By Yasmin Ariff
Just before the pandemic started in 2020, I attended my first women’s networking event hosted by WomenEd at Sarah Bonnell School in London.
I don’t think I had ever existed in a space like I did that day.
I struggled to remember.
Even in 2023, it still doesn’t feel permissible to express emotion in the modern work place.
Whether implicitly or explicitly, we are taught to contain our emotions at work, no matter how unfair work politics can seem.
They tell us to:
Don’t take it personally.
You’re too emotional right now!
It must be that time of the month or the menopause!
But WomenEd created a safe space where it felt normal to express a range of emotions which are natural to the human experience.
The range of emotions conveyed through the guest speakers, whether it was enthusiasm or anger, were fully embraced and permitted.
Being allowed to feel what you wanted was liberating. It felt like a kind of freedom which I don’t think I’d felt since I was a little girl, before societal conditioning taught me that it wasn’t favourable to feel bad, let alone express these negative feelings in public spaces.
This was a group of women full living out the WomenEd values of:
And no one even had to tell me that these were the WomenEd values.
This was a real lesson in living out your values as an organization because they permeated the day.
The lived experiences of women were acknowledged and celebrated.
You know an organisation is living out their values because people sense and feel them.
With some unknown gauge, like a sixth sense that day…
I just felt part of this community.
I just felt connected to these women.
I was safe to challenge and we were all behind one another which grew our confidence.
But I also felt pissed off as more guest speakers opened up about:
I was curious around my paradoxical emotions.
Then I remembered Gloria Steinem’s famous quote:
The Truth will set you FREE but first it will piss you off.
That day triggered something inside of me.
I knew I had to start feeling like this more often: more ‘pissed off’ and ok with this. I knew I had to do some work on myself to gain confidence to start living out my TRUTH, start trusting others and myself. I knew I had a long way to go but it was like, that day, a guardian angel landed on my shoulder and echoed the powerful words of the writer Jen Hatmaker in my ear:
The world is hungry for women like you who show up and tell the truth, unafraid and free, expanding to the very edges of who you were always meant to be.
Fast forward 3 years, and I have evolved considerably since that event and still a long road to travel.
There’s been lots of detours through dark valleys and a worldwide pandemic along the way but, for me, it all feels better than it was, anchored in that day at WomenEd in 2020.
That women-led community incited empowered action for change.
And helped me to find my voice.
More recently, as I moved to a remote working role and started to feel the isolation that comes with sitting in your home-office all day interacting with people virtually, my guardian angel knew I needed to find that communal space again that was reserved just for women.
Because women-only spaces are special. They allow you to relinquish inhibitions and share things more so than in any other space.
So, on 2nd March this year I was led, yet again, to another women-led networking event in my home town, Bolton, hosted by as inspiring leader Sarah Hulme.
Women gathered (in the same vein as WomenEd) to tell their stories and listen to each other.
Yet again, it felt like a room full of guardian angels who were there to protect and serve one another.
There’s something very special about women-only spaces.
They feel safe.
The ego is softened.
An invisible thread runs through us all, connecting our experiences, reminding us that none of us are islands, entities on our own.
And every time I sit in these spaces, I am reminded that, in this world, there is nothing quite as sacred and life giving than…
The Power of Women United.
The more women who are inspired into action by women-led spaces, the better our world will be.
Find out more about the women-led spaces mentioned in this blog below:
WomenEd is a global grassroots movement that connects aspiring and existing women leaders in education. To find out more about WomenEd, visit their website here.
Sarah Hulme, from Bolton, has recently set up an empowerment circle group for women hoping to offer support at the same time as linking women to the best in business. For more information on this brilliant group read this article or contact Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org