MAP Strategies Group CEO Mi-Ai Parrish speaks about the magnificent magic of women as she accepts the ATHENA Award as Businesswoman of the Year.

What makes women so strong? It’s the magnificent contradictions.

Winning the Athena Award made me think about Athena and how she so aptly represents one of the most powerful things about women.

She was the goddess of war and of wisdom. A contradiction that is meaningful and powerful and feminine.

As women, we draw power in the strength and simultaneous contradiction of that small and simple word: “AND.”

We bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.

We run companies and care for our families.

We suffer crushing miscarriages and get out of bed and tend to our jobs and our aging parents.

We deal with the pain of depression or arthritis or cancer and put a smile on our faces to reach out a hand to others.

We quietly fix problems and say thank you when others do, too.

We earn advanced degrees after our families are sleeping and work to pay the bills.

We run board meetings and carpools.

We are ambitious and philanthropic.

We are smart and beautiful.

We are tough and kind.

We are sassy and sweet.

We are fierce and gentle.

We are deliberate and spontaneous.

We are leaders and collaborators.

We are told so many times in the course of our days, of our weeks, of our lives, that we can’t be these things at once.

That if you are pretty, you won’t be taken seriously.

If you have to do tough things, you can’t do them in a kind way.

If you want to move up, you can’t help those next to you.

I’m here to say that’s not true. And that’s my secret for you.

That’s our power. That’s our magic. That’s our strength, my sweet, sassy, silly, spontaneous, spectacular sisters.

You are the AND. You are the everything.

You are magnificent.

You get to be all these things.

The messy contradictions.

The challenging solutions.

The powerful beauty that is being a woman.

I love you for it.

And you should love and care for each other for it.

Be kind to each other.

Be mindful of each other.

Be graceful and honest and thoughtful.

Be powerful and vulnerable.

Be like Athena. A goddess of war and of wisdom.

I am grateful for all you do. For all you will do. For this community and for those you love.

For each other.

Mi-Ai Parrish is the former president of USA TODAY NETWORK Arizona and publisher of azcentral and the Arizona Republic. She is CEO and President of MAP Strategies Group and endowed chair for Media Innovation and Leadership at Arizona State University

Media innovator, teacher, do-gooder, vampire slayer, entrepreneur. Love 1st Am, democracy, truth, kindness, kale salads and coffee.

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