Women|Future Conference Poses Questions and Answers to Advance Women in Business

Women | Future Conference 2019 NCK PHOTOGRAPHY

Originally published on Forbes.com

The 2nd Annual Women|Future Conference was held November 14-15, 2019, in New York City. Presented by The Stevie®Awards for Women in Business, the world’s premier business awards for female entrepreneurs, executives, employees and the organizations they run. The conference brought women in business together from all over the world to connect, learn from and share with one another. My colleague, Shamis Pitts, attended the conference and shared her experience with me. Topics were as diverse as the participants.

Why did you attend the conference?

I have operated within many contexts in my career. Consulting, financial services, education, start-up tech and, now, entrepreneurship. I wanted to be in a space with other businesswomen with diverse business experiences to connect, learn and share while exploring what it means to be a “futurist” today. 

What did you learn?

Being a futurist, as so eloquently phrased by Sheryl Connelly, Manager, Global Consumer Trends and Futuring at Ford Motor Company, encompasses being curious and imaginative around the question – How to service/serve communities and the marketplace in the future?

It is with this question in mind that speakers shared personal and professional experiences, as well as best practices, that propelled their business success. Female voices demonstrated the power of sharing from a place of vulnerability, creating an environment of psychological safety that made it ripe for learning. 

From industry-specific trends in robotics and healthcare to general management topics, such as developing a clear business strategy and championing diversity and inclusion, and practical know-how, like negotiating salary and navigating office politics, there were so many opportunities to engage with compelling content.

What were your key takeaways?

There were several themes that emerged over the 1.5-day gathering. 

  1. Prepare and practice. Both will take you far, whether you are negotiating a deal or for your next pay increase. Take the time to gather information and research from multiple sources. Identify possible counterarguments and the range of possible outcomes.
  2. Know your audience. Whether you are communicating internally or externally, it is imperative to craft your message given your audience to support advancing business results.
  3. Focus on your strengths. There is a never-ending list of “to-dos” when running a business. Spend your time doing what you love and delegate/outsource the rest.
  4. Be authentic. The beauty of entrepreneurship is creating an environment where you can be yourself and thrive. Remember that when you are navigating challenges. Own your voice.
  5. Engage with an accountability partner. Whether it is a coach a mentor or a friend, identify a human with whom you can share your goals and who can help keep you on your path.
  6. Celebrate success, both large and small. It takes many small, intentional actions to build momentum to get to the big, transformational ones. They all matter. Acknowledge them and the people who made them possible.
  7. Put your money where your mouth is. If you want to see businesses thrive that are led by women/people of color/LGBTQ persons, then you should buy products and services from those businesses. Align your spend in the marketplace with what is important to you.
Women | Future Conference 2019 NCK PHOTOGRAPHY

Tell me about the most interesting conversations that you had with other attendees.

Compassion for self and others was a hot topic at the Talent Management networking table. I had the opportunity to have honest conversations and develop authentic connections with women at various stages in their careers. Here are perspectives from two of my tablemates on compassionate leadership – one corporate, one entrepreneurial – that highlight their “aha” moments from the conversation.

Alyza Tarmohamed, General Manager, LegalVIEW BillAnalyzer at Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions and winner of the Silver Stevie Award – Female Executive of the Year (Business Services category) shared her learning:

“How to develop and foster top performers is a critical item for my team as we grow and something we’ve struggled with. I’ve worked in traditional environments where high performers are stretched as far as possible, and many women I spoke to shared ideas on how this has driven both their own burnout as well as the burnout of their top employees. It was so refreshing to learn how other people are thinking about this challenge and to hear how other women are focusing on more compassionate leadership for their high performers. 

It made me think about how I can better encourage my teams to build more space for themselves for self-care, for personal time, and to recharge. How can I and my leadership team use this to bring our best selves to work and truly provide our people with a long-term path? Not a ‘churn and burn’, which I am personally familiar with, and have seen many times. 

It also made me think about how I can better model this discipline for the men and women on my teams, and really demonstrate that commitment to compassion and space to live full lives, as well as excel as we grow our business. One doesn’t need to be exclusive of the other, and in fact, rewarding our best people with that balance is a way to make them more valuable. Allow them to contribute fully and grow into their future careers as well. It’s a lesson I’m eager to bring back to my own organization.”

Nina Guilford, Partner and Chief Transformation Officer, The Fringe Transformation Group, traveled from Florida “…to expand my CEO mindset and to connect with like-minded women from across different sectors of the business world. Our discussion on Talent Development was diverse in industries, yet there were several similarities around the table. 

Compassion for myself came from learning that I am not alone. There are so many women leading organizations with compassion, empathy, and mindfulness; however, it seems that it takes a village to continue to grow leaders with similar attributes. 

Most organizations are asking for more and more to be done with less, thus forgetting the human aspect of leadership altogether. It’s only when we begin to connect with one another that we realize that we are more alike than we are different. Forgiveness and compassion for oneself is what allows that energy to flow to all those we encounter.”

It will be exciting to see what all of the accomplished women who participated in the Women|Future Conference will create within the business world in 2020. I plan to return to hear about it from them, firsthand.