Happy International Women’s Day! Never heard of it? International Women’s Day is a special day set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of women, while identifying areas of needed improvement in opportunity and equality. Here’s what the United Nations has to say about this special day.
To celebrate, we spoke with Liz Ibrahim and Heidi Rasmussen. Both Heidi and Liz are currently participating in the winter session of the 4word Mentor Program for professional Christian women. Liz is our first international participant, hailing from Australia. Heidi and Liz speak about their experience, and the cultural differences between America and Australia. Read on for their answers.
4word: What persuaded you to become a part of 4word's mentoring program?
Liz: As a Christian and a new manager, I wanted to be mentored by another Christian woman whose faith is an integral part of her life. Christ brings a richness and vitality that we wouldn't have otherwise, and I believe bringing Christ and these characteristics to every part of our lives is our calling.
Heidi: When I worked in corporate America, I was assigned women mentors and mentees as part of our development program. I can truly say, it’s where I learned the most about the nuts and bolts of being a great leader. I’m still in touch with most of the women I was mentored by, as well as those I mentored. The one-on-one mentorship relationship creates such a strong bond that you find yourself staying connected for life. That’s a great thing since we face different types of challenges throughout our careers and need mentors to reach out to for help. There are so many women who don’t have the benefit of a formalized program, so I love that 4word has a program that makes it available to professional Christian women everywhere.
4word: What does International Women's Day mean to you?
Liz: It's a celebration of all the wonderful things that women do and contribute to society - as daughters, sisters, mothers, friends, co-workers, managers, and leaders. Women bring a unique set of qualities and skills that are indispensable, both in the home and at work.
Heidi: Honestly? I didn’t even know it existed until this year! How sad is that? Growing up, my mom was one of the only career women I knew. I started working when I was 12 cleaning offices for a large corporation, where I worked my way through the ranks for 27 years. I have always worked and never really felt the sting of inequality. How blessed am I to live in a country where I can say that?
And yet, there is so much to be done in our own country and especially throughout the world. You hear stories of the struggles women in other countries go through to drive or visit a medical facility without a male escort, let alone getting the right to vote, own property, a business, etc. I think it’s great to have one day set aside where we can raise awareness and celebrate women's economic, political, and social achievements!
4word: Are there any cultural differences between Australia and America that you and Heidi have had to work through?
Liz: Only in the words we use to describe some things, which are different. As an example, to describe something that occurs every two weeks, Aussies say fortnightly, but Americans say biweekly. Heidi probably thought I was speaking in a different language when I first mentioned it. Needless to say, our fortnightly catch ups are fantastic and I'm learning so much!
Heidi: I think it’s harder for Liz than it is for me! We typically meet on Friday at 2 p.m. my time which is 7 a.m. on Saturday her time. She has to get up that early on her weekend to talk to me. It makes me think, “Well, I better be worth it and add a lot of value to this relationship!” Other than the time difference and a few minor language differences (the book she ordered came in “the post”, not in “the mail”), I’m amazed at the similarities in our work. Our career backgrounds are totally different, yet we’ve experienced many of the same questions and situations. It just goes to show you how business can be somewhat similar throughout the world.
4word: How do you plan to celebrate International Women's Day?
Heidi: I’m creating a red carpet runway in my house. All my girlfriends are getting dressed up in gowns and…okay, maybe not! The way I’m celebrating is actually even better than that! As a result of being a Dallas 4word leader, I was invited to attend the commencement ceremony for the Women's Initiative Fellows Class of 2013 at the George W. Bush Institute. Imagine my excitement when I received the invitation in my email box from none other than Laura Bush! The Women’s Initiative Fellowship is designed to enhance the leadership skills of women around the world. What an honor to attend the ceremony and congratulate these women as they "graduate” from the program and take their new expertise around the world!
4word: What is your message to women around the globe this International Women's Day?
Liz: I love this quote by Mary Anne Radmacher. It inspires me every day and I hope it inspires you:
"Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen Hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regrets. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is."
We want to hear from you. What does International Women’s Day mean to you? How do you plan to celebrate? Leave a comment, tweet us, or let us know on Facebook!
Need celebration ideas? Be a part of the spring Mentor Program, or give the gift of mentoring to a loved one. Applications are being accepted through March 14.