I’m back in Canada after 10 amazing days experimenting the tastes of Jaipur, India. It wasn’t in my plans to be there this year but when I was asked by AQ Asia (Top University Ranking in Asia) to go to speak at “Woman in Higher Education and Social Innovation” in Jaipur, I felt flattered and proud that I could speak about what Latincouver has achieved in the last few years for the hard work, dedication, and passion that I, and our amazing team, have invested into this dream.
However, to be honest, I was a bit intimidated when I realized that all the other speakers in the conference were coming from the academic sector. I started questioning myself: “Can I add any value to this conversation? Do I know anything about higher education in woman?”, considering last time I was in the school was 8 years ago. But then something hit me: first, that we have to say “yes” to new opportunities in life because for sure this will bring up something new; and second, I realized that for the last few months I have been talking with friends about that if I would have the chance to do another organization again, I probably would like to do something with young girls and invest in teaching them about achieving their professional dreams while not forgetting their personal dreams.
Probably you will wonder why this is important, well actually I feel like I have been lost in transition and I could be a good case study. I am part of the of women earning master’s degree, which makes 60% of all the earned master’s degrees; of the 22% of the woman who holds an upper management or leadership role; and of the 15% of Hispanic firm owners from all woman-owned firms.
However, I am also part of the 80% of the woman who still feel that they aren’t good enough and keep trying to finds the gaps to be the perfect human being.
I was born in Colombia in the late 70’s when the feminist movement started taking place and women everywhere were very proud of some of their amazing and necessary achievements, like the right to vote, to go to work and even to attend higher university. I was raised with these types of women who were looking to have a stable place in society. They were the first generation in their families to go to university and to make a decent income but yet, it was still expected of them to please men, to solely take care of their children, and to have their houses spotless. They didn’t care what it took as long as they were able to show their equal rights.
I was brought up with these outstanding women that taught us in school to aim high, that there weren’t a difference in the potential of a man or a woman because we could be the next doctors or engineers, and that we could get any position we wanted if we worked hard. In my head, I was empowered to be any amazing professional that I wanted to be. However, I don’t remember a time where they mentioned or informed us about some of the other benefits of being a housewife, nor educated us about the importance of family values and the role of woman in society. I think that I even started to look down stay at home women.
When I was a young girl I believed I could achieve anything but yet, I was still competing all the time to get those rights at home against my bother.
I took any chance that I could to prove my dad that I was able to do anything my brother could, that I was as smarter and talented as my brother, that I also had an opinion, that I needed answers to my questions. I had to speak louder to be listened to and I was told several times that I was the little rock in my dad’s shoe. I always found my way to success in what I wanted, although that implied lots of fighting with my father. However, even when he was raised in a macho society, he did encourage me to go to learn another language and to move to another country if that was my will. I can’t imagine how hard it was for a man at that time to try to do the right thing while having his own perceptions and ideas.
However, as a leader and venture entrepreneur, I have to say that it has been 16 years of exhausted race, trying to prove to the world around that I am doing the right thing, that I am doing what I supposed to be doing in order to contribute to society and to my own economic independence. Although this last point took me few years to figure out because I felt ashamed to look for any compensation for something that I was passionate and talented to do; it really took me years to value my time and my work.
In the last 2 years, I have been working on how to change my ways of thinking and how to think about myself as a strong, independent and go-getter woman, and still keep my feminine traits as a positive thing. I gave up competing to be like a man and started learning to gain more confidence and using my woman virtues to be a better leader for my team and my world around it.
My trip to India wasn’t a coincidence because I learned to embrace the new models of leadership that strike the balance of compassion and strength. That in order to increase upper-level positions, we woman need to start by building confidence in us, by choosing what we want to do in life without feeling pressure to do certain jobs, and by work closely with men for a truly collaborative partnership to succeed in both personal and professional levels. In business, we need to evaluate and nurture need ideas that encourage sustainable and inclusive entrepreneurship. Furthermore, I believe we need to enact social policy initiatives that engender cultures of care, individual social responsibility, and civic engagement.
It was a real honor to be one of the presenters and to represent Canada and Latin America while I gained vast knowledge from professionals in the education sector including Ms. Aïcha Bah Diallo, Tom Rudin, and few others. Being part of a debate with Michele Ozumba we concluded that each education instruction will serve different purposes each student. I was very impressed by the generosity of the vice chancellor Aditya Shastri and the academic profile of Banasthali University that truly embrace the concept of empowering women with very customized curriculums that provide young ladies the tools to success in the real world.
I believe we still have a long way to go but now it up to us to redefine attributes once considered weak and redefine them as strengths.
In conclusion, it was one of a time experience with lots of contrast, colors and lots of interesting facts about education in women. Again, we are equal! However, if history has taught us one lesson, it is that we should not be the same. We should be different! For a wise woman recently reminded us “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights”.
I look forward to continuing contributing with this subject in the near future and creating spaces for women and men to collaborate for new ideas and solutions without borders. #TomorrowInHand totally agree with @sophieTrudeau.
Here are some nice pictures from this beautiful, beautiful experience. https://goo.gl/photos/DU6okvfnkERg42Nz6