I was looking at this painting that my step daughter drew for me. I have a collection of such sweet drawings and notes and every time I receive one of them, even when it matches exactly what she had given me the previous day, I have to act surprised and impressed. I know that such notes come from her heart. I also know that she is at that tender age where things, words and actions will highly influence the woman she will become tomorrow.
Of course, she is a typical child, not interested in doing any chores whatsoever. So, a year ago, I came up with an idea that in my opinion, would be a win-win situation for both parties. The deal was that, if she did all her chores, she would earn EUR 25 a month. Misbehaving would cost her EUR 1-4 depending on the level of mischief. She also had 4 options to choose from on what to do with her money: SPEND, SAVE, INVEST, DONATE.
SPENDING earned her nothing.
SAVING also wouldn’t earn her anything, but she would have money for a rainy day and she could ‘withdraw’ whenever she wanted.
INVESTING earned her 1 EUR for 1 EUR on top of ‘interest’, and she was allowed to withdraw 25% of her earnings or investments when she turned 12 and 75% when she turned 16. This is mainly to already start teaching her the reason and advantages of saving from this young age.
DONATING also attracts EUR for 1 EUR, so I will match every EUR she donates. This is mainly to teach her to give to charity and less fortunate, something that is very close to her heart.
When I was her age, I would have probably spent all my money on silly things, but she impresses me how well she already understands the logic behind not spending all her pennies.
I realise that as a step mum, I have tremendous influence and direct impact on how she will grow up; her perception of self; her perception of life; how she talks to people; how she acts around people; how she carries herself in life; the choices she will make in life; her relationships; how she views and treats other people, whether more fortunate or less fortunate than her; her career choices and generally how she grows up. It’s such an incredible and humbling position to be in, knowing that I have this amazing opportunity to help this beautiful girl become the incredible young lady she is growing up to be.
This image made me stop for a minute to think about all these amazing women who have been or still are in my life, and how each and every woman has directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly influenced and shaped the woman I am today and continue to become.
I thought about my mother. The strongest woman I know. She is pure steel! I remember growing up and questioning her why she almost always never had money. ” I have no money”- That was her automatic answer whenever we asked for things that we obviously didn’t need.
It’s only when I was old enough and earning my own money, that I came to fully understand the huge sacrifices she made for us to have the education and the life we had based on her mere salary of an educator (highly underpaid and undervalued world-wide). It was a very easy career decision for me to make- don’t become a teacher, just because of how I equated teaching to low salary!
You knew you were in trouble when she asked you politely, to come sit next to her. I remember misbehaving one time in school, where she was the Head teacher, thinking that I would get away with it. I bragged to all students how I could do anything because of my” position” as the principal’s daughter. Boy, wasn’t I wrong! She made sure I learned a lesson in front of everyone, something that I still carry in my personal and professional life- you earn your place in life, and every choice has consequences, and that your position in society does not always guaranteed a free pass. She instilled discipline like no joke.
I remember how people called her names. As one of the very few female Head teachers at that time, and at the age of mid 30’s, as a young divorcee, she was subject to verbal abuse, professionally and personally. But that never stopped her!
She had her eyes on one goal: the best life for her children! She was good at her job and she knew it and she wasn’t going to lose focus because of external factors.
Her experience was one that has impacted me the most and has shaped me to be the woman I am today.
Her perseverance! Her spirit! Her fight! The fire in her that burns so fiercely to fight for what is right; for what she believes in; for what those she loves deserve; for her dreams.
She taught me endurance and perseverance. She taught me to always keep the eye on the ball no matter what the circumstances.
She taught me to stay true to myself and my values.
She taught me to value the people who believe in me, but also listen to those who don’t, because they challenge me continuously.
She taught me that as a woman, you can do anything you set your mind on!
She trained as a teacher, then specialised to teach children with special needs, but her goal was to get a degree in Psychology, something that she finally achieved as a retirement gift to herself just before she retired!” It’s never too late to do what you really want in life”, she said.
That incredible woman!
I also learned from her that, I don’t need to stay in situations that no longer serve or build me, both professionally and personally and my life, my career, my happiness, was fully and 100% my responsibility!
She is, and continues to remain the sole person I desire and aspire to become.
I thought about my maternal grandmother. She never had a chance to go to school. She was very unlucky to be born in the era where women stayed home and their sole purpose was to get married and be good wives.
I could see the fire to learn whenever she asked us to read stories for her. Her eyes lit up!
And the laughter! Oh, her laughter! It melted your heart.
Even without the chance of education herself, she made sure that all her children got a chance to get education. She did what she had to do to directly contribute into ensuring that they all got education.
And she was always helping people, even when she had nothing herself. She shared everything, including salt, sugar flour, name it, with her poor neighbours.
