On September 16th, Mount Saint Mary’s University’s Center for the Advancement of Women held their 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference at their Chalon campus. More than 400 professional women and rising leaders, and 40 speakers attended the conference. The event, hosted annually, is a forum for women of all ages to learn and strengthen their leadership skills. Women leaders shared their expertise and insights with attendees through various panel sessions, to motivate them to transform themselves and their communities.
“The Women’s Leadership Conference,” addressed Ann Mc-Elaney-Johnson, President of MSMU, “today is our opportunity to come together, to inspire each other, and to build connections so that we can support each other as we go forward from this day.”
This year’s theme is “The Resilient Leader.” “Why resiliency?” explained Emerald Archer, director of MSMU’s Center for the Advancement of Women. “We have learned that resilience is a key factor in becoming an effective, sustainable leader. By learning resilience, it’s easier to stay grounded, bounce back from failures, and be prepared to harness the kind of successes that propel careers forward.”
The theme “resiliency” was discussed throughout the conference. The opening speaker, Danielle Harlan, Founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, gave a speech on the new “alpha” leadership model. Danielle explained that resilience is crucial for rising leaders: “Resilience is the ability to get knocked down and get back up again. The best leaders are not perfect. They know their strengths. They’re not afraid to be weird and be themselves, but they surround themselves with people who really complement their strengths.”
The conference identified three perspectives of “resiliency”: The Resilient You, The Resilient Professional and the Resilient Community. All sessions were categorized into the three tracks.
The Resilient You
Featuring Dr. Bryant Adibe, Chief Wellness Officer of MSMU, and Paulette Lambert, Director of Nutrition for California Health and Longevity Institute, the “3-course Recipe: Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul through Healthy Nutrition” session demystified the nutrition and healthy eating for attendees. Paulette suggested taking small steps and getting the basics down, instead of going to extremes. She specifically reminded the audience not to overtake alcohol due to its high calories.
Self-branding in Instagram Age
Moderated by Beverly Jackson, Vice President of Social Portfolio Strategy for MGM Resorts International, the last session of “The Resilient You” track, “Image in the Age pf Instagram: Navigating How We See Ourselves and Each Other” featured content creators from various media channels, including Maggie Chieffo, General Manager of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls; Joy Donnell, CEO of Parajin Media Corp. and Editor-in-chief of Vanichi Magazine; Ana L. Flores, Founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network; and Ann Le, producer of Sundance winner film Dear White People.
They mentioned the importance of “storytelling” in creating content these days, and reminded attendees to stay real. Joy said, “Instead of talking about brand, focus on philosophy and message. That’s how you maintain your authenticity.”
The Resilient Professional
Inclusive Work Cultures
In the sessions of the professional track, speakers educated attendees on how to develop leadership and promote gender equality in workplaces. Lori N. Mackenzie, the executive director of Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, spoke at the session “Why Inclusive Work Cultures Matter – And How You Can Create Them.”
She pointed out the insidious bias in interview and hiring processes, which may discourage possible applicants. As she explained, men tend to describe leadership skills in agentic languages, while women tend to use communal ones. She suggested that recruiters and applicants should use both languages strategically to be more inclusive. She also suggested including mission and values, and refining the criteria in job descriptions.
Beyond the Boys Club
Moderated by Diane Manuel, Financial Advisor of Urban Wealth Management, the session “Beyond the Boys Club: Leveraging Gender Differences to Achieve Career Success” featured panelists Jaime Hansen, author of Expanding the Conversation; Lindy Huang Werges, Founder of Integritas Resources, Inc. and Co-Founder of Zen Yoga Strap, Inc.; Margie Moreno, Manager of International Originals for YouTube; Valerie Mosley, Chairwoman and CEO of Valmo Ventures.
The five professionals and entrepreneurs recognized the sometimes-biased working conditions for women over the last few decades and shared their insights on how to leverage gender-dominated strengths. “First, create a plan. Set your goals.” Margie said to the audience, “Second, Tell other people your plans. People want to help.” Lindy spoke about taking risks and rebounding. She reminded attendees the famous quote from author Neale Donald Walsch, “‘Fear is the false evidence of appearing real’ and to ‘identify what your fear is and harness that fear so you may push towards your fullest potential.’” Lindy also reminded everyone the importance of community and setting yourself apart, “Write your thank you notes… on paper!” Valerie urged the attendees to look at the S&P 500, instead of handbags, “start investing now.”
Wired for Authenticity
In the session “Wired for Authenticity: Lead adaptively in times of change and ambiguity”, Henna Inam, CEO of Transformational Leadership, Inc. and author of Wired For Authenticity reiterated how to be resilient. She shared her failures in career and how she overcame it. She used the Chinese characters of “crisis” to explain that there are always both danger and opportunities in a crisis. When facing changes and uncertainty, we need to face the fear instead of avoiding it. “Choose BE before DO.” Henna told attendees not to rush to take actions, “Think about what’s more important to me than fear.”
The Resilient Community
Fueling Conscious Communities
Moderated by Asha Dahya, content creator for Girltalk HQ, “The Power of Me: Fueling Conscious Communities” session discussed the power of women communities. Kiesha Nix, Executive Director of Lakers Youth Foundation, first spoke out, “It’s not a competition. It’s a collaboration.” Given her experience working with youths, she gave advice on building communities and engagement. “Make it easy for people to participate.” Said Keisha, “Where we start is not where we finish.” Betty LaMarr, Founder and CEO of EmpowHer Institute, said that mentors are key for young girls to seek help. Other featured panelists included Luz Rivas, Commissioner of Board of Public Works for City of Los Angeles; and Megan Sette, Managing Director of M Collaborative.
The Legacy We Leave
Moderated by Dr. Cora Neuman, Founder of Global First Ladies Alliance, the panel “The Legacy We Leave: Shaping Our World for Those Who Come Next” included Karen Chong, director of Audience & Influencer Engagement for AARP; Suzanne Lerner, Co-founder and President of Michael Stars; Cristina Mancini Jones, Executive Vice President of Technology & Creative Strategy for 20th Century Fox; and Diane Reichenberger, Vice President of Consumer Products Global Strategy for Mattel. The panelists discussed how each of us can change our space and world.
They first asked the audience their purposes of life. “What are you really looking for?” asked Diane, “What are you doing that you love?” Cristina continued and said, “If you are not passionate about what you do, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Cristina went on, talking about leadership opportunities and responsibility in communities: “What are you taking on, and where are you trying to go? Do they align?”
Cora talked about sharing, “No one can steal something that is not theirs because you’ve cared for it, nurtured it…” Diane told the audience to identify with people who advocates with them, both within and outside their organizations. Karen continued on discussing getting credit, “Remember to frame your language around the things you’ve earned. Not what you ‘deserve.’” Karen went on, highlighted the strength of legacy. “All of us together can create the change we want to see .” Cristina encouraged women to take action and contribute, “Any space you are in, you have the opportunity to affect change.” Suzanne also urged women to help each other, “The world would be a better place when women & men are equal.”
The conference concluded with some motivational advice from Mallika Chopra, Founder of Intent.com and author of Living with Intent. Mallika shared her somewhat “messy” journey to find her inner peaceful life, including her childhood in Boston, her first job working for MTV in India, and her lessons from her dad, the alternative medicine advocate, Deepak Chopra.
Mallika encouraged women to take a pause and start thinking about our life purpose. “When it comes to empowering women you have to anchor yourself to really ask questions again about, ‘What do I want?’ But begin with intent, and then take the small steps to ultimately realize your destiny.”
To view the complete event gallery, please click here.