Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase before, “You cannot Give, what you do not Have”.
It all began with a research quest to understand organizational culture and community – in specific how diverse individuals who were not born here, grew up, or go to school in the area find ways to connect and adapt within the community that they now live, work, and raise a family. In other words- how do you find the value and transition within the community that is not given to you?
Because of curiosity, I discovered more than what I bargained for.
And it is a happy bargain.
If you know the history of Women of Toledo. You understand what I mean by this.
To quote from The City Paper’s last year’s 2019 Big Ideas column, “Nina Corder is no stranger to happy accidents. In 1997, at 19, she came to Toledo from Malaysia as an international student with plans to return home. But she didn’t. And 16 years later, in 2013, while still in the U.S. working on her doctoral dissertation in organizational leadership, she formed a focus group of women to study culture and diversity. She didn’t plan to start an organization, but she did”.
The culture and energy that evolved from the original focus group were something I never experienced before. You discover that many of the stories shared, life lessons, and experiences should not be ignored, we have lots to learn and work to do and the exploration should continue. The group evolved and stretched from its capacity as a focus group and turned into an educational forum of success stories. Ordinary and extraordinary stories were told, unpacking the reality of being a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a leader, an artist, and other barriers or biases, we women encounter every day in our lives within this community, and globally.
When a woman shares #herstory, we all learn to respectfully listen, learn to relearn, and suddenly, become aware. Organically, mentorship grew as we offered and sought advice from one another. We educate, engage, and empower one another. And the remarkable response –
We see you.
We hear you.
You do Matter.
And we are here for you! Therefore, how can we help you?
As much as I believe the organization is helping, mentoring, and serving women in our community, in its early years I needed it for myself. Back then, I’ve been in Toledo for almost 20 years, and just recently I finally call this city home, and I do believe it is because of the mentors, peers, and circles of women within Women of Toledo. I knew that I needed strong, empowered women around me, and fortunately, I also discovered my sense of belonging.
They see me.
They hear me.
I do Matter.
And they are here for #metoo! Now, how can I add value and give you what I have?
My ah-ha moment came when I read - “Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.” – Fosslien & Duffy.
I am heard, seen, valued, and empowered. When you are empowered, you also discover a passion and purpose within yourself. I believe ‘passion is for you’ and ‘purpose is for others’. Without a doubt, the organization allows me to serve others, be something bigger than myself, and challenge the status quo – that we all should be heard.
I might have shared this with you before, but as a self-proclaimed researcher, I enjoy listening to other women in our community either during any of our talking circle sessions or listening sessions during pilot program exploration.
ONE. I learned that poverty is not just about a lack of money. It’s about a lack of power.
So, I choose power while engaging others to do the same.
TWO. I also learned that power is a person’s ability to influence their environment, other people, and their outcomes, and Autonomy is a person’s ability to act according to their own decisions, rather than according to others’ decisions.
mmm... I do not choose Power, I choose to support a person’s autonomy.
And we engage others to embrace one's autonomy.
Then, I discovered just as important as material wealth, power vs. autonomy, and economic success, THREE, people’s sense of control over the trajectory of their lives and being valued in the community, especially their sense of belonging is important too.
Yes – to be valued and belong.
Over the years, I learn to relearn. Expand my knowledge by knowing what to say, while using my wisdom when to say it.
The bigger question is, ‘How are you using what you learn, the knowledge and wisdom, to create opportunities for others?’
I believe every woman has the potential to be successful. However, not all of us have the connection, opportunity, and visibility to do so.
Women of Toledo provides a platform that creates connection, mentorship, visibility, and opportunities while you explore your values and belonging in our community.
You cannot Give, what you do not Have, right?
We can create such a platform because many of our leadership and team have discovered that we do ‘have’ what it takes, to ‘give’ back, mentor, and serve our community.
This year has been a challenging year for many of us, looking at crises as opportunities, we continued serving, mentoring, and connecting in a way that’s effective for our community - We learned to meet them where they're at, what and when they need it.
Going back to the roots and the foundation that builds the organization, we gather to listen, learn to relearn, and create an opportunity to provide a more equitable community to all. And perhaps, now more than ever we understand how to add value to humanities.
FOUR. Malaysia has always been my birthplace, and now, Toledo Ohio is my home!
Thank you for listening (*reading). 💕💕
Currently, the Managing Director of this organization, Nina Corder is originally from Malaysia but has resided in Toledo for the past 24 years. She is also the Founding Member of Woman of Toledo (WOT). Nina's full Bio is here: Nina Corder