On Friday, November 1, 2013, 7,000 women poured into the Pennsylvania Convention Center to explore the “power of possibilities” at the 10th annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women. The day undulated with questions, the answers some women found, and steps others began to take toward finding their own. Financial wizard Sallie Krawcheck lost her job in a very public manner and found the resilience to say “look at me, I’m on the front page of the New York Times” and move forward. Author Tory Johnson lost 60 pounds and found a happier life. She told conference attendees “Don’t underestimate what you can do over the long haul.” Women are often challenged by the underestimation of others as well as our own.
In that vein, a stunning moment occurred when Philadelphia’s own Linda Cliatt-Wayman, Principal of Strawberry Mansion High School, told the story of her reaction when asked to speak at the convention. She asked, “Why would anyone want me on the same stage as Hillary Clinton?” That is the very essence of underestimation because Cliatt-Wayman did what principals and school administrators across the country have been unable to do. She did what school reformers and think tank strategists spend their days creating strategies to accomplish. Cliatt-Wayman took a school known as one of the country’s most dangerous and created an atmosphere of hope and achievement, telling students over the public announcement system, “Remember, if nobody told you they loved you today, you remember that I do.”
And yet, she questioned her place on the stage.
At the end of the day, at the coach’s corner, a client sat down across from me and said “I need to find myself.” She said she couldn’t leave her abusive workplace and find another job until she loses weight; yet two people at the convention had invited her to apply at their companies. She spoke of a desire to go back to school, but fears it is too late. A couple of questions changed her perspective in 20 minutes. One was: “Is it possible that you are not lost, but need to give yourself permission to do the things you already know you want?” She smiled and said “I think I need to give myself more credit” and committed to follow up on the two job opportunities and take a college class in January. She left the conference with hope, determination and, perhaps best of all, a sly grin of confidence.
The power of possibilities begins with the elimination of underestimation. For many attendees, this began at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women.
Written for the International Coach Federation, Philadelphia here.