April 10, 2014 Carole Levy

Oxford, the magic name!


When I was accepted to present “Transformation of Organizational Gender Bias Starts with the Female Leader” at the Oxford Women’s Leadership Symposium, I fell under the spell of the magic name – “Oxford” – THE prestigious University in England. I also felt under the spell of another magic word – “accepted.”

 The MAGIC of “Oxford” operated in three ways:

1-    I overlooked all the “details” indicating that: a) it wasn’t a BIG symposium, b) it wasn’t well organized, c) it wasn’t necessarily the best use of my time, energy and money (oh yes, because I had to pay for my participation, travel and expenses).

2-    I boosted my intellectual skills and produced in a very short time a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation gathering: a) five years of notes with my dear client Amy whose case study I wanted to present, b) one year and half of reflections with my dear co-facilitators, Robin and Debbie, who specialize in gender research and women’s leadership program design, c) my dear own reflections on the Ego-system and gender issues.

3-    I transcended the jet lag and two nights of insomnia, and had energy BEFORE, DURING and RIGHT AFTER the symposium to function at full capacity during my three days of facilitation with an important client in New York City.

My time in Oxford was meaningful. I loved the city and I met 12 wonderful women – who had fallen under the spell too – coming from all over the world (Australia, United States, Ireland and Kenya).

 Each presenter showed commitment, courage and thoughtfulness. I’ve learned about gender equity in medicine, climate change affecting women in Bangladesh, the leadership presence of women in politics in Kenya, the art of transformation for young girls in Ireland, the taboo subject of honor killing in our modern world, the resilience of women leaving abusive relationships, and finally, simply learned about Mary Somerville’s existence.

 A few moments of intellectual ecstasy were shared as we gathered and a lot of surprising synchronicities emerged between us. I wonder if these women worked as hard as I did, and I wonder if their path to Oxford revealed its “aha” moment to them.

Oxford did reveal its “aha” moment to me. I reconnected with a pleasure that I unfortunately missed in my 20’s when I was studying at the Sorbonne (another magic name), being so preoccupied by my self-worth. I re-discovered the intellectual and emotional pleasure of thinking, studying and searching with a sense of purpose.

I became obsessed with this idea of finding a “centered leadership voice.” I mean enhancing a voice that is clear (even when I feel confused, shut done or angry), authentic (even when I feel phony), courageous (even when I feel terrified), caring  (even when I feel alone), and influential (even when I feel powerless). All of these might be especially true for women who have more cultural obstacles to overcome in organizations, remembering they apply to men too.

 A reconnection with my unconditional gratitude for all the women mentors I’ve had in my life, since a small child, including my mother whose 70th birthday was on April 4, inspired me with another “aha” moment. I will write a book (is it the next one? Is it part of my Bumpy Road series? Is it something else? I don’t know yet) on my formative years as a teenager, and the lessons I learned from my mentors through the years. Each one of them guided me to search for my “centered leadership voice.” Then, I lost a little bit of my “aha” clarity and became caught up again in the flow of consulting, facilitating, coaching, and traveling back home.

However, a sparkle lit up inside of me. In due course, presenting at the Women’s Leadership Symposium at Oxford evolved to be the best use of my time, energy and money.

I write these lines today to remember the power of magic names and share more meaningful experiences with you all. Do you have magic name experiences? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



Comments (8)

  1. Tamara Trussell

    You touched all the ego buttons in this one….THE magic of the name and all that accompanies being able to say “accepted” with THE name….the trails to the ego are many. I like how you landed; finding your “centered leadership voice” and your “aha” moments; being further galvanized to write more, to contribute more, and to acknowledge that yes, indeed, Oxford was the best use of your time, energy and money. Not just for you, however, but for all who you touched and who touched you along the way. Thank you for sharing your very self.

  2. Amy Anuk

    Carole – Congratulations on your Oxford experience. So special and memorable. I didn’t even realize it was happening – for some reason I envisioned it being further into the future. Regardless, your blog was incredible. So perfect and inspirational. So honest. Loved it.

  3. Glad to see you were back in Europe! 🙂 Ah, aha! at this moment I’d just say … hmmm … nice universities and colleges. But the people are way better than any institution! 🙂

    Thanks to all those who give 🙂 and love & *hugs* to all,


  4. The ego is indeed so curious. How it manages so effortlessly to manipulate us through our insecurities, always posing as a friend, “just looking out for you” and yet consistently succeeds in “pulling the wool over our eyes” to keep its darker agenda hidden from view. In fact, the role of the negative ego is to keep us in lack, in the struggle and most of all to see that the problem is within us. Doesn’t sound like a friend to me! You are on to it, Carole! Bravo!

  5. I am reminded how I chose my university and the emphasis I put on the name. There were other factors too, but what makes me laugh now is the effort I put into denying that I had chosen the name. I spent my four years there in a conflicted relationship with the name. Only years later can I see that what I talk about most are the personal relationships I developed whilst there. I agree with Almee’s comments. The ego’s efforts to distort are hilarious.

  6. susan efros

    I can see that although you were plenty smart before going to Oxford, you have become even more brilliant having basked in the glory of that intellectual haven. There’s the name and then there is the undeniable atmosphere. The vibes rubbed off. This is a very smart, thoughtful, provocative thinking woman’s essay. As I read it I recalled my days as a student at UC Berkeley and the hours I spent at the Med Cafe drinking numerous cappuccinos while thinking and talking out ideas with my bright compatriots. Some of the riches, most valuable time spent in my youth. Thanks Carole. You are expanding at the speed of light.

    • Kurt Huesmann

      Carole, I really enjoyed your story. I count myself as fortunate that I had the opporutunity to experience you and be mentored by you through the LaL process. In regards to your story, I can relate to always wanting to work, excel and obtain a position with BP. Thorugh the years I realized that I wanted it for the money, more prestige, THE NAME! However, as time has gone by, I find that I am not at all disappointed that I never obtained a safety position with them. Sometimes when you step back and take a new look you realize that some things just are not a good fit. At first I was a bit upset, but as time went by I found that they were not the answer. I can excel, I can grow, I can have many new and exciting experiences right where I am or maybe with a company that nobody would be familiar with. As always, Carole, its good to see what your time and enegy has produced. Stay well.

      • Thanks Kurt, it’s great to read your thoughts and see that you continue your self-exploratory journey toward happiness!

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