I have known women professionals who are as courageous as they are intelligent. I take my lessons from them, knowing that men are applauded for their strength and courage, while women are advised to be gentle and humble—often by men. I believe they call that “mansplaining,” as described in an enlightening piece by Kripa Krishnan at idiva.com. Every man should read this.

All of us can be gentle, humble, strong, and courageous. But Krishnan opines that while humility can be an admirable trait, it can often work against women. She says that while assertiveness is applauded, women rarely are seen as great negotiators. “This stems from the deep-rooted conditioning, which tells us to be accommodating and the fear of being deemed ‘difficult.’ The result is a growing chasm of wealth between working men and working women.”

We can all do better and be better. I admire the difference among people and have learned from my female colleagues that the fusion of male and female perspectives creates a richer, more productive environment. It takes courage for us “men” to admit that, and I’m lucky to have had so many women friends and associates to open my mind.

Courage Trumps Confidence 

In her article for  Empowering Ambition Women,  Caroline Kennedy writes, “Confidence comes from believing we can do it; courage is giving it a go despite our fear. Without courage, we may never develop confidence.” In my book series, PEARLS: WOMEN WHO RADIATE SUCCESS, I had the privilege of interviewing many successful women who overcame gender discrimination, poverty, personal loss, or other experiences that could have prevented them from reaching their goals.

As I thought about it, I realized that while they all exuded confidence, I was most intrigued by their courage. When they knew something challenging was about to slow down their processes, they trudged forward. It takes courage to keep moving even if you’re not sure of the exact route. But these women had defined their destinations, kept their eyes on the prizes, and embraced the struggles.

Courage and COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic will change the world. It has finally made heroes of health care workers who serve on the front lines and brought attention to volunteers who care selflessly for those who can no longer care for themselves.  If there was ever a time to celebrate the courage of these individuals, this is it.

Dr. Caroline E. Fife, chief medical officer at Intellicure Inc., The Woodlands in Texas, and medical director of St. Luke’s Wound Clinic, thinks COVID-19 may be the crisis of our lifetime. She writes eloquently, stating, “The economic consequences will be just as challenging and much longer lasting. None of us will be unaffected and we will not be the same people when it is over. In 1940, when the outlook for Britain was grim, Winston Churchill told his fellow countrymen, ‘This is our finest hour.’ I thought I understood what he meant but I didn’t. He meant that you do not know what courage you are capable of until you must overcome your greatest fears. You do not know what strength you have until your strength is tested to its limit. You do not know how innovative you are, until your creativity is the only resource you have left.”

Dr. Fife describes the courage she has witnessed among health care providers, and I have seen the same. I know many medical professionals who have worked tirelessly to make our lives easier. None of us can predict the end of COVID-19 or what society will look like once vaccinations are in place, but it will take courage to manage the changes yet to come.

Courage and the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation

Proceeds from my books have always gone to the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation. I mention this because of the women the nonprofit supports. According to its website, the scholarship program has grown as its pool of applicants has increased. “As we look ahead to expanding our impact, we are intensifying our efforts to reach further into the community to identify women whose lives would be improved if only they could complete their education. We are particularly seeking women who have faced personal and financial challenges but have the determination to change their own destiny and that of their families through education.”

The courage it takes for these women to go back to college amid severe hardship epitomizes courage. Some are single mothers; others have survived abuse. The nonprofit measures success via several factors, such as scholar impact and experience, but it also documents academic performance and graduation rates. Its graduation rate is over 70 percent, which is higher than that of other nontraditional college student populations. And the average GPA for these women determined to improve their lives is 3.4!