Finding your voice: Recognizing International Women’s Day

Kelly_&_nieceTwo years ago, I was walking with my five year-old niece when she looked at me and said: “Aunty Kelly, why do you always walk ahead of everyone?” I’m sure there was a logical answer to this question – I’m impatient, I have long legs, I’m a fast walker, but I didn’t say that.  I looked at her young, impressionable face, looking for guidance and understanding and I said: “It’s because I’m a leader, Jordyn.  You know what, you’re a leader too. Why don’t you walk ahead?”  I never realized that day how much power there was in not just showing her “how” to lead, but teaching her first that she could lead.

Last year when I moved to Calgary, I was approached to take on the Regional Chair role for Connections – the TELUS women’s network.  My initial reaction was – me?  I grew up with only brothers and a very strong father – I wasn’t a “feminist”.   Today, I am so proud to have taken on this opportunity because similar to that day with my niece, I have learned as a strong female   that leadership is important, but teaching other women how to be leaders is even more important.

Kelly&ZahraLast Monday, we held our annual International Women’s Day breakfast in Calgary with more than 100 TELUS team members coming together to network, connect and hear from an amazing and inspiring woman, Zahra Al-Harazi. She spoke to our team about the power of “finding your voice.”  The messages that I took away from her talk were:

  •  Every day is a new day to change your life.

At 32, Zahra, a mother of three children decided she wanted more for her family and for herself and enrolled in design school. Today, she runs one of Canada’s most awarded marketing and communications agencies.

  • Step up and live to your potential.

Do not let society, culture or people determine what you are capable of achieving.  Zahra broke through cultural barriers and expectations to build her own career, run her own company and was be recognized as  Chatelaine’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year (2011) and one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women (Top 100) by the Women’s Executive Network.

  • Be a fighter and a survivor

Life will always throw challenges your way whether they are personal setbacks or our own self-imposed limitations.  You can either let those challenges in life win, or you can fight through and persevere.

My hope is that I will help influence other women at TELUS to live to their potential, to be survivors, to “find their voice”.  Most importantly, I hope when my niece starts her career, the words so perfectly written in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In hold true:

In the future, there will be no female leaders, there will just be leaders.