Article by Jin, Neeta, Francesca, and Gosia

September Workshop Recap
On September 4th, 2021, AWE (Aspiring Women for Excellence) Association held its first workshop “Empowered for Crucial and Difficult Conversations” at the Amazon Web Services Joint Innovation Center.
The day began with opening remarks from Gosia, an AWE founder. She shared how AWE was set up as a platform to bring together professional women to share their experiences and support each other. Members originate from a variety of countries like China, Poland, Italy, the U.S., and Iran, and includes women who excel in a wide range of different fields, including education, biomedical research, archaeology, banking, the film industry, and even astrophysics.
The course was divided into three sections. The first section analyzed strategies for empowering women. David, the coach – who hails from South Carolina, USA – is an educator and motivational speaker. He introduced the idea of how inspired ladies can be empowered women:

  • To be an empowered woman, you need to know who you are. If you lose yourself, you need to find yourself first.
  • To be an empowered woman, you need to know what you want. Instead of saying “I want to / I hope to…”, you should say “I am going to/ I will…”
  • To be an empowered woman, you need to develop self-respect. Your voice and opinions matter.
  • To be an empowered woman, you need to cope with your problems on your own. Do all you can in your power. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. Every woman in the world can cope with any problem on her own.
    The second section included a discussion on the solution to the difficult situations at work and in life. All the ladies were asked to share some difficult situations involving crucial and difficult conversations in real life. Everyone pitched in to figure out solutions to eliminate anxiety and build confidence to get what you want according to the principals of being empowered women.
    Followed by the theories were practice. During the third section, participants were then separated into groups to brainstorm ideas to address these particular issues and conducted case studies together concerning different strategies for empowering women. Some groups of ladies even came up to the stage to role play situations at the workplace and in life. Other ladies observed their reactions and gave some practical comments and suggestions.
    By the end of this session, participants understood the importance of gender inclusivity, identified barriers to gender equality in peace-making processes, and committed to empowering women to fully and meaningfully participate in peace-making processes. After the workshop, ladies enjoyed high-quality social networking time (with Ponty wine and pizza!).
    AWE October Meeting Recap
    On October 13th, AWE held their fourth meeting at L One restaurant. This session aimed to investigate the concept of saying No and the extent to which an inability to say No to people can hurt a woman’s life and career.
    The discussion started individually within the group outlining occasions in which they had felt unable to say No to either reasonable or unreasonable requests. Those requests can come from several parties, and disparities in social status will often have a significant impact. An inability to say ‘No’ is mostly asserted within the group.
    Reasons Why We Cannot Say No:
    The academic participants highlighted the fact that in their work environment, requests for assistance are often made on very short notice, which can result in missed opportunities, if they had been given no prior notice.
    Another problem that appeared was the fear of being judged, rejected, or disliked. The desire to please people was driven by feelings of being replaceable if we did not accede to their request, it would be deemed a failure. At this point, we considered how both men and women are judged differently for their successes and failures, and how society often conditions women to take on more responsibilities.
    Sometimes, they were reluctant to say “no” as there was a degree of finality to such decisions. Cultural diversity also plays an important role in this area. People from different cultural backgrounds do not always share the same values or communicate in the same way.
    Some participants found they have to be assertive to refuse anyone anything, and to set better boundaries even though often challenging for them. Otherwise, they would collapse.
    The Danger of saying Yes:
    Having discussed, at some length, always saying No would be as bad as always saying “yes”. The main concern which all participants considered was over-commitment. Being over-committed can harm the quality of one’s work and output. If there is no goal-oriented reason to say yes, and it doesn’t bring you joy, then not honoring your needs and typically turns into stress and overwhelm down the road. This discussion, therefore, recommends adopting the practice of “Discomfort over Resentment”.
    Know When to say Yes or No:
    It is essential to learn to say “no” and think before saying “yes”. There can be situations where people start taking advantage of our friendship and helping nature.
    There are a lot of chances that you take a wrong decision when you are under pressure from someone. You shouldn’t say “yes” if something makes you uncomfortable. There should be understanding and mutual trust between you and the other. In the end, it is your decision that actually matters and nothing else.
    You should take a moment to consider the time and resources available to you before you say “yes”. No one but you should decide your time and your plans for the day.
    No, when someone asks just to make their own lives easier by using you and your expertise. When the people are unable to take your NO in the first place, then you can maintain some space and stay away from them. Yes, you can do this until and unless they are comfortable talking about something else than what they wanted to talk or take from you.
    How to Say No to a Person or Task:
    The final part of the meeting was focused on how to say “no” without worrying about damaging work and personal relationships.
    Saying “no” is an important part of ensuring we feel comfortable throughout our careers. Although being agreeable is an important part of being a team player, there are many times when it’s best to stand up for ourselves and say “no”. This not only creates a cycle of awful feelings, but it also does real damage to our relationships.
    The importance of communication was highlighted, instead of giving reasons or excuses, women should be straightforward on every invite or request, personally and professionally. Women also need to reframe their decision politely. By coming off professionally, colleagues or employers may respect our decision and have a better understanding of our reasoning. For this reason, we can be avoiding the person asking the favour another time.
    In summary, we may have appeared to be a superwoman, but even a superwoman can’t do everything. Saying “No” is not being selfish, but a sign of strength and an acknowledgment that we don’t always have to do all things.