Eight thousand women attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston last week. I was one of them, listening to speakers like Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley (yes, she gifted every person in the audience a little bag from Vera Bradley!), and one of the few men invited to speak–Deepak Chopra, M.D., renowned physician and author.
The Conference covered a range of topics from career success to health, wealth, and relationship building.
One of the opening keynote speakers, Marla Capozzi, senior expert and a leader of McKinsey & Company’s global innovation practice, began with some thought-provoking stats from recent studies on women in the workplace:
- In 2010, 104 million women ran businesses that accounted for 50% of the GDP
- In the U.S. alone, women own 10+ million firms
- 80% of women in the workplace aspire to move on to the next level of their job
- 74% of women in the workplace are primary caregivers and 63% are the primary breadwinners
- Companies who have women on executive committees get better financial results
- Adding more women to an organization drives increased collective intelligence
What was missing from the talks I listened to was an overt mention of spirituality and how having a spiritual connection/a relationship with God brings health and prosperity to one’s life. So I began to listen more carefully for how the various speakers were characterizing women. What qualities and strengths were they associating with women? Because essentially those qualities constitute our spiritual make-up–the fabric of our lives that lead to personal healing and well-being, also impacting the health of those we touch.
When Deepak Chopra offered his opening comments, he began with an answer to the question, Who is the greatest leader on this planet? To which I think he surprised the audience with his response: “My mother.” Chopra emphasized, “This is the time for women. Women bring wisdom and peace and harmony, social justice, equality. Men brought knowledge and the information highway, but women will bring peace and prosperity to the world.”
He said his mother taught him that if he had a story to share and bless others with, he could depend on it being heard–that “the universe” would make sure of it.
He then provided an interesting analogy that helped me see even more clearly that what a woman brings to the global economy improves the overall health and well-being of companies, families, and ultimately the world in which we live.
He used the analogy of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. When a caterpillar’s body begins to decay, the new cells use this decaying matter as a means to become new again. A different gene, which has always been present, wakes up and the transformed creature emerges as a butterfly.
I held this image in mind as I listened to the various speakers for the rest of the day. I thought about how we each have within us the tools to take what appears to be destructive, unhealthy, dying, and become new again. Find our health and well-being again. One woman stood up and said she learned to ski at 50 and lost 30 pounds, despite her own family members (a sister and a daughter) saying that was impossible at her age.
Another moderator commented that 52% of women marathon runners are in their 40s and above, many of them first-timers (see my recent blog on Baby Boomers). A psychologist, who also consults with advertising companies on how to speak to a female audience, said women who feel good about themselves “are flexible and have a kind internal dialogue.”
I listened intently to Arianna Huffington, who started the news and blog site Huff Post, which quickly became one of the most widely read and most commonly cited media brands on the Internet. Among many things she said that to stay healthy we need to disconnect. We need to get our rest, connect within, and turn off our phones and devices, keeping them away from our bedsides at night. She said, “It’s our challenge to be effective and productive while still being nurturers.” So often the media doesn’t focus on what is working, so she started a “Good News” section on Huff Post, which is only filled with just that–good news and what is working in the world.
Barbara Bradley Baekgaard also has a “happy team” at Vera Bradley, designed to do just that: focus on the happiness of the company and celebrate that joy regularly.
Joy, focusing on the good, defying the odds, rebirth and transformation, being strong leaders, sharing our blessing stories–to me, these are all ingredients women add to the ongoing discussion on health. They remind me of Mary Baker Eddy, the healer, theologian, and author who told her story right in here in Boston, too. In the city where the seeds of political freedom were sewn and prospered for a nation, and where Eddy sewed the first seeds of freedom from disease over a century ago through her discovery that healing through prayer is scientific.
Eddy would write from experience in her best-selling work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Citizens of the world, accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free! This is your divine right.”
Recognizing our divine right to be free of whatever would hold us back is truly a gift. And during this holiday time of gift-giving perhaps it’s the best gift of all.