Step up to the plate, ladies!

I am fresh back from a week long training session.  I was fortunate to tag on at the last minute and lucky enough to have a manager that is both flexible and supportive.  So off I go to a full week of women’s leadership training.  There were approximately 50 of us in attendance and we came from all over North America.  The training was local for me, so I came and went from the sessions everyday, while others stayed in the hotel.

Reflecting on my life prior to Kevin’s death, training wasn’t important to me.  I knew what my future was, it wasn’t about career, it was about retiring with him and just being and doing together-type stuff.  Take him out of the picture and things have changed dramatically.  Now I don’t know whether I will retire at my earliest possible date, I may just stay on, I just don’t know.  So when a spot came available for the training, I grabbed it.

It wasn’t a week of men-bashing, it was a week of contemplation, awareness, strategy and development.  When it began it struck me that there was a great deal of posturing in the room. That this was a collection of assertive, aggressive women.  I have worked with aggressive females before, some good experiences, some not so good.  There are those that will throw you under the bus and step on your writhing body to get ahead (but there are men like that too). Then there are those that will support you and look for ways to bring out your best.  Life is quite arbitrary in all sorts of ways, who we have to work with is usually out of our immediate control.  I think for this particular training, we all went into the week not knowing what to expect and, let’s face it, nobody wants to look or sound dumb.

We had some crazy good sessions and today, the final day, gave us a session with a financial planner extraordinaire – she was fabulous and if we could have taped the session and shared it with others I would have.  She wasn’t local though, and she will fly back some place south of the border and leave us to action what we learned.  (Max out that TFSA and get rid of that credit card debt! For us females, we may want to consider long term care insurance as we get into our mid to late 60’s.  And, so much more.)

We ended the training with a career planning discussion.  We were set up in groups of six, each group led by a senior “executive” high flyer (a female who has made it to that corner office) who talked through each of our plans, as well as having roundtable input from our peers.  It was at this point that I realized how far we had come from that first day.  The trust and honesty in the group fairly hummed around us.  If I had to use a colour to describe it, I would say it was a kind of golden yellow, the warmth of the sun at the end of the day.

I left the training feeling stronger.  Which is a relief because after the first two days all I could think was that there was too much to take in, and if I made new neural connections then I would have to keep “feeding” them, and if I didn’t keep feeding them then I would become a vacant, blathering idiot!  Anyway, I think if I did fire up some new neutrons that hopefully they came with synapses too – which would be a good thing, since I don’t want that stuff filed away in some dormant foggy area of my brain. This training really kickstarted me into thinking about my future and the degree of control I have over it. I met some remarkable people and I learned some pretty valuable stuff – not just work-related but life-related.  All in all a smashing success for me.


Equal Opportunity

I innocently overheard a conversation at my workplace last week. It was between two of my coworkers; they sit fairly close by. There is no ego shortage in my particular area of work. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we all have strong opinions. But I hope that we all have the capacity to accept others’ input, thoughts and ideas. What I overhead suggested that maybe we don’t. We talk at length about stereotyping, systemic barriers and racism, and we all try to watch out for it in our language. But there are those times when a simple statement should be examined, when we need to sit back and say, wow, did I just say that? That’s not right.

It’s those dismissive statements we make, assumptions about a person based on how they present themselves. When a person is sized up and judged on appearances. When someone is dismissed as offering less in the workplace because of their educational background or the type of work that they do. When we make judgments without knowledge, statements without facts. You never know what a person has to offer. Appearances can be deceiving. What a person knows can’t be measured. There are all sorts of contributing factors that help build a person’s knowledge base. Universities can and do churn out thousands of MBAs, PhDs and the like, but having the head knowledge and firing up the neurons to make meaningful connections between that information and the real world, the practical application – for some it just doesn’t happen. For others, even without formal education they will make the connections, they can do the job. It takes all kinds.

So what was it that I overheard? It was a comment related to a job competition and how administrative clerks where applying, and how they should know their place. And yes, I weighed in with my thoughts, they got my input. I started off in the admin pool, I could list off at least six other people now in much higher profile positions than me that started off as admins. I also told them about a young man I worked with 15 years ago, he started as an admin – now he is a director in a division with hundreds of employees. Even with formal education in a specific field you sometimes have to take what you can get and then start down the path to where you want to be. Just because someone is presently acting in an administrative position doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge, skills and abilities to progress outside of the clerical realm. It’s called equal opportunity.

The Chemo Class

So one of the services offered by our Cancer Care Center is an introduction/orientation session on what to expect during chemotherapy.  The training is recommended for the patient and for the primary caregiver.  It provided a general overview of the issues that may be faced during the chemo treatments.  There were a couple of things that never really occurred to me, but that are quite significant.  One was the toxic nature of the treatment and what it means in the home.  So, for example, chemotherapy stays in the body for approximately 48 hours.  It is important that caregivers ensure that they are not unnecessarily exposed to the toxins.  We were instructed to have the cancer patient double flush the toilet after use.  When cleaning the toilet, sink, shower, etc., we were told to wear gloves.  During sex, a condom is mandatory, regardless of whether it is a female or male having the treatment.  The session included information on dental work, how to prevent or reduce mouth sores common with chemotherapy, the importance of water and proper hydration, the immune system, etc. 

Initially I was reluctant to attend this session, but now I am most thankful that I went.  This is a formidable process and continues to be quite overwhelming, however, we continue to move through it, along with the other five or six families that attended our training session.  All ages, sizes and genders were at my training session today.  This disease really does not discriminate.