“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
(Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail)
What is an “Inspiring Woman”?
An inspiring woman is someone who makes us believe that we can be better versions of ourselves.She is someone who pushes through her fears in order to reach her dreams.But this does not mean that she has necessarily achieved them.
For me, inspiration lies in the “struggle,” the willingness to open oneself up to vulnerability, to take risks with no guarantee of results. Despite failure, heartbreak, or disappointment, inspiring women find the strength to get back up when they have been knocked down so that they can start over, try again, or choose a different path.
An inspiring woman lives authentically. She does not strive for perfection, but accepts her imperfections and perseveres in spite of them. As Brené Brown writes, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
The Inspiring Women Series is a bi-weekly podcast dedicated to sharing the stories of ordinary women who have done extraordinary things.
Please contact me if there is a woman who has inspired YOU who you would like me to interview.
You can access the interviews below and you can subscribe to the podcast series in the iTunes Store.
Episode 1: Enid Keohane (“Nanny”)
“You can find the time if you really want to.”
Enid Keohane, known to me, and everyone else in the Keohane family as “Nanny” was born on July 12, 1929 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. As a young girl, she excelled at balancing many responsibilities from her role as the Head Girl of her high school to her part-time jobs as a model and employee at a department store, to her involvement in recreational activities like skating, skiing, and spending time with her family at the cottage in Norway Bay, Quebec.
This helped her later in life as she juggled being the mother of eight children while working full-time as a high school business teacher.
In this episode, Nanny opens up about how she found the energy to balance her busy personal and professional lives, and the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in everything that you do.
It is very special for me to be able to interview Nanny for the first episode in the Inspiring Women Series as she is one of the women who has inspired me the most in my life. You can listen to her interview here.
Episode 2: Lovely Zaman Shima
“Every woman should have the strength to know herself. Yes, you will face obstacles, but you have to turn that obstacle into energy… If you have belief about your strength…if you have support in your life…then nothing can stop you.”
Lovely Zaman Shima was born in Bangladesh in 1979 and grew up in the capital of Dhaka, where she is currently living with her husband and her two children. After losing her parents at a young age, and being raised by her brothers, Lovely was able to find the strength to stay positive and work towards her dreams. Soon, she will begin a PhD, which she hopes will help her to represent Bangladesh in the international arena.
In this episode of the Inspiring Women Series, Lovely describes how every woman should have confidence in her own inner strength. Rather than perceiving obstacles as barriers to personal growth, Lovely views them as a source of energy which women can use to gain strength and push themselves to reach their goals. You can listen to her interview here.
Episode 3: Rose LaBrèche
“When I started refereeing I never thought I would get to this point…or even when I started playing. You never think that what you are doing is going to take you down this amazing road of challenges but awesome occurrences in your life.”
Rose LaBrèche is a 27-year old from Markham, Ontario, who has been named as Canada’s only official for the début of Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
After a series of concussions kept her off the pitch as a player, Rose began refereeing high school and junior club rugby, and eventually progressed to both men’s and women’s matches at the top level. This past September, Rose was named to the international panel of officials for World Rugby. Since then she has officiated “World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series” stops in Dubai, Sao Paulo, and in Langford, BC.
In this episode of the Inspiring Women Series, Rose talks about how overcoming her struggles with self-confidence has helped her to gain the respect of top-players and coaches in the international arena, as well as become better in all aspects of her life. You can listen to her interview here.
Episode 4: Josefina Bittar
“I think sometimes you just have to let some things go so that you can find better things.”
Josefina Bittar is a Paraguayan woman who currently holds a Fulbright Scholarship to study a Master’s Degree in Linguistics at the University of New Mexico in the United States.
During her undergrad at the University of Asuncion, at the age of 19, Josefina became pregnant and got married. Unfortunately, her marriage didn’t work out and she got divorced shortly after. Instead of dropping out of school to deal with the emotional pain of her divorce and the challenges of raising her son as a single mother and full-time student, Josefina found the strength to continue her studies.
In the future, Josefina hopes to work as a linguist in Paraguay, and possibly pursue a PhD so she can research the country’s use of Spanish and Guaraní, an indigenous language spoken by 90% of the population.
In this episode of the Inspiring Women Series, Josefina talks about her research goals, love, self-acceptance, and the many different roles that women can have in society. You can listen to her interview here.
Episode 5: Debbie Jenkins
“You know when you think you can’t do it, when you can’t get past the fear, just do it afraid.”
