Last week I had the opportunity to speak with some wonderful college women at a Women's Leadership Week at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa. Not only were the young women and the young men I met awesome, but I found out where Fayette, Iowa was :) Thanks to Beta Theta Omega Sorority for asking me to come!
The presentation was about "Independent Women" and women's leadership -- and hopefully I gave them some insights. I was also able to share about the really wonderful work that CAEPV member companies do to address domestic violence as a workplace issue, and how I have the opportunity, every day, to see the very best of "Corporate America" as the people I work with in these great companies go about the business of protecting and sometimes saving the lives of their employees. Just think -- if these young women leave UIU understanding that there are companies committed to addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue, they will be more aware of these policies and programs as they seek careers and will perhaps be catalysts for these programs in their places of employment in the future. That is very exciting to me.
And as always, I can never leave a presentation without talking about healthy relationships and how to talk with someone you care about if you are concerned for a friend or loved one. I just feel like it is so important -- no matter what topic I'm given to speak about.
So -- I get to the end of the presentation and say "Now for something completely different. . " and talk to them about something I know they will use as much as all the other "tips" I've given them -- how do you ask someone you care about if they are in a relationship that may be abusive or unhealthy? This is what I shared:
"You know I really care about you, and you are important to me. I've been noticing you are not yourself lately (note warning signs here) and I am concerned about you. I would rather have you mad at me than anything bad ever happen to you, so I just want to ask you – are you safe in your relationship?"
What was interesting to me was while I was somewhat "off topic" in bringing this subject up, I could see from the faces in the room that it clearly resonanted with them. They had experience. They knew about this -- and they needed to know what to say.
I am never sure about adding that to presentations -- but last week I was sure. And I will never forget the women's leadership conference I was at when I talked about this issue with women leaders from all over the US. When I was done, a very successful executive woman stood up and said, "In case you think this does not happen to women like us, I want you to know this happened to me in my first marriage."
And then people kept sharing. It was amazing. And a reminder that it happens to everyone and anyone and it is important to tell our daughters and sons and friends and co-workers about what to look for and what to ask.
So thanks, women of UIU, for giving me the opportunity! And although I hope you never have to ask, I know that you probably will.