Strength is a team sport women play together

Learning the power of women from the generations who came before me

Image by: Herbert Wang
Sophia’s mother

I come from a line of strong women, something my mom never fails to remind me of on calls home.

My grandmama emigrated to Canada from Sicily, raising five kids in a country she didn’t understand. She only spoke English when it was convenient for her. 

Equipped with a primary school education, she bartered her way to success. She grew her own vegetables, flipped homes, and ran her household with the help of a wooden spoon. By all accounts, she was a matriarch. 

GB, my other grandmother, never takes no for an answer. Having passion for genetic research when it wasn’t accessible to women, she graduated with two university degrees and prioritized investing in her family’s education. 

GB’s critical. She sends letters to representatives in Parliament and mails me newspaper clippings with notes in the margins. She shows love by pushing everyone to do better. I’ve never seen her bake a pie. 

My mom is a stiletto-and-high-rise work-on-the-weekends type mom. We took family vacations on points she collected travelling for work. She never lets a ball drop; she’s on time to doctor appointments and five minutes early for client interviews. 

Recently, my mom planned a conference where Magic Johnson was the guest speaker; in the picture she texted me, he held the microphone for her. 

I come from a line of strong women, and growing up, I was not appreciative. 

I resented the women who came before me. My resentment stemmed from a fear of failure. In chasing their ambitions, I feared they’d pushed my glass ceiling higher. How could I be a stronger woman, accomplishing more, more easily than those who’d come before me?

I knew I was privileged to have role models who advocated for themselves. I knew I was reaping the rewards of the seeds they—and the women before them—sowed, but I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to do the same. I thought to be a strong woman, you needed to do it all alone. As far as I was concerned, being ‘self-made’ meant relying on only yourself. 

In putting the women before me on a pedestal, I ignored the hands reaching out to lift me up. When I arrived at university, I quickly learned building strength is a team sport, and other women were on my team. You couldn’t do it all alone—doing so would be the path of greatest resistance. 

During my first bad break-up, women I’d known for mere weeks from Orientation took down pictures, dragged me out of bed, and lent me tops, pants, an empathetic ear—whatever it was I needed to pick myself back up. My dad called them the ‘sisterhood,’ a title we still use to refer to ourselves today. 

I’m happier because of them. 

When my boss at a summer job made inappropriate comments about me to clients, it was my coworkers-turned-friends who stood up for me. This group of women encouraged me not only to say something to senior management, but to expect action and to not settle for less. I didn’t have to work with that boss for the rest of the season. 

As an undergraduate student eager for experience, a professor in my department took me and other young women looking to learn under her wing. Weekly, she shares how to balance personal and professional goals while navigating an evolving job market as a woman. 

Every week, I’m challenged by the obstacles my peers are overcoming. I leave grateful for the women that have my back and eager to learn how to support other women in need of someone to lean on.  

Having access to a community of strong women is something I’m extremely grateful for now. It’s an immense privilege to have a network of others who hear you and see you despite not sharing your experiences.  

The truth is I didn’t recognize the strength of the support among the women I’d grown up with. My mom or my grandmothers did not expect me to do it alone; they’d been teaching me lessons they’d learned since day one.  

From my grandmama, I learned the value of taking risks and having faith in your ability to persevere. From GB, I learned how to stand my ground. From my mom, I learned hard work is a combination of grit and resilience.   

I come from a line of strong women, and their strength is not solely derived from individual qualities or skills, but the connections they’ve built with each other. 

My grandmothers, mother, and all the other women I’ve been lucky to call friends are on my team. 

Together, we’re all forming a line of even stronger women. We’re learning from each other and building what I hope to be a larger and more inclusive community of strength. 

Strength is both pursuing your ambitions and raising up the women around you. Strength is speaking your mind and leaning on others when you don’t have the answers. Strength from a community of women is imperative in times when you feel you may not have any.

I come from a line of strong women, and in my wake, I’m building a network of strength.   


Empowerment, family, Honesty, Strength, women

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