Girl Power.

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Be unstoppable. Provoke. Perform. Inspire.

This was the theme of the International Women’s Day Conference on February 28. I had the opportunity  to attend with one of my colleagues (and I was pretty excited that I also got to spend the day with my friend Kim Bode from 834 Integrated Communications), and I did leave feeling a bit more inspired. And grateful.

I mentioned to someone I really admire that I attended and she asked, “how are you going to share what you learned? Are you going to blog about it or present?”

I thought, “hey, I DO have a blog!” And with my first two posts about the lessons I learned from Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman at the Moxie Matters Tour, I thought this might be a great follow-up post, and continue the discussion about sisterhood and supporting our fellow females.

The morning started off strong with a keynote from Jeffery T. Halter, President of YWomen, a consulting company focused on engaging men in the development of women as leaders. He confidently walked on stage wearing sassy red heels. While he did change into his own shoes shortly after his intro, I give him credit for his entrance. Mr. Halter talked a lot about engaging men as champions for women in the workplace. Conversations need to be had and action needs to be taken. Engaging men as champions for their female colleagues promotes a strong sense of fairness and a deep understanding of the business case for advancing women into leadership roles. What can women do? We can provide a collective voice of women in the organization. We should be supporting other women because we are all in this together!

I have to admit that I learned a lot during this session. In the nonprofit world, it is not uncommon for women to be the majority. I’ve almost always had female leaders, and have never had a huge struggle with finding support as a female. But Mr. Halter’s presentation gave me some good insight to what others in a corporate environment are more likely to be experiencing on a regular basis.

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Next up was my favorite part of the day, the second keynote, “The Audacity of Sisterhood,” presented by Dr. Debbye Turner Bell. Dr. Bell is not only a veterinarian, but a broadcast journalist, motivational speaker, and–oh yeah–she was Miss America 1990!

Dr. Bell’s talk centered around sisterhood. Not just biological sisterhood, but our girlfriends, female colleagues, and the many other women we meet along the way. Sisters are our best friends, toughest critics, encouragers, and fiercest competitors. But we are one, and sisterhood requires us to focus on a collective goal, not just our individual goals.

Dr. Bell left us with this acrostic:

  • Support each other, show up!
  • Invite someone new into your circle or for coffee.
  • Sounding
    board…listen, give advice, share wisdom.
  • Tell your story…reveal your struggles and how you overcame them.
  • Encourage one another!
  • Respect differences!

The rest of the day included breakout sessions. I attended “Personal Mastery: Living a Value Driven Life” with Monica Cost, and “Genuine Presence” with Dot Proux. Both of these sessions focused on different aspects of emotional intelligence, something I’ve been learning a lot about lately, and working to improve upon. Defining and understanding our core values helps us to not be so persuaded by external forces…we become more self-aware. Increasing our level of self-awareness helps us become better and more strategic communicators–both verbally and non-verbally.

The day’s final event was a panel moderated by Grand Rapids’ first female mayor, Rosalynn Bliss. “Can Mars and Venus Be Allies? was another discussion on men being champions for women in the workplace.  Leaders from Wolverine Worldwide and Amway provided the audience with extraordinary examples of how Mars and Venus really can be allies in the work environment.

Like I said, I left feeling inspired and grateful. Inspired to see such support for women. Not only the more than 500 women who were there that day, but the 30+ men who attended. And I also walked away that day, reminded of how fortunate I am to have such incredible role models in my life. My grandmother, my mom, my sisters, my aunts, who have always shown me what family love and support truly means; my boss who leads and mentors me with complete wisdom and grace; my incredible colleagues, who are some of the strongest and smartest women I’ve ever known; and so many other women I know who serve as mentors and role models. I’ve pictured a few of them here…

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And, like I heard many times throughout the International Women’s Day event, it is our responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation. I try to make sure that what I do is providing a positive example for those who will follow my generation…especially my two nieces who are all of seven and two years old, but are already showing their strength and leadership skills. What are you doing to shape our future female leaders?

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