Instead of being defeated by a personal setback, this FACE of Charlotte not only decided to move forward without looking back, but also decided to create the Global Girls Project. Her reason? To empower, inspire and uplift women of all ages around the world by creating a community where women from all walks of life can come together to share real life experiences and stories to encourage one another. We are excited to tell you more about the Global Girls Project and introduce you to today’s FACE of Charlotte, Sharon Reed.
Tell us a little about the Global Girls Project and how it got started.
My daughter was struggling to stand up for herself in the face of relentless schoolgirl bullying, while I was struggling to find employment after an abrupt and unforeseen layoff at the peak of my rebound career. Having re-entered the workforce only a few years earlier as a newly single parent at midlife and the midpoint of my career, the “safe” path I always believed would be there — the one that previously enabled me to take risks in my career — seemed to vaporize before my eyes. I found myself at an unimaginable and seemingly unnavigable crossroad in my career. At one critical juncture, I received news that I was over-qualified and would no longer be considered for what I firmly believed was my professional safe harbor and certain path forward. Though disappointed and disheartened, more impactful than the news itself was how my daughter responded, innocently suggesting that if I was less smart, if I could in effect “dumb down,” it might be easier for me to find work.
In the wake of these challenges, my daughter and I watched live streaming interviews with Sheryl Sandberg and scenes from Girl Rising. We talked about women’s suffrage and explored how and why women and girls are still denied equal access to education, opportunity and pay. We talked at length about honoring ourselves, our voice and our talents, and finding the courage to stand up for our selves and others, too.
As I watched my daughter study my face, anxious to offer ideas to help, I soon realized that how I responded to my own challenge could profoundly impact, influence and shape how she would respond to her own. The choice was mine. The impact was ours. And out of that moment the Global Girls Project was born. Over time, what initially began as a mother-daughter project, evolved into a deeper community conversation about how women lead, what it means to live and lead from a heart-aligned place, and how each of us can develop the capacity to become leaders in our own lives, irrespective of age, culture, religious or socio-economic status.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced building the foundation and how did you overcome it?
I knew from the outset the challenges involved in trying to build a not-for-profit organization from scratch, especially as a single mom with limited time and resources. So I took a different route, choosing instead to create a storytelling platform that would allow me the flexibility to expand my reach and scale content across the globe while allowing me to partner with other organizations, such as the Foundation for Girls, to deliver programming at the local level.
What’s the most empowering part of running the project?
Without a doubt, the most empowering part is also the most inspirational: being entrusted with and reading other women’s stories from around the world and seeing how through the sharing of stories, we all grow and benefit. It can feel very scary at first, but there is a certain strength that comes from being vulnerable. Many contributors find it both cathartic and empowering to not only share their story, but to realize that each of us can draw strength, insight and inspiration from others’ stories that may help us along our own journey. This is part of the beauty of being a part of what I call the great sisterhood of women!
Tell us about your book, Walking the Heart Path.
Walking the Heart Path is part of a larger collection of insights written over the span of seven years, derived from a personal and professional journey that led me away from a life once defined largely by external measures of “success,” to one that is now heart-aligned and purpose-driven. While the stories behind the insights are personal to my journey, the insights themselves are universal in nature and speak to the human experience.
What inspired you to write it?
As a lifelong lover of quotes, inspirational writing and artwork, I wanted to combine my art, words and insights into the type of book I would want to read, give and/or receive as a gift — something beautiful to the eye, stimulating to the mind and uplifting to the soul. In a day and age when we seem to always be moving at lightning speed, my hope is that readers will not only be inspired, but will take time to pause long enough to reflect more deeply on their own lives, challenging themselves to go deeper on their own journey of self-growth and exploration.
What’s the most important message you hope people take away from it?
That when we connect with the essence of who we authentically are and grow in self-knowledge, we not only become stronger leaders, but we can begin to take steps to live a more intentional, purpose-driven life.
What’s a book you always recommend?
One of my favorite books is Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. It’s a business book, though its premise applies as equally to cultivating a purpose-driven life as it does building a purpose-driven company.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout your life?
Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned is that if it’s to be, it’s up to me. There have been times in the past when I either gave up my power to others or found myself stuck and unable to move forward. It took a long time, but I learned that if I wanted to get unstuck, I had to shift my mindset from feeling victimized by circumstances outside of my control, to taking ownership of my attitude, choices, and outcomes. I also learned that fear and pride are the biggest enemies to my own progress and that when reframed, the inevitable challenges we experience in life can serve as important catalysts for personal growth if we’re willing to open ourselves to the learning.
What’s your best piece of advice?
Take time to explore, experiment and discover who you are and what you stand for. Take risks and be willing to fail, for this is often how we grow and learn best. Stay open to life and embrace learning, for the journey never ends. Remember that there is no success without sacrifice and hard work, and no acclaim worth attaining if we lose ourselves in the process. In the end, the security we seek is found in the currency of trust, self-respect, faith, love, respect, kindness and acceptance, from which we can then make our way in the world.
How do you like to relax and unwind?
I am a nature girl at heart. In the summer, I love to swim in the lake, take my kayak out, go on a long walk or hike. I also love to cook and spend time with good friends and my family — usually over a meal. Of course reading, writing and creative work is truly at the heart of everything I do and is also a part of how I like to relax.
What’s your favorite thing about Charlotte?
In recent years, I’ve met some truly fabulous people who are all doing interesting things in their lives. Together with the rich arts/cultural scene, cool new restaurants and the beautiful scenery, there is simply so much to do and enjoy!
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Books, pen and paper (or my laptop!). I’m insatiably curious and very much an ideas person, so having tools at hand that allow me to both learn and express myself is super important!
Read about more inspiring women in Charlotte — check out our FACES archives.
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