The Women’s Global Leadership Initiative (WGLI) focuses on empowering and encouraging women to lead, guide and give back. In our “Women Getting It Done Series”, we profile phenomenal women who have been involved with WGLI either as a program participant or as a program contributor. For this month’s profile, we asked Beatriz Flores, to tell us about her experience with the WGLI Core Leadership program, what she learned and what advice she’d give to others who are looking to step up to the next level.
KR: Tell us a little about yourself. What were you doing when you got involved with WGLI?
BF: I was the Program and Outreach Coordinator for violence and gang prevention and intervention initiative led by the City of Santa Rosa. (I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, and it was challenging to adjust to living in a city smaller than what I was used to). I had been living in Santa Rosa for about two years and had decided to move to San Francisco, and look for jobs. My work hosted a workshop where I met Diana Ruiz and I was then introduced to WGLI.
KR: What are you doing now?
BF: I currently live and work in San Francisco. I am a Public Information Officer for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. I love living in a city that celebrates diversity and has endless options for everyone. I get to walk or take the bus/train to go anywhere, try new restaurants all the time, take fun classes, go dancing to all kinds of music… life is good.
KR: How did you get involved with WGLI? How did you find out about the program and why did you decide to enroll?
BF: I was feeling frustrated with some aspects of my life that were not working at the time. I had a stable job and wanted to keep growing, but opportunities were limited. I was living in a city where even though I was successful in some ways (I was able to become a homeowner after a year or so of living there), I was experiencing racism, chauvinism, and I was overall unhappy. I heard about the 5-day core leadership program from Diana Ruiz (founder of WGLI), and even though I was skeptical (because I thought I was a great leader already), I signed up out of curiosity.
KR: Can you explain the program experience overall? What was the environment like?
BF: The environment was real, safe and empowering. By “real” I mean that there were times when we were happy and laughing but also times when we were vulnerable, and it was ok. We just embraced and supported each other in our individual and collective paths. I looked forward to attending the class every week to hear from experts about how I could make changes in my life and accomplish my goals, how to be happy again.
KR: How did you feel about the women delivering the training–were they passionate, vested in your success, or?
BF: Absolutely! Every single woman who spoke to us was not only passionate but also inspiring and kind. I have found that women who are successful sometimes are unapproachable. I have looked for female mentors at different stages of my life, and it has been challenging to connect with potential mentors. It was wonderful to hear from female role models open to sharing their expertise, women who look like me, who perceive the world like I do, who want the best for themselves and for other women.
KR: What was the topic and what did you take away from it?
BF: This was a 5-day core leadership program. When I completed it I felt re-charged, ready to fight! It helped me feel stronger about decisions I had been contemplating such as moving back to a bigger city. One of the most important things I took away from it was my vision board. When I first heard about that assignment, I was dreading it. I used to think that vision boards were things you did as a child, when you wanted to dream about growing up; and as a grown-up, it just didn’t make sense. In the end, it ended up being an amazing self-discovery experience. It helped me focus on specific goals; and even though some of the things on my vision board have not happened yet, I look at it every day and remember that one day I am going to make it happen!
KR: What were the most valuable professional skills you learned?
BF: Negotiation. One of the most valuable things I learned was that I could negotiate my salary. During the program I realized that even in government jobs, there should be options to negotiate. I felt motivated to do more research about the possibility of negotiating my salary and I have since then successfully negotiated in my last two positions.
KR: What life changing decisions have you made since the program? How did it inspire you and your decisions?
BF: I remember that since day one of the program, we were asked to write a personal statement, a pitch to promote ourselves. We had to think about our values and introduce ourselves using those. I had a couple of interviews after I had already started the program where I was able to use that personal pitch. That was so empowering! It made me feel more secure and project myself in a way that was easy for the employer to see what I had to offer. Once I got the job I wanted, I negotiated my salary using what we learned, and I was able to get it. The program also inspired me to keep pursuing my goals, to embrace my past experiences, remember what has made me who I am, be grateful for my role models like my sister Amalia, whom I have always looked up to, and overall to not give up and stay focused.
KR: Did you have any breakthroughs–identify patterns or beliefs that you needed to break away from?
BF: The program made me dedicate time to think about the tough questions- the ones I personally was always too busy to reflect on, to assess what I needed and wanted, and prepare myself to go for it. Through all the exercises in and outside of class, I realized I had forgotten about my dream to start my own business. It wasn’t until I participated in this program that I sat down and thought about milestones during my lifetime. When I did that, I remembered that since I was in college I wanted to start a business. During the program, I realized that it could be a family business my siblings and I could start together. I haven’t been able to consolidate that dream yet, but it is in the works.
KR: Anything else you’d like to add about the program or any encouragement for other women?
BF: I wish that program had lasted a whole year! I feel so grateful for the chance to participate and be part of my cohorts. If you are reading this, and some of it sounds too cheesy, you may just have a similar experience like I did. I was skeptical but then realized it was one of the best decisions I have made. I say be open to the world and see what the universe, God, or whatever you believe in, brings to your door. WGLI may be knocking on your door.
Like Beatriz’s experience, your “ah-ha moment” can come when you least expect it. You can already be successful in life but still feel the pull of knowing we can be more and search for the mentors and tools to give us what we need to make it to a higher level. That is what WGLI is all about. It’s about giving back, and helping to develop future leaders through speaking, mentoring, educating, and encouraging others to be brave, take risks and embrace failure.
If you would like to be a part of the revolution to build a community of fearless woman ready to embrace change, then get involved with WGLI today. Become a partner, sponsor, volunteer your time or become a WGLI ambassador and serve as a bridge for women helping women.