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Take your headphones off

Picture: Catherine with Gamora (she's an epic bad-ass)

We walked the red carpet in Hollywood, California this week for the Premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy and I’d love to tell you that shaking hands with Chris Pratt was the highlight of my trip. Or that seeing Bradley Cooper up close was a lifetime achievement for me (it kinda was!). Or that smiling at Rob Lowe as he casually walked by made my night (West Wing was one of our favorite shows of all time!).

But it wasn’t the fanfare, the National Geographic film crew, the star-spotting or the royal treatment we received that filled my heart.

To be touring with real life “Galaxy Guards” who will board Artemis II and expand the reaches of human travel with the first moon mission in over 50 years was a great way to see Los Angeles for the first time....

Picture (L to R): Reid Wiseman, Christina Koch, Chris Pratt, Victor Glover and Jeremy Hansen

However, the peak of my trip came when the gentleman next to me on the airplane decided to take his headphones off and introduce himself.

For the next 30 minutes I got to know John Gavan. We shared our professional work rather succinctly. He's a structural engineer; I'm a physician. He works nationally as the CEO of a large partnership, and I consult virtually with patient care and women’s health.

Somewhere along the way in our short conversation, there was an energetic invitation to share my truth. That we live in a world that is constrained by structures that often hold women back and unleashing the full power of women in the workforce and the world is what keeps me up at night AND gets me up in the morning.

I revealed that the Empowered Women’s Circle (EWC) has become my “for purpose” business and I’ve seen this model work in profound and transformative ways by changing the narrative and expanding boardrooms.

In response to my openness, honesty and passion, John revealed his true colors too. While his brain and brawn belong to his CEO engineering role, his heart and soul lead another organization that shares training, mentorship and education to advance people of color into leadership positions in a field that has been, disappointingly, slow at recognizing the vital importance of diverse talent at the top.

Once we started flowing into an enthusiastic exchange about diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility we quickly traversed into open dialogue about some of the essential and uncomfortable conversations that all humans need to be having. I asked him how a white man was perceived as the architect of a program focused on people of color and what he expected for the future of his two white sons in a society that must elevate DEIA into all hiring practices. His answers profound, his values visible and the depth of his character evident.

Pictured above: John Gavan, President/CEO of KPFF Consulting Engineers (LinkedIn)

He challenged me to reframe my work with women as a calling that, without sustainable revenue and a structured business plan, will never produce the impact and lasting legacy the world needs it to become. The future of DEIA overall, and gender equity specifically, relies on real humans with, not just vision and values, but with tactics.

EWC needs to have the foresight to plan the path, the confidence to execute on strategy and the passion to innovate, deliver, pivot, iterate and persevere.

In the moment that John decided to take off his headphones, connections were created, visions materialized, and lives were changed. Mine in particular.

Conscious male leaders are paving the way and offering a hand up and, on that day, John reminded me of things my husband has been telling me for years – that empowered women, empower women. And the more often I hear it, the louder it reverberates in my life.

The gender gap exists because of systemic structures that need to be disrupted and evolved. But the chasm remains, deep and impassable, because some people continue to believe it always will. We all bump up against fear, invisibility or imposter syndrome but, sometimes, when women experience these obstacles they give up. I'm learning NOT to give up.

We can disrupt systems from the outside (necessary in certain realms) or we can create a groundswell of raw talent, unique gifts, emerging leaders and passionate professionals who implore us to do things differently.

Just as our personal work is an inside/out process, the (emergence) of diversity in role models and leadership teams may have greater success if we educate, equip and empower future leaders to change the narrative, take their place at the table, find their voice and own it! At the same time we can hold the door open or help them kick it down.

It’s both/and. A war of two fronts. Systematic demolition and inner reconstruction. Organizational change and soul searching.

Ever since John decided to look me in the eye and share his life story - a story of overwhelming sadness, resilience, trauma and triumph - I have felt seen, heard, validated and implicated. He did that for me and I feel strengthened to pay it forward.

I’ve been reminded of where my work fits in the crusade move the needle on gender equity. EWC is not the entire solution but it’s an important part of the puzzle. And, perhaps most importantly, it's what I can do right now to create change.

Are you interested in creating change with me?

This upcoming Summer season of the Empowered Women's Circle will be a chance to grab a drink, sit in your favourite lounging chair and learn more about your body, your brain and your brilliance.

Why does it matter? Because together we embolden our sisterhood to live unleashed - and that's when the world will notice!

Midlife: The Meaning, Madness & Magic

"Conversations that no one is having" Starts May 11th - registration is open now!!


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