I recently attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in Philadelphia, PA. As listed in the program, this conference was about “celebrating and advancing each other and our communities.” The opening keynote session included speakers Anita Hill, pioneer for civil and women’s rights, Annie Clark, founder of End Rape on Campus, and Adam Grant (yes, a man) Wharton’s top rated professor and Sheryl Sandburg’s partner is advancing lean-in circles and women in the workplace. I was surprised to learn that there were over 9000 women in attendance.
"Authenticity, Transformation and Confidence"
It was very empowering to be around that many amazing women, who were all there to gain wisdom, strength and motivation to create the lives they want. I went to this event in the hopes of gaining clarity for my consulting business, and how to move forward, while also supporting my husband’s career, raising three kids and managing the home. As a solo entrepreneur, it was nice to be surrounded by other women all stepping out to better themselves. There were many tables sponsored by corporations, solo entrepreneurs, and those looking to re-discover their careers. I truly felt the essence of “girl power” throughout the event and was proud to be a part of this “sisterhood”.
The break out sessions included topics on leadership, health and wellness, transitions and personal development. I loved the session on personal branding and the importance of women “owning their power” though grace, humility and authenticity. Authenticity was a common theme throughout the sessions, and I spent time thinking about my philosophies, values and strengths - and what is already working. In my work, I have found that women tend to focus on their weaknesses, while men focus on their strengths. I encourage you to list 3 of your unique strengths - and devise a story of success around those.
Another theme was transformation and the importance of pushing through feelings of discomfort, fear, insecurity and inconvenience to take a step forward, try something new or take a risk. As Claire Shipman states in her book The Confidence Code, taking risks is how we achieve more confidence - and confidence is an important component for finding your voice and inspiring others. Take action first, and your courage will follow.
The most crowded session of the day was entitled, “Managing Stress and Burnout” and I found this interesting and a bit sad. Would this session be standing room only for a group of men? Why are women particularly maxed out and overwhelmed? Of course there are several factors contributing to this, including women’s physiological ways to process burnout, our care-giver mentality, and our desire to be happy while having it all. Mallika Chopra, daughter of Deepak Chopra, spoke of the importance of listing joys, meditating and mindfulness. She also suggested trying this exercise: Do not criticize, condemn or complain for one week (I am trying it for a day). She says this will rewire your brain and help you to choose your own story, rather than reacting to the story of others.
The day was capped off by speakers Abby Wambach and Mindy Kaling. I loved Mindy’s comment that she has learned to embrace her direct and demanding style, and refused to play demure just to get people to like her.
I did gain new insight and clarity for my business, and have decided to push through the fear and excuses, put one foot in front of the other, embrace new opportunities and “GO FOR IT”. There are so many smart, beautiful, bad-ass women in the world, and the world would be a better place if more “sat at the table” and owned their strengths. Here’s to Girl Power!