Elevating women, one story at a time

I would describe my introduction and ensuing meeting and interview with Rose McInerney as serendipitous.

I would describe my introduction and ensuing meeting and interview with Rose McInerney as serendipitous.  Though my own research on another Wag subject (Claire Marin, “Building Buzz,” December 2018) initially led me to an article by McInerney, were it not for Marin’s suggestion to connect us, we would have never met.  You see, women are particularly good at this – turning one like-mind onto another and creating a ripple effect whereby new ideas are exchanged and percolated.

Like Marin, spreading seeds of rye to sustain pollinators and fuel a significant portion of rural, upstate New York communities, McInerneyis spreading seeds of her own. Since 2016, she has been finding her voice and using it to forge a new path in writing, one that casts a fresh light on the stories of women, via her online platform, “Womanscape.”

McInerney tells me she is building the foundations of an enterprise, “brick by brick,” which will harness its energy and focus on the power of women and celebrate the beautiful results of collaborative networking and mutual elevation. It’s a process, much like the process she chose when she started writing in earnest, and more recently, through her foray into the world of public speaking and female empowerment.

Elevating the discussion, and women in the process, is a concept that comes off McInerney’s tongue during our second encounter, when we talked formally for this article. Ironically, she mentions the segment “On a Pedestal” from “CBS Sunday Morning,” one that we had both watched earlier in the day. Its focus was on the lack of monuments to women in public places. 

McInerney’s approach is a thoughtful one, and one she has developed over time.  She points to examples of women like Rachel Carson who, in 1962, “blew the lid off DDT (and the adverse effects of) pesticides in her book, “Silent Spring.” McInerney wrote about Carson and tells me that “at the time, (her book) made a lot of noise and all kinds of change happened. You can trace the beginning of the EPA back to Rachel Carson.”

McInerney tells me she grew up in a traditional household back in her native Canada – moving from the small town of Manitouwadge, population 2,100, when she was just a year old to Toronto. Her mother was a nurse and her father a teacher.  “I was the girl who looked out the window when I was young,” McInerney says.  She pursued her studies, nonetheless, obtained her degrees and for a period of time she was a high school teacher. She purposefully sought out the “classrooms other teachers didn’t want.” She loved the coaching aspect of her work and relished in seeing the transformations of her students, many of whom presented challenges.

With her husband, Barry, and their three young girls, eventually the family moved  to the United States and settled in Connecticut. This was just before 9/11, McInerney says, and that changed everything. She found her focus solely on being present for her family then.

Fast forward to 2016, the genesis of “Womanscape” took root following several years in Chicago where McInerney sought out opportunities to engage with professional women and became immersed in their stories.  “It was a time when we were questioning where we were headed (as a country),” McInerney says, “and when you feel like someone isn’t driving the car very well, you want to get in and drive it yourself.” 

She began attending the meetings of a New York-based enterprise for women called Ellevate Network, a side venture of Ellevest, a digital investment platform geared toward women, co-founded by Sallie Lee Krawcheck. It’s where, she says, that she met our mutual friend, Claire Marin, who came to a meeting to share her products and the story of building her business. McInerney wrote an article about her, telling me “I will buy and sell a product made by a woman to support that woman – I met Claire, I liked her product, but I also believed in her and what she’s doing.”

McInerney has had a busy spring; in April she set off on a fundraising trek to Baffin Island, a remote wilderness way up north in Canada that sits on the cusp of the Arctic Circle. It is a terrain for intrepid travelers. What sold McInerney on the grueling journey was really the opportunity to join and bond with a band of 16 other fearless females – ranging from women entrepreneurs and executives to members of the military. 

In addition, through the successful completion of the expedition, the group raised funds for a foundation called True Patriot Love (TPL), a Canada not-for-profit that provides relief and services to military veterans and their families.

This was, according to McInerney, the first-ever all-women expedition established to target programs specifically geared for women veterans getting back into civilian life. It was also a chance for McInerney to do something completely out of her comfort zone. “It became less about me and more about doing something for those who sacrifice their lives,” she says.

Each participant had to commit to raising $50,000 for the organization, and paid for their own supplies and the $15,000 cost of the trip itself. “I understand what a massive gift and luxury it was (to participate in the trek). I was going for all the people that couldn’t have this experience, to share what I saw and how nature can heal all of us.” 

Together with corporate sponsorships, she says that the group was on track to raise upwards of $800,000.

“The experience itself,” she says, “changed me in a way that is hard to even put into words – the landscape of our north, the awe-inspiring mountains and the untouched, natural world up there.”

In June, she says, she would be heading up to Canada to attend the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver – the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. She was looking forward to the opportunity to network and learn about opportunities to help elevate women and invest in them financially.

“When I go, I will, for the first time, meet a woman I have been in touch with, who started an all-girls school in rural China,” she says. “I hope to see how they are doing and find out how I can be of help.”

McInerney mentioned that she had the pleasure of meeting Doe Thornburg, the founder of IWA, International Women Associates, also during her time in Chicago.  Well into her 90s when the two met, Thornburg subsequently passed away at the age of 96 in 2018. On the organization’s website, her obituary stated, “Her vision was one of world unity in the face of cultural, political and social conflict. She believed that bringing women of diverse backgrounds together created opportunities for understanding and appreciating what makes us world citizens. (IWA’s) quest to put global understanding into action is inspired by Doe’s mantra, ‘to see the sacred in everyone.’”

McInerney says that through IWA she met women from each decade of life, all of whom “had something really cool to share.” She decided then, she says, that the 50s are the time to “do it.”  From what I’ve seen of McInerney, she is on course to be a formidable champion in her own right, whose passion and commitment are propelling this rising star upward.  

 For more, womanscape.com.

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