Friday, January 17, 2014

Celebrating a network of women

There is a lot of emphasis at present placed on the importance of building networks in the work world, and how employees won’t get very far professionally without them. Women especially are admonished for not working harder to build and maintain their professional networks. You never know when you may need them, and you never know when your network may need you. I’ve reflected upon how this relates to my own life. Most of my professional network contacts are women. Many of my contacts/friends entered my life via my different jobs, others through schools and universities, still others from the neighborhood I grew up in. Those I’ve met via my different jobs have become my friends, and we’ve stayed friends even after we’ve left the jobs where we met.

My professional and personal networks overlap to a large degree; I consider my professional contacts to be my friends. And my friends from outside of work, from my childhood neighborhood and schools, are a support network for me in all ways, sometimes even professionally. One of my friends and I collaborated on a consulting web project together a few years ago, at her initiative. I wrote a report for another friend who was thinking about investing in the building of a private lab for the production of a malaria drug, also her initiative. Another friend--a research scientist—asked for my help in publishing two articles on which we’d collaborated during the past few years, and another friend asked me to provide photos for a scientific writing project she was working on. I have helped a teacher friend who had her grammar school class write letters to me to ask about what’s involved in becoming a scientist. I organized a tour of my hospital laboratory for the high school class of another teacher friend, so that the students could get an idea of what it’s like to work in a lab on a daily basis, and to see the techniques and instrumentation we use in our research. A photographer friend asked me to model for her a couple of times, and has taken some nice portrait photos of me that I have used professionally. Another photographer friend designs and formats the text and covers of my published books.When I think back over the years, we have helped each other in different ways. We’ve stepped up to the plate for each other and gotten involved in interesting projects as a result, all of which have enriched our lives, personally and professionally.

I want to acknowledge these women (of all ages) who are a part of my life and who have enriched it beyond measure. I consider each of them friends, including those who are family. They come from all walks of life, and all of them are wonderfully different and talented women. Many of them have combined work and family life with all of the attendant difficulties and joys. Without naming them personally, I can list their various lines of work here:
  1. at least ten scientific researchers, one of whom is an author and consultant , another who is an author and owner of a scientific publishing company
  2. two photographers and small business owners
  3. two social workers, one who heads a non-profit educational organization
  4. two teachers (one retired)
  5. supermarket head cashier
  6. president of a city university
  7. global marketing manager for a scientific company
  8. fundraising director
  9. a minister
  10. conflict resolution counselor, author and coach
  11. part-time educational and programming consultant
  12. university administrator
  13. owner of a scientific consulting company
  14. three doctors
  15. hospital and health professional
  16. soil conservationist
  17. paralegal
  18. computer services manager
  19. writer and editor
  20. national scientific liaison manager
  21. three librarians
  22. obstetrics nurse
  23. horseback riding instructor
  24. three senior research technicians (now retired; all women in their 70s, one of whom works as a consultant)
  25. nurse (retired)
  26. apartment superintendant (now retired; a family friend who is in her early 80s)
  27. tour guide (now retired, 85 years old)
  28. secretary (was my oldest friend from my first job, who passed away last year at the age of 86)

Society should be celebrating the lives of real women in all of the different media formats, instead of focusing ad nausea on worn-out celebrities and celebrity wannabes. There are, dare I say it, things to write about other than the size of this or that celebrity’s engagement ring or who had a wardrobe malfunction. Who cares? Is this what makes women interesting? The answer is no. That’s my take on it, and that’s my challenge to society at large. Celebrate the interesting women--the women on my list. They are the women who are advancing the world, one small step at a time, and they’re doing it without a lot of fanfare.

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