winter, and we rang in 2020 with high hopes. I had a new baby and planned on taking my one-year maternity leave, excited for the upcoming adventures I was sure to have with my baby during our year together. Our family had some amazing trips planned for the year ahead that we were all looking forward to. But obviously, everything came to a screeching halt: 2020 turned out to be different than everyone around the world imagined.
It wasn’t until the Pandemic hit that I decided to begin my educational journey with eCornell. On March 16, 2020 our Pandemic Lockdown began. Similar to everyone, our worlds were turned upside-down: my partner was suddenly working out of our bedroom for 16+ hours a day, and I found myself juggling a new baby and a French Immersion now-homeschooled four-year-old… and I don’t speak French.
I went into survival mode. It was challenging, it was stressful, it was frightening, and as a mom to a 3-month-old again, my hormones weren’t balanced either. But in those early weeks of the Pandemic, I knew I had to do something for myself. I had to stimulate my brain and also needed something to distract it, regardless of how tired I felt. It sounds wild, but I decided to begin my first course in the Women in Leadership certificate.
There are five courses within the certificate and my only complaint is that there aren’t more. Every topic covered, every project turned in, and every conversation had was relevant, inspiring and helpful. I used the discussion boards as a tool to communicate with women from all over, and it was incredible to hear one another’s stories. I learned that no matter our industry, as women we still experience the same challenges. We are still working towards a better future and equal opportunities for all including women, women of colour, and the BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ community, and we are all paving our own paths and learning how to get there; learning how to BE Better and DO better. So many of the assignments and discussions proved to be therapeutic for me at times too, as many of the topics brought to light experiences I had buried away.
I am not yet back at work, however I have shared so much of what I have learned from my Women in Leadership courses with many friends and coworkers already. Last year, I spent International Women’s Day on a panel as an alumni of Wilfrid Laurier University, and spoke to a group of young women about the challenges I have faced as a woman in my career. I look forward to the days ahead where we can gather in-person for panels and conferences once again, and I can continue to share the knowledge from not only the poignant course material and the instructors, but also from my peers.
I can truly look back on the year of 2020, as I treaded through the never ending sea of panic and fear and anxiety, and say that #IDIDIT. I raised my family, I supported my partner, and I was educated in an area I am extremely interested in. I completed my Women in Leadership Executive Certificate during the most challenging year of my adult life, and I came out of the experience a better career woman and leader, in both my personal and professional life. And while we aren’t quite out of the woods yet, the reflection feels monumental. My certificate gave me an escape of the precarious world around me, and encouraged me to walk the tightrope and make it across.
I also want to shout out my amazing partner, kids and the women in my family + friend group and my work cheerleader Lyna. All of these people held my hand at home and from a distance, cheering me on in 2020. I hope they all know I am cheering them on too. And I am cheering YOU on, hoping you celebrate YOU today.
Happy International Women’s Day, gang.
Previous Women’s Day Posts:
2019 I’m Listening
2017 Be Bold for Change
2015 International Women’s Day 2015