Inspiration. Empowerment. Introspection. These were keywords at last week’s conference kick-off event, From Inspiration to Impact, where we invited members of the IWL community to join us for a screening of the documentary The Empowerment Project. This film was created by a crew of women all going through transitional periods in their lives. They embarked on a road trip across the United States to interview seven strong women who have been exceptionally successful in typically male-dominated career fields. Through this month-long journey, the filmmakers experience their own transformations as they reflect on the question, “What would you do if you knew you would succeed?”
After the film, attendees engaged in small group discussions before bringing key take-aways to the larger group. What struck me was how even watching the same film, everyone took different lessons away. Following are the three main themes I saw in the film and in attendees’ contributions to the discussion.
Have passion in your life.
From the chef, to the architect, to the mathematician, every woman in the film spoke of a turning point in her life where she made the choice to follow her passions. For these women, that meant following certain career paths that lit a fire in them, but passion can look different for everyone. One attendee shared the idea that it’s okay if you have passions outside of work, as long as the passion is there. Another woman pointed out the importance of making time for ourselves. Everyone seemed to take away how crucial it is to do things that fulfill and excite you, in and out of the workplace.
Find role models and mentors to inspire you.
This is an idea that we talk about all the time at IWL. To be successful in your personal life and career, it’s important to have people to look up to and to give you guidance. For many women in their careers, this is difficult to find if not many women have reached high levels in that field. The mathematician in the film said she had no one to look up to – no one who came before her to set a path for what she could achieve in her field. The astronomer said that she had always loved math and science, but it wasn’t until she saw a photo of the first women astronauts at NASA that she thought, “There’s a path for me. That’s what I want to do.” Unfortunately, there are many things that women don’t even realize they can achieve, simply because they haven’t seen other women achieve them first. Attendees found a positive side to this: after seeing this film, they felt inspired to find those mentors, and to BE those mentors for other women.
Be the captain of your own life. It’s never too late to reevaluate.
One of my favorite women in the film was a pilot, who had once been told she wouldn’t be hired as a commercial pilot because she was a woman. Rather than letting that stand in her way, she took it as a challenge to be exceptional in her work and to empower young people to, “Be the captain of their own life.” She advised not to let anyone else determine your path, and asked the question, “why don’t we build people up for what they’re good at, rather than focusing on what they’re bad at?” Throughout the film and the discussion afterward, the theme I found most consistent was that it’s never too late to take a step back and reevaluate. While sticking to goals is important, no one can determine those goals besides YOU. That means that at any point in time, you are in control of the path your life takes. How exciting!
Ultimately, The Empowerment Project provided us with the inspiration to rise above the fear of failure and to live the lives we want for ourselves. After this event, I feel ready to take on the future and follow my dreams all the way From Inspiration to Impact!
**If you are interested in screening The Empowerment Project for a group, you can do so through IWL by contacting Jen Tornatta at firstname.lastname@example.org. This was made possible by the generosity of IWL board member Mary Jovanovich from Charles Schwab. We’d love for more people to be inspired by this story!