At our Coffee & a TED Talk - "We're Still Talking About This?"

There's no doubt about it—Dame Stephanie Shirley's story is inspiring. At the most recent Coffee & a TED Talk, NAWBO Greater Raleigh hosted a viewing and discussion of her speech, and it fostered great discussion about entrepreneurship, women supporting women, and perseverance. 

Dame Shirley was a refugee; she was the founder of a tech company worth billions; she was the mother of a severely Autistic child, and became an incredible advocate for autism and autism research. Yeah—inspiring.

To learn more about her, check out her inspiring TED Talk: 


When the Coffee & a TED Talk participants finished viewing Dame Shirley's video, we jumped into a discussion of what an amazing pioneer she was - not only as a female entrepreneur but also as a female who reached out and helped other women, supporting with nontraditional work environments, trust, and support. 

Some of us reflected on how inspiring that was. Then, we turned and said - "But that was in the 60s. And decades later, we're still talking about these issues."

We're still talking about the lack of flexible work solutions. We're still talking about the issues women face when returning from maternity leave. We're still talking about maternity leave. We're still talking about the wage gap. 

Luckily, we also have groups like NAWBO Greater Raleigh, which has been advocating for women entrepreneurs since 1978. And we still have women like the Coffee & a TED Talk participants, and our NAWBO GR members, willing and eager to engage in these discussions. 

Another thread of discussion followed Dame Shirley's incredible story. She could have focused her TED talk on how she built her business, but she wove in these other narratives about her life as a child refugee, and as her role as the mother to a severely autistic child. 

If you had met Dame Shirley in the 80s, as she was running this company, you might not have known her story about being a child refugee, or her story about being the mom of a severely autistic child.

Our group reflected on how it's really impossible to know someone's story just from looking at them or hearing a little about them. We often rush to judge each other on certain metrics - financial success, academic standing, years of experience - or on aesthetic measures - style, hair, possessions. But those things don't tell us about someone's story. 

We also reflected on how women are often judged at face value for their choices. Whether they have a career or have children; whether they are financially successful or put their energy into volunteering; whether they're in a certain group or not. But what we don't know is their story—their challenges, their responsibilities, their backgrounds.

And so in the session, we challenged each other to be graceful, to not judge based on what we see, and to remember that our reality isn't always others' reality. That could be as simple as not judging others along our assumptions. Not asking women things like, "When are you going back to work?" or "When are you having kids?" or "What's your firm's revenue?" - questions that lead to our metrics, not others' metrics. Not judging other women for the decisions they make, the things they have, the way they appear. Giving grace and understanding rather than judgment and criticism. 

Make room for others' stories, pushing aside our own assumptions, is one way that we can be kinder to other women, and is something we can begin doing today.


Sincere thanks to all the women who attended this morning's event. We look forward to hosting another Coffee & a TED Talk in 2018 Q1! Check out our website for more upcoming events


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