There's nothing a good cup of tea can't solve, particularly when shared with smart and interesting women who are engaged in meaningful conversation.
Spring Tea with BLG was a networking opportunity organized by the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP on Thursday and hosted by the law firm's regional managing partner, Katherine Cooligan.
She showed tremendous thoughtfulness by giving each guest their own tea cup to take home. Cooligan had personally purchased the cups, second-hand and over a period of time. One had been the very first gift bought by a man for his future wife, the room heard, while another cup had made an appearance on a British comedy show.
The gathering was part of Cooligan's efforts to empower women in her firm, in business, and beyond.
"All of us need to feel that we can reach our full potential in whatever our roles as women, understanding that we all have unique experiences and challenges," Cooligan told the room.
The group of 45 women enjoyed a light lunch before listening to award-winning serial entrepreneur and TEDx speaker Janice McDonald dish out some wisdom on the subject of Leading Through Peaks and Valleys.
Being in business can feel like a roller-coaster, she said.
“I’ve been buckled in on the wild ride of entrepreneurship since I started my first business in 1992,” said McDonald, who was co-owner of independent music retailer CD Warehouse. It closed its remaining stores a few years back, though it feels like only yesterday its catchy jingle was playing on the radio.
McDonald is now the chief executive of The Beacon Agency, an Ottawa-based boutique consultancy that she founded, specializing in entrepreneurship, leadership and research. She has many accomplishment to speak of, including her induction into the WXN Top 100 Hall of Fame for making it on the list of Canada’s top 100 most powerful women — four years in a row.
McDonald’s talk and input from the female attendees was inspiring as well as comforting. Discussions ranged from coping as a working single parent to boosting one's confidence by finding a private place to physically stand with one's chin up, feet apart and hands on hips — also known as the "power pose." According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, projecting power is more about how you stand than how you talk.
"We live in this environment that’s so tech-infused and where everything is beautifully curated. It’s like, 'Look at us! We all have absolutely perfect lives', and that’s because we can all take 900 photos," said McDonald.
“I think it’s really important to remember that, even when we’ve got stuff figured out, there are also probably areas that are a little out of control. I think of it like Whac-a-mole. I just start to get something sorted out and something else is popping up.”
McDonald, a married mother of three, encouraged the women to ask for help when they need it, hone in on priorities to avoid distraction, be a mentor and lifelong learner, take life’s detours in stride, and be fearless.
“That terrified feeling is you growing. For those of you who have children, remember this: we push them into terrifying situations every day and say, ‘You’ll be fine.’ But we kind of forget to do that ourselves, don’t we? So, just remember to take your own good advice.”
Some women make it all look so easy while others are left feeling like they can barely get it together, but being open and vulnerable can help women better connect and relate to one another, the room heard.
“I think we’re too hard on ourselves,” said McDonald, while encouraging the audience to be generous with its praise of other women. “It sounds trite but I mean it in the way that can actually make your day.”