This is the second year I have attended the Women in Leadership conference at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. It seems especially relevant this year in light of my changing jobs to one with more responsibilities, challenges, and calls upon my management skills. Even though I am not on the Berkeley campus anymore, I decided to visit the old neighborhood for the conference and mingle among inspiring women, find examples of how I want to lead, and get feedback from other women in similar situations.
It was a rainy day, bad for a conference setting that includes an outdoor courtyard but good for our California drought. I had to stop on the way from the parking lot and revisit a few of my favorite outdoor sculptures in the area, including, of course, some fierce, and not-so-fierce, California bears.
I made sure to arrive early in order to register and check out the networking breakfast. Is it my imagination, or is the food just nicer at women’s events? Plus there are all the touches like flowers that add to a pleasant atmosphere.
Lululemon provided the bags for the swag, which included a lot of snacks. Women in Leadership have to keep their strength up!
The conference is student organized, and I am impressed at the job they do.
Staci Slaughter got us started with her view of what makes a good leader:
- Be a mentor and allow others to fluorish
- Get out of the way; support others to grow professionally
- Make time for yourself
- Remember the importance of kindness
- You have to be willing to leave to move up; if you don’t feel professionally fulfilled in your job, move on.
Coffee break was followed by the Story Salon, something the organizers added to this year’s program. Hearing other women tell their stories is an empowering and meaningful experience.
Lunchtime! Catering by Gregoire Restaurant, one of the Bay Area’s most popular takeout options, offering beautiful French food and box lunches.
The afternoon started off with our dynamic keynote speaker: entrepreneur, media executive and business author (Naked in the Boardroom: A CEO Bares Her Secrets So You Can Transform Your Career) Robin Wolaner.
Her funny, engaging, and thought-provoking talk included advising women that success isn’t about luck but about being smart and authentic. She quoted Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” If Wolaner were to run for political office, I would vote for her! But she’s too smart to do that to herself.
After another coffee and networking break, there were six break-out sessions to choose from:
- Be Your Authentic Self: Developing a Personal Brand That Matters
- Intersectionality of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Workplace
- Pivoting Toward Growth: Successfully Navigating Your Career Path
- Power and Influence Strategies
- Salary Negotiation Workshop: Strategies and Skills for Successful Negotiation
- Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: What It Looks Like, and What to Do About It
It was a tough choice! They all sound valuable. I went to Pivoting Toward Growth with career coach Michelle Florendo, founder of the company What If You Could.
Then on to the evening keynote talk by entrepreneur, activist and leader Freada Kapor Klein, Ph.D. Among her many accomplishments, she is the founder of the Level Playing Field Institute and a partner in Kapor Capital and the Kapor Center for Social Impact.
Her focus was on women, especially women of color, in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There was definitely a heavy emphasis throughout the day on women in tech. I am not one in any on the STEM group, but I still found valuable gems and eye-opening information.
And a reminder that while the day was about all women, women of color face greater obstacles.
My favorite quote: “Empathy counteracts bias.”
The companies that Kapor Capital supports commit to GIVE:
Time to end the day with a closing reception; more beautiful food and sweets, Proseco for those who wanted to imbibe, and San Pellegrino sparkling water for rest of us. It was a day of support, networking, and reminders that we, as women, bring something unique to the table that we should hold onto: empathy, willingness to support each other, and a desire for balance in our lives no matter what our career fields.