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Visionary Leadership

Visionary employees are lucky to work for a company that invests in the whole person, not just who we are during office hours. This year, 8 of us women were given the opportunity to attend the Iowa Women Lead Change Conference on October 28th at the Community Choice Credit Union Iowa Events Center.

The full-day conference is for women to invest in leadership skills and provide an opportunity to network with female leaders and other like-minded, inspiring women. The event is run entirely by Iowa women volunteers.

Transforming Journeys was the theme of this year’s conference. Given the full schedule of inspiring speakers, we were definitely taken on an journey.

The conference started with Carol Vallone Mitchell, PH.D, the author of Breaking Through “Bitch”: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly. She spoke of how when a man strongly asserts his point of view and autonomy, he is hailed as a strong competent leader. Yet when a woman exhibits the same executive qualities, she is often labeled as brusque and overbearing.

Given Carol’s 20 years of expertise in leadership development, she revealed how women can hone their innate skills, rise to the top, and be effective, outstanding leaders.

We then had the pleasure of listening to Anna Maria Chavez, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. She focused her presentation on gender-balanced leadership and the importance of exposing girls to women with careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

In a field where women have been underrepresented for decades, she spoke of how bringing more women into the ranks of leadership means starting with and investing in girls at an early age.

One of Anna’s stories really stuck with me. She asked some Brownies (a level of Girl Scouts age 7 - 9) to draw a picture of a scientist. Most girls drew a picture of a man in a white coat. After showing them pictures of many modern day women scientists, she was able to change their perspective in one afternoon.

During lunch, we heard from Urbandale native Marietta Colston Davis, Vice President of US Dynamics at Microsoft. She described four areas women need to own their reality:

  • “Owning your trade-offs” by forming a personal definition of work-life balance

  • “Owning your network” by creating a personal board of directors and realizing the power in your women’s network

  • “Owning your opinion” by having a point of view and a solution

  • “Owning your career” by taking initiative and offering innovative ideas

At the end of the conference, we were treated to, Arianna Huffington, the creator of The Huffington Post.

She said, “We have defined success as money and power, which is like trying to sit on a two-legged stool. We must expand the stool to include a third leg and metric that includes wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving.”

Arianna spoke of her workaholic life, which began to change after a time when she passed out, broke her cheekbone while falling, and woke up in a pool of blood.

Afterward, she became more committed to better health and sleep and is now catalyzing a revolution towards thriving in our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives, with her new book, Thrive.

Thrive draws on groundbreaking research in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving back.

Stay tuned for a whole blog post on Thrive!

I noticed during the conference that all of the speakers mentioned other women who helped them get to where they are. Anna Maria Chavez possibly said it best, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

This sentiment reflects the importance that trailblazers, role models, and mentors play in our lives. It is vital that girls who aspire to become leaders in our world have access to women who have already attained leadership positions.

After the conference, I felt empowered to take the steps necessary for continued growth in both my personal life and career. I realized that in order for me to become more well-rounded as a woman, as a person really, I need to take care of myself first. Arianna made a comment that we take better care of our smartphones than ourselves. We know exactly how much battery we have left on our phone and where the nearest charging location is. But in order to maintain a healthy balance, we need to take the time to recharge ourselves just as often. Since, I have made an effort to be more mindful of my health and listen to what my body is telling me. By taking care of myself first, I will be able to have more stamina when I really need it.

Below are comments from some of my fellow employees who attended the conference with me:

Lead Project Manager, Kelli Huerter: This was my second year attending the IWLC, and it was an informative and inspiring day again this year. I could listen to both Anna Maria Chavez and Arianna Huffington speak all day long.They're both great speakers! I especially love the quote from Arianna:"Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen." So true!

Lead Project Manager, Stacy Sheeler: Arianna Huffington was by far my favorite speaker! She was very engaging, and although there were many quotations that spoke to me, these two were my favorite:

1. Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.

2. Integrate what we value at the end of our lives … in our lives.

Production Specialist, Alecia McEachran: I enjoyed it all, but I really thought what Arianna said about living in the moment and taking time to enjoy life was great advice. I know we are all at least partially guilty of looking down at our phones too much and not stopping to enjoy the little things in life. My favorite thing she said was that once we are gone, people aren't going to be talking about what's on our resume or the things we did as much as how we made people feel, and that's what's really important.

Project Manager, Jacinda Bevilacqua: I loved Anna Maria Chavez, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. She was funny and inspiring. I connected with her the most and have reached out to Girl Scouts to become a troop leader and for my daughter to be a Daisy Girl Scout. I also really enjoyed Arianna Huffington. She inspires you to make sure you live your life and relax. I also connected with her speech a lot. She talked about how she likes to wind down each night. Since the speech I have worked a little harder on making sure I take care of myself and do 30 minutes of exercise and try to escape the IPad and IPhone before bed and instead read a book or paint.

Read here for last year’s IWLC takeaways:

Learn more about IWLC:

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