When Matthew Harrington, Global COO, Edelman, told me that I was accepted into the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Fellowship program, I was thrilled. In fact, I was so excited that I remember the voice in my head saying, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, stay cool, you can do this!” But really, I could not believe it! One week in Miami at the IWF’s Global Leadership Conference, then one week at Harvard and finally, one week at INSEAD in France. I felt something important was about to happen to me, an adventure that would bring me to different places in the world, with 35 other women, representing over 15 different countries. Excitement then turned into doubt. 

Doubt No. 1: Would I enjoy being secluded in a hotel for three weeks with 35 women? Just women, no men, and not just any kind of women, only the powerful kind! Doubt No. 2 came when I received a letter advising that the IWF had a philosophy around the bonding of the Fellows, and thus, each of us would be a hotel room with another Fellow. A complete stranger—for the entire timing of the program. A roommate? In my room? HELP!? I can’t breathe!!! (You’re with me, right?!).

The first week of the program is behind me now — one week in Miami, where I connected with these 35 amazing women. I love them all. They not only impressed me because of what they do, what they have accomplished so far and their unambiguous ambitions, but what really made me connect with them on a deeper level is that all of these women no longer seek power. They have it, they are aware of it, they have succeeded financially, both career-wise and family-wise. They also are so passionate about the program because of the Legacy Project. This is a core, fundamental piece of the IWF Fellows’ program that challenges us to develop an actionable program to solve a social problem. The common denominator among the Fellows: we are all seeking PURPOSE. No matter how different we are, no matter how successful some of them have become, the ultimate driver is social justice and meeting the challenge: How can I use my power, influence and talent to connect with a cause or an organization that can move the dial on so many injustices in the world, especially those that women face?

If you can’t hear it from my tone, then I’ll write it in black and white: the first week of IWF opened my eyes (and my heart) to the fact that women globally want to act quickly to do good but finding the way to turn purpose into action is hard. So, we have now built a network of 36 of us, and we are all committed to supporting each other in our quest for the best and most powerful legacy projects.

Oh, and if you are wondering about my roommate, she made my trip the unforgettable journey it was. Olga, a Russian-born engineer who works at Zion Bank in Salt Lake City, is on the surface my compete opposite: she is shy (I am extroverted), she is quiet (I’m loud), she hates networking (I’m a machine!) and she is super analytical (I am very much intuitive driven). So in any given context, without any effort to avoid each other, I just don’t think we would have been drawn to each other; we would have flocked towards more similar people. Yet I could not wait to get to my room at night and share the stories and laughs as we did. I have to tell you, no one beats Olga’s amazing dark humor. I loved this experience, and truly, although it brought me out of my comfort zone, I grew from that unexpected meeting.  

Eve Laurier is general manager, Montreal and a 2018 IWF Global Fellow.