Why I invited seven local women out for breakfast

Social media is great but face-to-face conversations can be even better, local author says

Social networking in real life: Lisa Clarke, Marilyn Burns, Meredith Dault (from Informed Opinions), Alissa Paxton, Jane Fisher Ulrich, Jennifer Cureton, Jeannine Taylor, Ann Douglas, and Sandra Dueck (photo: kawarthaNOW)
Social networking in real life: Lisa Clarke, Marilyn Burns, Meredith Dault (from Informed Opinions), Alissa Paxton, Jane Fisher Ulrich, Jennifer Cureton, Jeannine Taylor, Ann Douglas, and Sandra Dueck (photo: kawarthaNOW)

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This past Monday, I did something I hadn’t done in years: I hosted a breakfast for seven local women. I invited them to meet me for breakfast at Elements (140 King Street, Peterborough) so that I could talk to them about a non-profit project I’ve become pretty passionate about in recent months. (I’ll have more to say about that in a moment, but first, more about the breakfast.)

On climbing out of the social media rabbit hole

I suppose I could have sent out a series of e-mails talking about the project. Or I could have shared my thoughts with my friends via Twitter, Facebook, or any number of other social media platforms. But this felt like the kind of conversation that needed to happen face-to-face — that would bring everyone together in the same place at the same time.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m hardly a Luddite when it comes to embracing technology (or, in this case, tapping into the power of social media). There are few people who love Twitter as much as I do, in fact. But here’s the thing: I’m also keenly aware of its limitations — how social media can give us the illusion of being connected when, in reality, we’re all just sitting in front of our computers on our own.

This breakfast was about climbing out of that social media rabbit hole, at least momentarily, and seizing the opportunity to share ideas face-to-face. I had almost forgotten how great it feels to watch people connecting the dots between one another’s ideas in real time, in real life. It’s a pretty powerful thing to witness and experience, after all.

What we were talking about

At this point you’re probably wondering what we were talking about: what topic could have possibly inspired seven women to want to stumble out of bed extra early on a Monday morning to head downtown to meet me for breakfast?

What we were talking about is an exciting project that is coming on stream early next year — a database project that will make it easier for conference organizers and members of the media to connect with expert sources who also happen to be women.

It’s called ExpertWomen.ca and its aim is both far-reaching and noble: to amplify women’s voices for “a more democratic and equitable world.”

This isn’t just a good thing for women. It’s good for all of us. As Informed Opinions (the non-profit organization that is spearheading the ExpertWomen.ca database project) notes on its website, “Organizations and countries making most effective use of women’s contribution are more competitive and experience a higher quality of life.”

Bottom line? It’s in everyone’s best interest to encourage women to lean in and speak up.

Now back to breakfast…

"OMG! What if I Really Am The Best Person: The Top 7 Reasons Women Should Speak Up" by Shari Graydon. A former newspaper columnist, TV producer, and commentator for CBC radio and TV, the award-winning author, educator, and women's advocate is the founder of Informed Opinions. (Photo: Ann Douglas)
“OMG! What if I Really Am The Best Person: The Top 7 Reasons Women Should Speak Up” by Shari Graydon. A former newspaper columnist, TV producer, and commentator for CBC radio and TV, the award-winning author, educator, and women’s advocate is the founder of Informed Opinions. (Photo: Ann Douglas)

The conversation that happened over breakfast was even livelier than I had anticipated — and I had high hopes for this particular group of women.

The women around the table shared experiences, swapped resources, and began to brainstorm possibilities — including the idea of having Shari Graydon of Informed Opinions deliver one of her op-ed writing workshops for women here in Peterborough.

They also produced a steady stream of names of women who would want to know about the ExpertWomen.ca database, either because they should be listed in it, they might want to help spread the word about it, or they might wish to donate funds to keep it up and running once the initial Status of Women Canada grant funding winds down.

But here’s the best thing about the breakfast: this free-flowing exchange of ideas all took place over the course of about 90 minutes — and without everyone in the room being bogged down by hundreds of emails and/or social media posts before and after the fact.

So here’s to the power of face-to-face conversations: to more talking and less typing. I think we need to be doing more of that. How about you?

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Ann Douglas
Ann Douglas sparks conversations that matter about parenting and mental health. She is a bestselling parenting author (her most recent book is Happy Parents Happy Kids) and the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. A passionate and inspiring speaker, Ann delivers keynote addresses and leads small-group workshops at health, parenting, and education conferences across the country. She lives and works in Peterborough, Ontario. Her website is anndouglas.net.

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