Today is International Women’s Day and I could fill a whole page with my thoughts and feelings about it, from progress that has been made to work that still needs to be done. Instead, to keep this at around 350 words, I will share my best Women’s Day memory with you. 

It was in 1997 in the village of Rosolina, just south of Venice, Italy. I was pregnant with my first child, had just split up with my then-husband, and decided to go to Italy where my family had a vacation home. I drove from Germany, where I lived at the time, and stopped at a tiny tavern about half an hour from my destination. The tavern was filled with women celebrating Festa della Donna and I took a seat at the last available table. I sat alone, decompressing after a long drive across the Alps; I ordered some Penne Arrabiata and let the Italian chatter wash over me.

The women were eating, drinking, laughing, cheering each other on, celebrating. The room was filled with an extraordinary energy and while each of those women most certainly had her own set of challenges, you would not have known it that night. They had nothing but agency. There was no doubt in my mind that they were in full control of their lives and their actions. They owned the place. I was so inspired that I decided to always show up with the same kind of agency, from that day forward. Not asking for permission, not apologizing and making myself small to try and fit in and not offend anyone.

For the last 26 years I’ve thought about that night in the little tavern in Rosolina every year on International Women’s Day and have renewed my commitment to myself to live my life with agency. I’m grateful and privileged to be able to make that choice and I want to remind you that you, right now, have that choice as well. In fact, you have the obligation to do so and inspire other women to do the same. Here’s to strong women. We know them. We are them.