Lessons Learned from the 2018 Women’s Leadership Conference

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This month, I attended the annual Women’s Leadership Conference at Mount Saint Mary’s University. The theme this year was Responding to the Call: Leading in Times of Change. It is a wonderful event filled with incredible sessions to help women focus, connect, and thrive in their endeavors. I will highlight the three sessions I went to and share my take-aways:

The First Session

This session was called, The Women’s Code™, and it was led by Beate Chelette, a successful German-American entrepreneur. She spoke about how companies must begin valuing the perspectives of women. She advises companies like Google and the Long Beach (California) Small Business Development Center. She pushes them to review their core values, pick a main focus, think long term, put money behind the initiatives they say they value, bring women on board, and take diversity seriously.

We can all see the value in her statements, but few of us have ever worked in an environment where such beliefs are fostered and lived out. Not seeing this in our work reality makes it difficult to create it. It takes courage and drive to create something that you’ve never experienced but know in your heart is the best course to take.

The Second Session

The session was called The Power of Storytelling for Social Change. It featured four women who talked about how they used storytelling to do their personal and professional work. Coming from a storytelling culture of Puerto Rico, much of what they shared resonated deeply with me. Coming from Puerto Rico myself, a storytelling culture, much of what they shared resonated deeply with me. These were some of the important take-aways that I noted when storytelling:

  • Stay sensitive.

  • Let go of things you cannot transform…do it for your own benefit/good.

  • Help people see you with the right lens.

  • You, by existing, are already powerful.

  • Own the power of your story.

  • Let people be heard.

  • Dig into your own story.

  • Spend time with you. If you don’t like you, spend more time to get to you know better!

  • Know what respect feels like.

  • Use data and advocacy to focus your efforts.

  • Provide jobs with dignity.

  • Stories are the best way to build empathy.

  • We are wo-mentors!

  • Know your resources are valuable, and only some people are deserving of your talents.

What I learned was that you need to tell your story to demonstrate to others how they can tell theirs.

The speakers also had a wonderful discussion on power dynamics. They insisted that power is not something you give or take, it is something you exude by existing and having a presence of mind. Once we begin to believe this, we are well on our way to living our truth. They also encouraged us to spend time with ourselves to learn more about who we are and what we think is important. In the end, becoming self-aware and recognizing our power helps us create our story and know our worth.

The Third Session

The last session was called Identifying Your Expertise. It was led by Sabrina Garba. She led us in a discussion on how to know what you know, and then market it to others. Her first two ideas were: release fear, and love yourself. These are simple yet profound ideas that we often neglect to do for ourselves. She then went on to discuss different ways to identify our expertise.

Her concept is called the KPO factor: Knowledge, Passion, Opportunity. Through this, you develop the ability to speak with authority and add value to a discussion. Another term she used was your PVP, or Personal Value Proposition, which is what sets you apart from others and informs why you do what you do. You use this understanding to move ideas forward and help people get a deep and more nuanced understanding… all this because of you! In the end, it is about valuing life-long learning for yourself and fostering that idea in others.

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So, to sum up, women through their stories, can change the world! Of course we can…we’ve done so for millennia! It was important for me to be reminded of this because running a business can obscure this. You can forget the gifts you bring to the endeavor, e.g. being a woman, having a personal origin story, using that expertise to change the world.

The Colégas Group is my way of doing all three of these things. My experience as a woman informs all that I do: from the colors and styles I use, I decide on my print and electronic presence and the words I choose to express my ideas. My experience as a Latina is what informs my origin story. My family is from Puerto Rico, actually from two tiny islands off the main island, Vieques and Culebra, so a rural community mindset also informs how I do business and why I do it just that way. In addition to that, having a Ph.D. gives me the expertise, confidence, and authority to inform conversations and create new ways to seeing the world.

Women-owned businesses are the fastest growing businesses in the US. When they are able to find venture capital, they have a much higher rate of success than the average sponsored company. My company is just starting out and we are epitomizing what it means to “bootstrap”. However, these workshops about presence and knowing where we come from help in shaping our story to customers, clients, investors, and also the many people I meet in person and online. This ultimately also affects the bottom line - how you present yourself has a significant impact on how financially successful we become.

Because of this, I am reminded that our company must stand out by having a strong obligation to our community. Work with dignity is an important company value for me personally, but also everyone else at Colégas. It is one of our guiding principles that informs what we do, and why we do it. We create community, we help add to your KPO factor, and provide support through collaboration and collegiality.

In this way, we make a commitment to you and your success.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at
colegasgroup.com.