The Pennsylvania Conference for Women was exactly the shot in the arm of motivation and inspiration that I needed. At PennWomen, amazing, powerful and INSPIRATIONAL women shared their insight for making the most out of your career and your life. This conference was all CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT. It was quite a lot to be packed into one day, and far too much for me to recap effectively in a blog post.
The morning kicked off with Charlotte Beers, advertising executive powerhouse and former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She shared the story of her ascent to success, and explained that in the business world, women need to focus not on acting “womanly” but instead focus on being “leaderly.” That, yes, there are differences in how women and men perceive and do things, but for career success, a woman should approach challenges from a perspective of leadership and fearlessness. I know a number of the keynote speakers were recorded, and I really hope that Charlotte’s talk is shared on the website, because it was phenomenally inspirational.
I also loved the panel discussion between Alexis Sclamberg, Trenesa Danuser, Brenda Dennis and Lauren Berger about defining “success” for yourself. They discussed how success is a personalized definition, and steps that they have taken to reach their career goals. Trenesa, an executive with Estee Lauder, gave some phenomenal insight into how to balance family with a high-powered position that requires frequent international travel. My biggest takeaway from that panel was when Alexis shared that she has attended numerous conferences full of super-power executive women, and even they, at the highest rungs of business, don’t feel like they have made it to success. Those words made me realize how success can’t be an end goal, it has to be a process or a state of being.
Cathie Black and Emily Bennington’s discussion on “Executive Presence” was also amazing. Cathie emphasized the importance of appearance– that you must look the way you want to be treated. If you want to be treated like a professional, you must dress like a professional. This is an issue I’ve been working on lately. I have a terrible habit of picking out my outfits in the morning when I am exhausted, and the only thing I want to wear is yoga pants and a hoodie. Although I manage to pick out passable attire, it’s not nearly as polished as the presence I would like to project. I’m making a habit of keeping my nails polished, and I need to pick out my outfits before I go to bed at night, when my energy is (marginally) higher. Cathie emphasized that when things get tough, put on some lipstick, because that’s when people are going to be watching. She also pointed out that women have a “gratitude problem.” I know that I am completely guilty of this. Women who ascend to a new position or meet a goal get wrapped up in being so grateful for getting there that they stunt their forward progress. Men, however, tend to meet that goal and immediately ask “ok, what’s next?” As women, we need to work on always looking forward, and not letting ourselves fall behind by getting so wrapped up in reaching the previous goal.
I felt like I had so much more in common with the women at this conference than the women at BlogHer. PennWomen is a career focused conference, and I’m definitely a career focused person. I definitely will attend next year (and the year after and the year after). The only downside I saw to the conference was that there was so much amazing content, it was hard to find the time to really get to talk with people. I think this conference would really benefit by a short speed networking session in the morning, where we can all have an opportunity to quickly meet people and exchange cards. The short period before the opening keynotes was intended for networking, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it remarkably intimidating to go into a room full of literally thousands of people and just start chatting it up. Speed networking would be awesome.
This conference is an amazing experience, and it would be equally beneficial for men as for women. It is a jam-packed day, but it will motivate and inspire you like nothing else. On my drive home, I was full of energy and ready to go! I was ready to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!! Of course when my alarm went off the following morning, the energy had faded, but a number of the meaningful takeaways continue to bounce around in my head.