By Nicole Centeno

It would be easy to write about my mom today. Or one of my grandmothers. As a girl, female empowerment meant strength, endurance, and often, sacrifice. My paternal grandmother survived Japanese occupation in the Philippines, went to medical school only to drop out so she could raise five children and move to the US. My maternal grandmother put herself through college to gain financial independence, then raised three young girls on her own after my grandfather died. My mother also put herself through college and a master’s program, later opening her own nursery school and then supporting our family when my dad lost his job.

Like a fast moving river, my maternal lineage has worn a deep groove through my own story: I am strong, I have serious endurance, I have made many sacrifices. I am proud of who I have become and the lessons my mother and grandmothers have taught me, but I am also eager to evolve. As I thought about this post, I thought, what do I want my children and my younger peers to see when they look at my life? What characteristics will mean female empowerment for the next generation? For me, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to remove some of the sacrifice and celebrate a new definition of female empowerment.

I look to my younger peers in this evolution because they see me as bigger than I see myself, which is a fun way to push myself to be better. The women on my team: Rene, Alex, Ariel, Sarah, Elise, Stephanie, and Oceana inspire and empower me. They choose to come to work at a start-up, where our future is often uncertain, our jobs change rapidly, and the challenges are piled high. They bring flexibility, joy, and most of all, self-worth. They accept that there while there are sacrifices in life, self-worth is not one of them. They make clear that in order to show up as their best at Splendid Spoon they must also celebrate what makes them feel alive as individuals. They do this in many ways: through love, dance, starting their own cool brands (hello She’s Not Sorry!), volunteer work, mountain climbing, and writing projects (like this amazing essay).

Their commitment to building their individual lives has been a great source of empowerment for me as I take hold of my own self-worth in new ways. I think the women on my team would describe me as a role model, but really there is so much these strong, curious, multi-faceted women teach me every day.