I’ve often said that there is a gap between empowerment and tangible impact. Today, the buzzword for gathering a group of women together is “empowerment”. From the “Boss Brunches” to the “Empowerment Panels”, you can’t help but to walk into or be surrounded by women supporting women. There is nothing wrong with it all, I simply question whether or not the true intention of empowerment is being carried out. The warm and fuzzy feelings that permeate the room are great, however, what are participants, our sister-friends, left with when it is over?
I grow a bit weary of the panels packed with women who have shattered the glass ceilings and get 5 minutes to say something prophetic from a dais to a group of aspiring and incipient professionals and entrepreneurs. The intent behind the act is noble, but again what are our sister-friends left with when it is over? Where is the tangible impact? I am fairly certain that the organizers receive the greatest benefit from these events leaving those who remunerate at a slight disadvantage. Yes, there is potential to expand the network, but how do you develop the net worth within the network? Having a circle of friends is great, but how to increase the net worth of that circle?
I guess I need to describe what I mean by tangible impact. You see, for something to be tangible it must be within reach, real, substantial, concrete and solid. While the impact is the forcible contact with another. So, in order for me to leave a tangible impact on my sister-friend, I must willing to collide with her with real and substantial results.
How do you get to that point? It takes introspection. As women, we are constantly fighting for the opportunity to stand in the room, let alone sit at the table. However, when we pull up a seat to the table, how often do we look for opportunities to give our sister-friends the prospect of greatness? How often do we calculate the worth of expanding her network? How often do we support her through a breakthrough with more than just clichés and pats on the back? Some of you do it phenomenally, in fact, there are rituals and beauty to the way that you consistently support your sister-friends.
However, for those that struggle with it (and there is nothing wrong with the struggle) there is an alignment that must take place within. In order to be the change agent, you have to be willing to honestly give of yourself. You must be ready to lay the opportunity on the line for someone that you know needs the chance to shine. Then, you must be willing to let thep shine, even if you helped them! That is tangible impact – that is empowerment.
The charge to all groups is to impact the participants with tangible outcomes and results. Stop looking to fill seats or post that you had A-list speakers on your panel. Develop programs that really make an impact on those that you purport to support. Don’t become another cliché or organization that fizzles out once the word “empowerment” loses its gleam and the next fad takes its place.
Sheena is the owner of Lengo, a business consultancy suite specializing in the development of competitive business plans and strategies. With her 20 years of experience in the small and diverse business industry she not only enjoys helping firms realign their strategies with their firms’ vision, but also enjoys bringing awareness to professional topics and interests. For more information please go to www.lengofocus.com.