by Tanei Atagi Henry
When I was 22 years old, I sat in a room of about thirty-five women. I was one of the youngest women in the group. This was back in the day when I saw 50 year-old women as “old.” (I had a lot to learn.) Even though at first I didn’t feel connected to this group of older women, as I listened to these women share their life experiences and core beliefs with each other, I was in awe of how much wisdom each woman had to impart. Hearing how they turned their life obstacles into victories inspired me.I felt so lucky to be there in the presence of these ordinary women who were accomplishing extraordinary things in their everyday lives. Not one of them was an Olympian, or a famous blogger (blogs weren’t yet a thing really), but each of these women used her strengths to improve herself, her knowledge, and her situation.
Simply writing about this indelible memory and revisiting these feelings of awe makes me want to build myself, and build an environment where others feel inspired to build as well. I want to be a woman who builds other women, young girls, and safe environments for women to grow and learn.
In this phase of my life, four women play an essential part in helping me grow and in building a better community. Each of these ladies is very different from me. Their unique perspectives expand my views on the world. They call me out when other people don’t, because they care enough to dig for the true me that lies below the surface. One of these women is a former college roommate. Two of them are old enough to be my mom and their children are grown. The fourth woman has kids who are close in age to my own. I text/call/email my small tribe of women with crazy ideas and questions about life and sometimes I just call to vent. These women are my people. They are free with their words and we have a special rapport that we’ve built up over the years. The key to our relationships is that I can feel that they are invested in me.
While these women I’ve mentioned have constantly been a part of my life for years, there is also a steady stream of women who weave in and out of the different stages of my life These influential women include my 2nd grade teacher, my church youth leaders, my aunts, my sisters, my mom, my drama teacher, my workout partner, my coworker, my neighbor, my daughter’s friend’s mom, and even a Facebook group that I got invited to join. No matter where I meet these women who are a part of my support system, I always find that I learn something meaningful and unique from each one.
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