Whenever we questioned her about giving too much when she had nothing herself, her answer was always:” Do you breathe different air than them? What makes you special and more deserving than them? Are you going to die from having one serving instead of two if you share with the less fortunate?”, she always asked. This has stayed with me long after her death.
Through her, I learned compassion.
I learned sacrifice.
I learned empathy.
I learned not to look down on people with much less than myself.
I learned to always remember that everyone deserves as much as I do.
I learned that you never have too little to share with the person who has nothing.
I still strive to be as humble as she was, something that is incredible hard to learn as human beings.
I thought of sister in law. How she put her career on hold to move countries where my brother was posted for work. How she continues to selflessly put her professional life on hold for her family, and how brave she must be to hold her head high knowing the impact it will be when she does eventually move back home.
It got me thinking about so many other women, who, because of many different circumstances, are forced to make a choice between career and family.
I thought of my other sister in law, who recently lost her life partner. At the age of early 30’s she found herself a widow when my brother died. I thought about her situation and that of so many young widows who are mostly isolated and ignored by society.
I thought about how some widows in many other countries have no rights to property when their husbands die; and how in some cultures (still in this age), widows are inherited by their late husband’s brother’s/ cousins. How some of them are kicked out of the homes they built with their husbands as soon as they become widows. How majority of young widows’ loose rights to property. How they get judged when they finally move on to meet a new partner. How isolated they become as they get shunned away. How they have to put emotions aside, hide their mourning away and soldier on when they find themselves as sole providers for the family and all they lose property rights. How we still have a long way to go to ensure equality at all levels.
I thought about my younger sister and how frustrating it can be to continuously live behind the shadow of bigger sister. I thought about how different we are; how strong willed and stubborn she can be, just like me. I thought about how, at her age, she is still trying to find her passion, direction and place in life. I hope that in my own way, I will positively impact her life by continuing to guide her and offer her support to pursue her own dreams.
I thought about my high school drama & French teacher. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She had such a soft motherly voice that could turn hard within a second if students misbehaved.
I remember how she took me in, encouraged me and helped me build my courage and confidence to get on stage. How she encouraged me to continue following my passion for writing.
I will never forget the words she said to my 15-year-old self when I was going through bullying in school. How she taught me to fight my bullies by becoming exceptional at what I was good at- Drama, Dance, Literature!
She helped me build stage and life confidence; and to use my skills to fight bullies instead of fist or verbal fights; something that has stayed with me to date in my personal and professional life.
I thought about my first female manager, Sheri when working for TSYS, who turned out to be my biggest mentor and a good friend. She knew everything and I knew nothing. Yet, she showed the patience, and she took me by the hand and guided me step by step helping me build my skills from the bottom up.
She watched me grow. I had a huge appetite to learn and she had the patience to teach.
She fed my curiosity, and allowed me the flexibility to dig in. I had the fire to dive deep and learn and she had the tools to nudge me on. I remember how I used to tell myself that one day I am going to be as good as she was in her job! And I did.
She taught me that nothing comes easy, you work hard for it. If I wanted to learn and be good at it, I needed to invest time and effort into it.
She also taught me discipline, and that at work, everyone is contributing and I had a responsibility to my colleagues, my employer and my clients.
She also taught me that you can have different levels of friendships professionally and personally with people you work with. It’s through her that I learned to dare to try different things by taking chances and to always challenge myself professionally.
She gave me the foundation of everything I know today and I am incredibly grateful that she was that person in my professional life at that particular time.
I hope that I can pass it forward and have such a positive impact to a fellow woman like she did.
I thought about my Mentee through Cherie Blair Mentoring programme. An incredible young woman living in Vietnam, so full of life and ideas, trying to find her own place in this universe by helping people connect via her coaching services: The Senses Garden. My wish and desire it to help her, in my own small way, to bring value and help her create growth in business.
I thought about the incredible women who are trailblazing in their own special way. All the women who continue to inspire me and other women in different ways. All the women who continue to contribute to the industry; to the fight to equality.
I thought of all the women I have reached out to in the past days and months.
Women I have never met, yet have reached back to me when I reached out to them.
Women who are as passionate as I am to help other women especially in the industry.
Women who are laying on their stomachs, so I can crawl across their backs.
Women who continue to hold me up professionally.
Women who are offering their time, resources, knowledge and everything else to help build this platform.
Women who know the importance of lifting each other up, instead of tearing one another down.
Women who realise that, we need each other, and the support of one another, in order to achieve what we desire at a quicker speed.
Women who have held out their hands without blinking, to join me on the amazing journey of creating this platform for all of us working in the Payments Industry: European Women Payments Network.
Each one of you, in your own special way, have, and continue to enrich my life and I am very honoured and blessed to know you and to share this space with all of you! You directly contribute to the woman I am today, and I continue to be, and I am incredibly grateful to you all!
I CELEBRATE YOU ALL TODAY!