This year, the Professional BusinessWomen of California saw its 31st annual conference conducted in an entirely new way. The three-day, virtual experience continued with the mission of inspiring women to be a force for good in their own careers, their organizations, and their communities. Focused on speaking truth and lifting others up, the conference mantra was this: “What’s good for women is good for us all.”
Throughout the experience, attendees heard from speakers across industries and leadership levels. Key topics included leading with authenticity, creating change through storytelling, and advocating for diversity and inclusion. Below we share highlights from some of our favorite sessions.
The conference kicked off with a message on the importance of leading with authenticity and knowing that life doesn’t always go as planned. Rep. Jackie Speier shared two traumatizing personal experiences: nearly losing her life when rescuing cult members in Jonestown in the 1970s, and her husband’s fatal car accident in the 1990s while she was pregnant. She urged attendees to keep moving forward through challenging times. She said, “There’s a plan for each of us, we just don’t know it up front.”
Carla Harris, vice chairman and managing director at Morgan Stanley, noted, “Nobody can be you the way you can be you.” And said, “Be comfortable with taking risks because change is the one guarantee in your personal and professional life.” She talked about the need to overcome fear of failure because “fear has no place in your success equation,” and “failure always brings you a gift.”
Founder and chief story strategist of The New Quo, Christina Blacken, discussed the power of narrative intelligence, which she explained is “the ability to create patterns, attach meaning to the events happening around us, and influence the behavior of others through story.” She added that story is “the most powerful tool for persuasion, influence, culture building, and genuine inclusion” and advocated for using storytelling to break down barriers and promote diversity.
Blacken added that all employees have the power to influence their organizations by sharing their stories and listening to the stories of others. “Regardless of what your title is, you have the capability of genuine transformation, of reaching your fullest, most creative potential through narrative intelligence and transformational leadership.”
Jen Fisher, U.S. chief well-being officer at Deloitte, discussed overcoming burnout and her role in promoting well-being and authenticity. When experiencing burnout herself, she felt she had to keep pushing through despite feeling overloaded. Fisher said managing burnout ultimately starts with reconnecting with who you are and evaluating priorities, and that everyone is responsible for being intentional with their time and setting boundaries. Fisher shared that self care, far from being selfish, is necessary to bring the best version of ourselves to work.
“The more you’re comfortable sharing your diversity, the more you’re creating that role model for everyone else.”Teresa Solorzano-DeBar Senior Director, People Partner Workday
Being a force for good requires resilience and uplifting others. Tiera Fletcher, structural analysis engineer at Boeing, said she has used the experience of getting a “no” as an opportunity to learn and grow. Fletcher discussed how as a young, Black woman who heard “no” too many times when sharing her dreams with others, she decided to “look to the people who were saying yes.”
Teresa Solorzano-DeBar, senior director, people partner at Workday, added, “We have a greater need for connection on a deeper level. Things will continue to keep changing. All we can do is be there for each other every day.” To make others feel comfortable sharing their authentic selves, as a manager, she added, “The more you’re comfortable sharing your diversity, the more you’re creating that role model for everyone else.”
Diversity leader at Good Enough Now, Jessica Pettitt, said doing work for good boils down to making better connections. To make better connections, an individual does not have to be a diversity and inclusion expert. Rather, she advised attendees to enter challenging conversations with curiosity and generosity and to “listen to others as if they were wise.” Starting conversations with the intention of having a positive interaction is conducive to making connections and is key for belonging.
A company’s board sets the strategy for the organization, influences the company culture, and safeguards the company’s values. Julie Castro Abrams, CEO of How Women Lead, shared, “Diverse boards result in reduced risk, better outcomes, better culture, and equitable pay. When you introduce diversity into a board conversation, it ups the game for everybody. We all work harder and prepare more if there are different points of view.”
The year 2020 has brought about drastic change in our professional and personal lives. Fortunately, these inspiring women provided thoughtful insights for thriving, such as maintaining resilience through challenging times and leading with authenticity and a willingness to better understand and support others. It's great advice for moving forward and creating change for good.
Interested in learning more? Check out upcoming events with Professional BusinessWomen of California.