“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women, who have her back.”

Never is this truer than at an Aspire for Equality gathering. This particular digital gathering was The Aspire Resolve Global UnConference that took place on December 3 and 4, 2020.

It was clear from the agenda that the two days would be packed with life-altering discussions including key topics to build resolve and empowerment, focus on areas you want to learn about, and tools you can apply immediately to affect impact in your life or project.

This wasn’t my first time attending an Aspire event, but it was the first time I was volunteering to support the team behind the scenes giving me a different perspective of the work being done by Aspire for Equality.

Dr. Sam Collins is a well-known global voice on women’s leadership and equality, a social entrepreneur, international speaker, and author. At the age of 30 years old, Sam founded Aspire for Equality in the UK, a global organization that empowers a new way of life, work, and world. She’s been named “One of the Top 200 Women to Impact Business & Industry” by Her Majesty The Queen, “A Women Shaping the World” by CNN, and “Leader in the Workplace” by the Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards. A 7-year part-time PhD explored the future world of work and she is the author of the internationally best-selling book, ‘Radio Heaven – One Woman’s Journey into Grace’.

The two day Aspire Global Resolve UnConference was inspirational from the start. As the name indicated, the digital format was an ‘UnConference’ and provided an informal space where driven and resolute speakers shared their real-life experiences, life stories, and paths to find resilience and courage to make a real difference to themselves and others in the world.

Seeing the conference through the lens of a first-time attendee, it was described as an ‘emotional rollercoaster’ from the get-go. Because the Aspire gathering doesn’t only focus on topics for discussion but also guidance on how you can apply what you learn to make a difference, unpacking personal objectives and projects for consideration can be the start of an emotional self-journey. Working through identifying and understanding your own obstacles, then using what you’ve learned to get those obstacles out of your own way drives excitement, energy, and emotions that can feel momentous at times. It inspires the realization that one person can make a difference, whether it’s in your own world, your community, or the world at large.

Below are some key takeaways from some of the speakers at The Aspire Global Resolve UnConference:

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We heard from Brita Fernandez Schmidt, Executive Director, Women for Women International UK about inspiring other women to follow ‘their fierce’. One of the key quotes from her session included: “As I witness another woman rising, I grow wings!” Conscious leadership and supporting women in your circle to grow and be fierce is a key component to owning your power.

She shared the four pillars to owning your power as:

  1. Trust yourself unconditionally
  2. Trust a wider universe
  3. Love yourself unconditionally
  4. Care relentlessly and unconditionally (you’re always stronger than you think)!

Her book Fears to Fierce will be published in January 2021 and is now available on pre-order at Amazon.

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We listened to the moving and inspiring story from Karen DeJarnette, SEO Manager, Expedia Group, USA about how she faced, confronted, and accepted her deepest held secret: that she is transgender. She became the first person in Expedia history to come out and transition on the job and that courageous decision positively impacted the change she’s now leading at Expedia. “The Future of Equality” is a focused topic for change and one that Karen is impacting by driving company-wide initiatives in her role as D&I leader in Expedia.

Focused takeaways from Karen’s session included:

·     Discover who you are

·     Face your fears head-on

·     Don’t let others hold power over you

You will soon be able to listen to Karen’s story on ‘Stripped Back’ the podcast series from Dr. Sam Collins available on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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Sister Zeph, Teacher, Women’s Activist, and Philanthropist, Pakistan shared with us her journey to “Break the Barriers through Actions”. A passionate account of growing up in rural Pakistan – a landscape that is difficult and restrictive for women and children, a country where women have no decision rights! At an early age, she started her own school in her village to support local girls. Recognizing they were looking to find ways to grow and build their own identity and respect led her down the path to provide them with an education that will translate into support for themselves and their families.

Overcoming discrimination, fear and so much more to become a girl’s education activist in Pakistan has become her life’s calling. She’s working each day to plant the seed of education and empowerment in the heart of women and girls across Pakistan. The biggest threat they still face is illiteracy! In her own words: “with illiteracy, there is no humanity” and so she’s working every day to break the cycle. It is her life’s quest to make a difference in her community. Being recognized as a blogger and speaker in international and Pakistani media provided her with the opportunity and platform to facilitate career development for women culminating in careers in a variety of industry disciplines.

Be ready to face your challenge and stay focused!

A truly inspirational journey of one woman who has empowered and educated hundreds of girls facilitating a better life! This is just the beginning. Listen to Sister Zeph’s conversation with Sam in her podcast series ‘Stripped Back’ on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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Aletta Raju, Labour Lawyer, Coach, and Facilitator, South Africa shared her personal passage on “How to Honour your Life Amidst Grief or Change”. Understanding that grief will shape and change your world, can empower you to affect positive personal transformation and how you shine your light.

In the words of Miriam Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

·     Take time out to honor yourself

·     Own your vulnerability

·     Ask for help (especially from those close to you)

·     Practice self-love (understand and know what it means for you)

Sam’s strong leadership and commitment to drive for making a difference by bringing inspirational women from across the world together is a true testament and example of women empowering women.

“The biggest thing for me was starting to believe that I am stronger than I think, and I can achieve what I want to and help others in my own way. It has translated into my ‘reset’ and two really focused and productive days post the UnConference but it feels different to before…sort of calmer. I’m much clearer on what I am doing/why on my plan for next year.” – First Time UnConference Attendee.

As we head into 2021, I am looking forward to future inspirational sessions from Aspire for Equality as in the words of Jane Goodhall – “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

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