“Girls with dreams become women with vision.”
This was written on one of my birthday cards last year. I have a lot of dreams, from running my own company, getting a phd and finally writing a book about start-ups. Living in London, I am surrounded by ambitious women with equally bold dreams. However, the devil is in the detail and turning dreams into a vision whilst juggling all the competing demands of work, friends, family and life in general can be tough. Alex Hess, a partner at a private equity firm, philanthropist and mother said at a recent Eyedea event: “The desire to always want do more when there is never enough time is a trap that catches us all.”
What if we could just do more things a little bit better and a little bit faster? New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, has attempted to solve this conundrum for us and compiled his lessons into eight neat chapters in his recent book: smarter, faster better. The Secrets of Being Productive. As can be expected from a Pulitzer price winning author, the book is a pleasure to read and provides inspiring tales of Jack Welsh’s turn around of General Electric to how Disney’s Frozen became a hit (and almost didn’t get made), alongside a set of practical recommendations from agile thinking to forecasting the future. I have road tested his tips this year and below is a summary of my personal highlights on how to do more things better.
The first thing I noticed was the audience. There was something special about this particular crowd. A majority of women of all ages, colours and shapes – interspersed with some men. Apart from looks the audience was rapturous, you could feel the energy and the excitement reverberating in every single heart that night in London’s Southbank. It was all for her. She, who is a reluctant feminist. She, who says she is still unsure of what it means to be an icon. Nonetheless, she embraces it with all her smart vigour. She, that is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Shero of a generation of women who are looking for a voice and for the right words to articulate what we all feel and are rarely able to say. Not the way she does anyways.
It’s a Saturday night and Chimamanda is greeted like a rockstar when she enters the main auditorium to speak about what it means to be a woman today as part of the Women’s of the World Series.
She started off her talk with a profound statement from her new book, Dear Ijeawele. Dear Ijeawele, is a small booklet with 15 suggestions on how to raise a strong independent woman. The statement is quite simple, really, it says: I matter equally. Not ‘if only’, not ‘as long as’. I matter equally. Full stop.
This sets the scene and Chimamanda then explains how she became a feminist. She talks about how she was at carnival and had to go inside when the beautiful masks came out whereas her brothers were allowed to stay outside. She questioned the distribution of domestic chores, where she had to do the dishes – hating it – whilst her brother who actually enjoyed doing the dishes didn’t have to do it. She was told too that she must learn how to cook, whereas this was optional for her brothers. She said she asked a lot of questions and was never satisfied with the answers. Why aren’t roles assigned based on interest but based on gender? She talked about how girls and women from the early ages are taught to talk themselves down, make themselves less intelligent and how those constant sacrifices we make are in a perverse way rewarded by society. Like us being small is somehow beneficial for humankind.
We cannot choose who we love. True. Yet, we choose trust, stability, warmth, mutuality and respect. Not many would choose war. Or would we?
Last week I attended a discussion at The Frontline Club, a London club set up to honor those who died on the front in pursuit of journalism. It was a discussion between Jake Wood and Charles Glass. Jake spoke about the battle he faced upon his return from Afganistan and Iraq when diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Charles Glass, whose latest book Deserter explores the widely untold stories of the British and American deserters in the Second World War.
Jake’s story, his personality, his shaking hands, the way he crumbled his speaking notes in his hands and the way he spoke openly about his condition captured the audience and me.
Photo Credit: Congo Connect
Congo Connect‘s I dream of Congo exhibition is shown in London till the end of February. A panel discussion on Valentine’s day held amidst the images centered around the ongoing violence with a focus on the mass rape of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The discussion aimed to show hope by bringing the voices of Congolese women to the London audience. Further to that the event raised the questions for me whether these issues can be presented in a balanced manner or whether NGOs and activists need to simplify in order to get their message across.