Creating space for reflection and connection.
As published in The Register Guard on March 3, 2020.
One year ago, early on a Friday morning, fifty women of all ages, experiences and industries gathered to have a slow cup of coffee, a complimentary açaÍ bowl, and honest conversation about professional and personal development. It was magic.
Why? Because it created space for reflection and connection. The result?
The beginning of a quarterly leadership series and professional network: SHINE.
The catalyst for SHINE was a lunchtime conversation among friends. We were thirty-somethings entering the leadership circles of our respective professions, and found ourselves in search (and desperate need) of a meaningful network of women. In the hustle of kids and careers, we were thirsty for time, space, and real relationships. We wanted a place to listen and be heard.
We wanted a simple format (without an agenda), intentional topics (with a variety of viewpoints), and an easy but safe place to be open about our professional and personal lives. We couldn’t find it. So we created it.
One year, three events, threads upon threads of emails, and countless coffee dates later, I realized that SHINE is something special. It has a grassroots appeal. Our intimate conversations paired with low commitment and a purposeful mix of generations fill a void in the local world of networking.
The common needs we discussed over that first lunch spanned the spectrum of ethnicity, age, profession, family-life and so on. As we integrate professional and personal demands in an effort to live our fullest lives, we must create space for shared reflection and mutual connection filled with truth, vulnerability, encouragement, and ambition.
SHINE has provided that space. Women come together and discuss topics such as communication, confidence, community building, and executive leadership. While the topics are somewhat predictable, the way they are discussed is not — and that is the magic.
For instance, when a well-known executive director offered her perspective on “speaking your truth” she looked at the room with an electric smile and said, “When I share an idea, I don’t want my colleague to just smile and nod. If I wanted that, I could simply look in a mirror, because I already think what I am saying is a great idea, otherwise I wouldn’t have said it … To feel confident, I don’t need you to tell me I look good. Again, I’ve got a mirror.”
Her confidence was dynamic, playful, and totally from within. Many of us left that day thankful for an early morning jolt of wit, but also feeling free to explore our own uninhibited sense of confidence.
At each event, the honest humor has been matched with raw experiences and emotions. A favorite moment was when one woman shared a story of brokenness leading to unexpected opportunities and blessings. This woman had found the courage to share her story publicly for the first time, and was met with deep empathy and respect. She is one of the most beautiful people I know, and I doubt I am the only one who left the space braver because of her.
The most recent event had an influx of undergraduates, which reinforced the critical importance of intergenerational dialogue. Watching these students scatter about the room to shake hands with local leaders is reason enough for these events.
However, there was a particular moment when a young woman challenged a panel of C-level executives about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the panel responded with transparency and truth. That kind of interaction is one reason such conversations must continue.
To me, SHINE is (and can continue to be) more, without invading our crowded schedules and lengthy to-do lists. If nothing else, it has shed light on our acceptance of disconnect and reframed the conversation to focus on how we can intentionally create space to reflect, grow and (re)connect.
I hope we can all be inspired to find a morning for honest conversation, self-truth, deepening relationships and a slow cup of coffee. Our professional-personal-family lives and community will be better for it.