Saying Yes to Leadership

By Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Founder and CEO Panorama

Last November, I attended the Women Leaders in Global Health meeting in London, which had 900 participants from 80 countries. I came away energized by the amazing and inspiring women I met, and the great words of wisdom that I heard. I wanted to take that energy and put it toward something actionable, so I wrote a blog and threw out the idea of getting together a group of Seattle women interested in global health.

Fast forward to last week, on January 10, when 200 women gathered to network and learn from a diverse panel of leaders. The energy in the room was palpable, and the meeting seemed to tap in to a latent demand for networking and career development here in Seattle in the global health community.

The interest in the meeting was so strong that we didn’t have a room big enough for all who wanted to attend. We now have a list of nearly 300 people – mostly from Seattle, but also from Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia – who are interested in joining this network.

So, for those who couldn’t be there (or for professional women anywhere in need of some inspiration!), I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes from the meeting:

“In order to change the status quo in leadership, make sure we are being the leaders we want to see and are generous with our time in mentoring one another.” –Linda Etim, Senior Advisor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“Choose a female leader as your mentor and make up your own game. Don’t play the man’s game.” –Claire Bonilla, CEO, SightLife

“As women, we need to remember to support each other.” –Rhea Coler, Senior Vice President, Infectious Disease Research Institute

“The secret to leadership is to say yes when the unexpected happens. Turn challenges into opportunities.” –Ann Mari Cauce, President, University of Washington

And if you need more inspiration than what’s below, check out this Twitter moment with highlights of the event.

So what comes next? Lisa Cohen and Julie Bernstein have offered to plan the next event in Q2, with the support of the team at the Washington Global Health Alliance — details to follow in February.

And what did I take away from the event? It was yet another reminder of my belief in two principles, expressed below by leaders in academia and philanthropy:

“We can all lead from wherever we are. We shouldn’t conflate leadership with position.” -Ann Mari Cauce, President, University of Washington

“The time for action is now. Not tomorrow” –Jean Case, CEO, Case Foundation

So how can you lead? And why not start now?