“There’s an old saying that goes: give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. I say: teach a woman how to fish — and she’ll provide for the whole village.” — Keren Lifrak
Twelve years ago, standing in my kitchen with a sleeping newborn strapped to my chest, my laptop open on the counter as I was trying to simultaneously finish a proposal (for my also-new event planning business), clean out my breast-feeding pump, and prepare lunch. Of course, at this moment the phone rang, which woke up the baby up. To this day I remember thinking it would take too much finagling to reach the phone on time, and r contemplating whether I could pick up the phone with my toe (as I had begun to do with doors when I ran out of hands).
My husband worked very long hours those days, and we had no family in town that we could turn to for support. The market had turned, our mortgage was upside down, and we were feeling the financial crunch. I have memories of looking for loose change under the cushions if we wanted to get ice cream and contemplating whether to get the 57¢ bottle of seltzer at Publix or the 89¢ one, before deciding I don’t need the seltzer all together.
These are not the kind of things one wants to go around openly talking about. We all do our best to look perfect all the time like we have things under control. So I sucked it up like a big girl, put on some red lipstick and a cool dress, and went about my business as usual.
As time went by I would notice women (myself included) talking about being superwomen — almost like a pissing contest about how much we can juggle with as little sleep as possible. The whole superwoman thing was exhausting. It was like bearing a cross that was too heavy… a price too steep to pay for the sake of looking good.
I felt overwhelmed, alone, and frustrated, and I remember saying to myself, “there has to be a better way!”
Over the following years, I would obsess about creating innovative solutions for all working women’s problems. I know myself as a highly creative, resourceful person… what people might label these days as a Multi-Potentialite or Renaissance woman. I have since reinvented myself a few times and re-established our family‘s finances and stability thanks to my real estate business, which has allowed for the time and resources to fuel other projects while also caring for my family.
At one point I even designed an app called “Liv” that I described to investors as: “If KITT (the artificially intelligent talking car from the 80s show Knight Rider) and Amazon had a baby — “Liv” would be their love-child! For the record, this was well before Alexa was a household name. While investors liked the idea, in theory, most thought it was too complex to implement and too grand (risky). Without a background in technology or the resources to pull it off alone — several thousands of dollars later I decided to go back to the drawing board.
That journey brought me back to what I know best: connecting with people through conversations and designing meaningful gatherings. I soon realized that perhaps I might not be able to change a woman’s logistical circumstances, but I certainly can create a conversation to help her feel a little less alone, a little more alike — and a lot more empowered on our shared journey as 21st-century women.
The more I shared about this with other women… whether stay-at-home mothers, executives, entrepreneurs, teachers or doctors… whether age 25 or 55… whether single or married… I started hearing commonalities and women started to open up to me. What I realized is that our society and our community has a great need for this conversation. There’s a need for us to wipe off the lipstick from time to time, and talk about it all — authentically. To talk about the challenges, the lost dreams, the new dreams, the need for connection, the need for self-compassion and self-care… often in the face of what occurs like an impossible schedule.
BeingWE (Being Women Empowered) was born as a result — a guided conversation series for women and by women. What will start with an inquiry will lead to an open conversation, guided by a variety of relevant topics and facilitated in an empowering way.
By collaborating with Women’s Resource Center, our aim is to create a space where women acknowledge each other and our shared struggles, we listen and learn from the women participating in the conversation as the heroes of the hour — and our lives; as the natural leaders that we are, all while breaking the myths and allowing for being vulnerable and authentic. That’s what real courage is, and that’s where a real opportunity arises for a shift in our experience and owning our power.
Our community has seen a wonderful awakening of women’s movements and events. I have been to many events where a keynote speaker — like a Hollywood star or a celebrity expert — is placed on a stage/pedestal to inspire us with their story for an afternoon. These individuals are viewed as a subject of admiration, leaving the ones in the audience in hopes that perhaps one day, they too can have it all — like she does. What really happens is that we take our moment of inspiration back home with us and put it on a shelf… returning to our reality, our habits, our dishes, our bills and nothing changes (not quickly anyway). BeingWE is an alternative to the one-off inspirational speech. Instead, it’s an inspiring journey, a transformative experience, a way to cultivate real, lasting change within ourselves.
On airplanes, we’re instructed to put on our own oxygen mask first before helping others. Leadership starts from within. When we become fully empowered as the women we were meant to be, there’s nothing we can’t do or be. And we’ll be better — together.
We invite you to join us for this conversation series!
By: Keren Shani-Lifrak