I grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota where opportunities for career-minded women were limited.
In fact my mother, the executive director for the Head Start program in the area, was one of the few mothers in my group of friends who worked outside the home.
What I didn’t realize then that I do now is how fortunate I was to have her as a role model. I saw her passion and dedication for her work. I saw the difference she made in the lives of the people the program supported, and the difference she made for the organization itself. But most importantly, I saw a woman in a leadership role.
Through her example, my mother empowered me to pursue a career in financial services – a declaration that caught my high school guidance counselor by complete surprise – and eventually a leadership role in financial services.
There are many, many young girls and women, however, who do not feel empowered to dream big and buck social norms or stereotypes. And that’s why, to celebrate International Women’s Day this year (and beyond this day), RBC Wealth Management is shining a spotlight on the importance of empowerment.
When a person feels empowered, there is no limit to what they can do. When a person feels empowered, that voice that says “I can’t” is replaced with one that says “I will.”
To illustrate the power of empowerment, we asked four pioneering women from athletics, entertainment, aerospace and political activism to share their stories in their own words with acclaimed journalist Soledad O’Brien.
We captured each of those stories on video and now we’re sharing those videos with everyone on our website.
Women featured in the new video initiative include:
- Lindsay Whalen, head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team and former Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) world champion;
- Dessa, a singer, rapper and writer whose album reached the top 200 on the Billboard charts and whose writing has been published in The New York Times Magazine;
- Cynthia Vernon, Ph.D., an educator and “Hidden Figure,” who in 1963 was the only black employee in the NASA Data Center; and
- Susannah Wellford, who has founded two organizations, Running Start and Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), designed to raise the political voice of young women in America.
A few of these women were told “You can’t,” but they nonetheless felt empowered to persist. Others are actively focused on breaking down barriers for the next generation of female leaders.
As you watch these videos and hear from the women themselves, I challenge you to ask yourself what empowerment means to you. Reflect on how you’ve been empowered to pursue your dreams. Most importantly, ask what you can do to inspire and empower the next generation of female leaders – in finance, politics, science, athletics and beyond.