Debbie Jenkins worked for 7 years as a caribou biologist in the Canadian Arctic and is currently using the data she collected from her time in Nunavut to inform her PhD research at Trent University.
As a wildlife research biologist in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Debbie conducted population surveys of caribou and muskoxen, collaring projects, and community-based monitoring.
She hopes that she will be able to use the knowledge she gains from doing her PhD to communicate scientific research in a way that is meaningful and “palatable to people in the Arctic and to people around the globe.”
In this episode of the Inspiring Women Series, Debbie talks about her loves of nature, her partner, her family, and her dog, her passion for protecting the earth’s biological diversity, and her personal challenge to do new things even when she’s afraid. You can listen to her interview here.
Episode 6: Louise Johnson
“You have to stay authentic to what you really love, like when you were a kid, when you didn’t care what people thought…those weird quirky things…I think you should always hold onto those.”
Louise Johnson is a Toronto-based writer and blogger.
Before pursuing writing more seriously, Louise worked in marketing for Elizabeth Arden in both New York and Geneva.
When she first moved to New York as an intern, Louise started the blog, Manhattan Maven, as a way of sharing her adventures abroad with her friends and family. She quickly realized her passion for writing and documenting, and the desire to write full-time began to gnaw at her.
So, when she returned to New York after living in Switzerland, she assembled her writing portfolio and applied to grad school. Louise ended up getting into Harvard University’s Master’s of Journalism program and moved to Boston, where she fully committed herself to the craft of writing.
In this episode, Louise discusses why she left her incredible life in New York to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer, her obsession with her family, and the importance of living authentically. You can listen to her interview here.
Episode 7: Megan Valois
“I’m just one person trying to leave the world a little better than I found it.”
Megan Valois grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, where she currently lives and works as a teacher in the Ottawa Catholic School Board. As a young girl, she was inspired by her father’s commitment to volunteerism, and became dedicated to community service herself. In 2002, she was awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.
As a teacher, Megan is passionate about differentiated instruction, Assessment for Learning, 21st Century Learning, and the use of technology in the classrooms. Megan moderates Canadian Ed Chat and has completed her Google Apps for Education training. In 2012-2013, Megan received the honour of being one of five teachers recognized by Queen’s University as “Associate Teacher of the Year.”
In this episode, Megan discusses her passion for education, the unique challenges of being an “army wife” (her husband, Travis, serves in the Canadian Armed Forces), her desire to make a difference in the world, and the importance of surrounding herself with positive people.
You can subscribe to the podcast series in the iTunes store or listen to Megan’s interview here.
Episode 8: Heather Cheeseman
“It is only YOU who gets to make the choices about your own time and what you do…and you need to make the time for what DOES matter. It’s okay that that may not be what everyone else says matters…”
After growing up in Burlington, Ontario, Heather Cheeseman completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Queen’s University.
In the fall of her fourth year, she was recruited by the international tax, audit, and advisory services firm, KPMG, and became a Partner in KPMG’s Canadian Mining practice by the age of 32.
Despite her busy schedule as Partner for KPMG, Heather has learned to balance her personal and professional lives and make room for other things that are important to her, like spending time with her family and friends, traveling, drinking wine, and going to the gym.
In this episode, Heather describes the importance of putting herself first, investing in relationships that mean everything to her, and the sense of “impostor syndrome” she sometimes experiences in the workplace.
You can subscribe to the podcast series in the iTunes store or listen to Heather’s interview here.
Episode 9: Sarah Davis
“Both personally and professionally you have to learn to accept yourself and forgive yourself. You’re never going to be perfect…”
Sarah Davis is the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for Loblaw Companies Limited and is the mother of three daughters.
After completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Queen’s University, Sarah worked as a Chartered Accountant at Ernst & Young, and then moved into telecommunications where she held roles for both Bell and Rogers.
In 2007, Sarah left Rogers for a Financial Executive position at Loblaw Companies Limited and held the position of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) from 2010-2014 before becoming the CAO.
While Sarah’s managed to find some balance between her personal and professional roles, she emphasizes that it is hard to do everything well, and has learned to accept herself, forgive herself, and recognize when she is doing the best that she can.
In this episode, Sarah talks about accepting herself as a mom and a business professional, the challenges and opportunities for women in the business world, and learning not to worry about “things you can’t control.”
You can subscribe to the podcast series in the iTunes store or listen to Sarah’s interview here.