On the eve of International Women’s Day, I attended an event at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School entitled “Trailblazing Women: Stories of Firsts, Risks, and Success.” At this event, it was easy to notice that the ratio of women to men was about 10 to 1.
As a member of that small group of men, I’d like to share why I was there. It was not just to learn valuable lessons from the five incredible women panelists on a play-by-play basis, nor to participate in the great question and answer period led by one of our Carey Women in Business student organization leaders, nor to explore an amazing networking opportunity among people interested in success and excellence. Each of the above could be inspiration for a separate blog entry, but I am not going to talk about them.
Being a Partner—Not Just a Participant
Instead, I am going to focus on just one point: a comment made by the first panelist, Alicia Wilson. She noted that she chose carefully whom she wanted to join her on her journey to success. Later in her personal commentary, she talked about how important maintaining those connections is for her.
I attended because I would like to be invited to be a part of others’ journeys to success. I enjoy being a part of others’ journeys to success. I believe that value is created for both of us every time I join someone on their journey. I believe that I will not be invited to come along on a journey unless I begin by meeting that person where she is. I believe that I cannot meet a person where she is unless I take time to listen.
The Importance of Active Listening
So, what is my answer to the question, “why did I attend the Trailblazing Women event?” Simply put, I was there to listen, as I aspire to earn the invitation to join someone else in her journey to success. Listening to the stories of the successful panelists and listening to the stories of others who are interested in success, I set in place the groundwork to earn an invitation to join someone else’s journey to success with conversation, brainstorming, and dreaming about new opportunities.
Now, let me conclude by bringing this back to International Women’s Day. Women will be trailblazers regardless of what I do. Yet, this does not mean that they do not need partners in this endeavor. I would like to be a partner on the journey and not a sideline observer. Is attending such events the only way to be a partner on the journey? Of course not. However, attending an event like Trailblazing Women is one tangible way to demonstrate an interest in being a partner by meeting women where they are with a goal of creating shared value. I hope I’m not alone in this effort or similar efforts for other affinity groups, so that we can truly have success for all.