FWB – National Women’s Leadership Conference 2014

(This post is from another Jessie blog, Fourth Wave Business, and is republished here for your enjoyment!)

If you haven’t heard yet, there’s this awesome organization called the American Business Women’s Association which I’ve been a part of for 5 years now (an honorary member since I was a kid, thanks to my ma) and every year they host a conference in a different city for women (and men, actually) in business.

This year’s was in Overland Park, Kansas because we were founded in Kansas 65 years ago – so it was the 65th anniversary celebration – a pretty big deal.

I won’t go into the details of the conference because I’m here more to help than to blog (though I really want to talk about my league’s costumes for the Halloween dance!) so I’ll get into the good stuff.

The conferences are broken down into three tracks for seminars.  You have Track A which is the Kansas University MBA Essentials program, Track B which is the fun one with different and diverse speakers every year, and Track C which is Park University’s Women as 21st Century Leaders.  This year I tried out Track C.  I wasn’t particularly impressed.  If you want to train the 21st century leaders, it should be with the most current information and technology.  This track fell short of that – at least according to this millennial.

We learned the tried and true basics like four key elements of leadership: internal (sense of self-worth), interpersonal (how we deal with conflict), structural/organizational (how we deal with the systems around us), and external/global (everything outside of us and “the system”).  The very basics about public speaking and how to prepare were covered – which, having been in ABWA for 5 years I’ve already learned those, and more advanced techniques as well.

We broke out into groups a lot during our sessions which actually led to more epiphanies than any of the material brought about.  I figured out that to market my league to younger members (I am currently the only one younger than 40) I need to offer them what we have – which is MENTORSHIP.  I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to get younger members – then I looked around at the mostly-retired members and realized that they are an untapped wealth of information for younger women in business.  Bingo!  marketing strategy unleashed!

A really great segment they presented was the difference between 20th century and 21st century leadership approaches.  That was very illuminating – in the 21st century we’re more about unleashing others’ potential, connecting and integrating, welcoming resistance, adapting fluidly, and creating sustainable change.

We watched this video – I suggest checking it out, it’s worth the 8 minutes!  Did You Know 2014

The women professors who presented the material were older – they frequently talked about how they weren’t used to Power Point so when they talked about change and what it means/how it should be embraced I couldn’t help but think it a bit of a contradiction.  One thing that bugged me was at my table, and I could overhear conversations at surrounding tables, older women were talking about millennials just aren’t respectful or hard-working.  It was annoying to hear someone say something that when you replace millennial with a minority group, would be incredibly offensive.  So I posted on the shared forum members can access and explained how that belief is harming the organization in its efforts to recruit younger members.  I got a message from the executive director who agreed with my sentiment and commended me on speaking up.  How cool is that??

We did some personality tests and did some self-assessments meant to help us create our own goals for the future.  It was a fluff activity that didn’t really impress me so I didn’t really complete it whole-heartedly.

I do have to admit that in my negative review of the track, I did miss a big chunk of one session because while going to get lunch, my group got rear-ended in our rental van – that sucked!  We’re all ok – it just kept us from some good ol’ Kansas BBQ!

All in all it was a really great experience and I’m so glad I went.  If you haven’t been yet, I would highly recommend checking out ABWA and reading up on 2015’s National Women’s Leadership Conference in Albuquerque, NM!

I hope this helped in some way!

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