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What The Women Of GE Aircraft Engines Taught Me About Courage

02 Nov Posted by in Business | Comments

I have decided to start recognizing the people I meet in my travels who embody my philosophy of standing up and sticking out – making a difference – showing me what it looks like to be unforgettable. So today’s STAND UP AND STICK OUT award goes to the Women of GE Aircraft Engines in North Carolina.

 As a motivational speaker, I have a passion for encouraging women to fly outside of their comfort zones –  to be true to who they are – even when it’s uncomfortable or scary – even when it doesn’t look like everybody else. Especially when it doesn’t look like everybody else. That is the gift I try to bring to my audience. But sometimes the audience gives me the gift. Sometimes the audience teaches me. Okay, more than just sometimes.

I had the incredible honor of getting to know a special class of women who put together jet engines for GE. They were holding a women’s conference and I was hired to be their motivational speaker. I like to get to know my audiences in advance, to see life from where they sit, so I spent a day with them months before the event. I toured the facility, sat in on team meetings, met the employees, and even got my first pair of safely glasses with animal print sides. Who knew?

These are strong women – not so much physically (though many are) but strong in the fact that they work in a predominantly male environment – an environment where the culture has been defined by men. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a culture thing. Men and women are different. It is what it is. Being a woman in a workforce of men brings its own challenges – kind of like being the only girl walking into the boys’ clubhouse. Anybody who has ever spent an extended amount of time surrounded by men knows exactly what I mean. I’m just saying. And I am quite confident that if you find a man who works in a predominantly female environment, he will have a LOT to say about that.

I can’t even change the oil in my car, and these women showed me every facet of jet engine assembly, which I can not share with you for confidentiality reasons. As if I could tell a jet engine from an air conditioning unit – but I do appreciate that they might consider me intelligent enough to be a spy. And for the record, they do not think it is funny when you ask them to show you which part of the engine the bird goes in. Though one solemnly pointed out the spot where the bird enters, and the part where the bird exits in the form of mcnuggets. 

I went in prepared to talk to them about courage and learned that they know far more about courage than I ever will. Here is what they taught me: 

  1. Develop thick skin. Let negative comments roll off. You have better things to do with your time than worry about the “hecklers” in life.
  2. Don’t let emotions lead you – let the task at hand lead you. How you feel is not always how things are. Separate your emotion from the truth of the situation. Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it true. And even if you feel it, doesn’t make it important. You aren’t here to make friends; you’re here to do a job. Stop treating work like your therapy session.
  3. Men and women are different – get over it. Stop expecting men to act like women and don’t feel pressured to act like a man. Both of you are needed for the team. You have talent and skills that they don’t have, and vice versa. Accept that. Embrace that.

 I would like to take this opportunity to give my first STAND UP AND STICK OUT award to the Women of GE Aircraft Engines. You are classy women who have a lot to teach all of us women about the courage to stand up and stick out in life. Thank you for teaching me. You are truly inspiring.

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