Mean what you say.

.. make sure you understand what you are saying: that you convey the correct meaning. I enjoy the English language. I read. I studied English literature as my university major and yet I still needed this lesson.

There have been three words that caused me to rethink how I interpreted words.


One conversation stopped me when there was a negative reaction in a meeting and an objection to the word “servant”. We serve our mission, we serve on a board. “Serve” is the verb. This means we are ” servants” ( the noun). There are historical overtones that give a servant a second class status, and that does not gel with our agenda for gender equality. There is also the word “servile” – and none of us want to be obsequious or fawning in our demeanor.

I am proud to serve.


Even with English as my first language, my understanding of “collaboration” was limited and I needed to review it. There was a lot of talk about how we should work collaboratively. My second major of university studies was history – and I met and understood “collaborate” in the context of “sleeping with the enemy”. It didn’t seem appropriate that we Soroptimists, with “Soro” meaning “sisters” and “optimist” meaning “the best”, would work in this way, betraying each other. It didn’t make sense to me.

So, I took the time to learn more, to expand my understanding

and worked through my misunderstanding.

Now I am comfortable and use the correct meaning of collaboration.


Many service organisations, like Rotary and Zonta, have “charitable status” which is a legal term enabling them to apply for tax exemptions. It means that the organisation works for the betterment of other people, and does not work to benefit the members. Recognition of this benevolent or not for profit “status” gives them the opportunity to benefit financially to continue their service activities.

Soroptimist International is a service organisation – our mission is to “transform the lives and status of women and girls…” and we take pride in being active about pursuing our mission. Some object to the term “charitable status” because they saw it as meaning we are a “charity” which has the image of ladies, in big hats, holding fine china, passing out money to the poor. I agree this is not the image we want for Soroptimist International, which is a global movement actively working for gender equality, much of which is done hands-on.

I think we need to be clear on the true meaning, and advantage, of having “charitable status” to enable us to “collaborate” and
“serve” .

Author: Yvonne Simpson

This blog shares my leadership journey and my passion for educating to lead.

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