This week I drove up to Austin for the Texas Conference for Women. I was a bit nervous because I was attending by myself and had never gone to an event this large alone, but there was so much to see and do and learn and listen to that I never felt uncomfortable.
There were dozens of amazing speakers and presentations throughout the day. I would absolutely go back again next year (if I were to be in Texas) and I was amazed with how gender neutral a lot of the topics really were. There were male speakers and male attendees at the conference and it wasn’t in any way “man bashing,” just woman centered.
If I tried to list out my favorite discussions from the day, well…I’d honestly list all of them. There was a lot of variety in terms of the backgrounds and industries of the speakers, but they all had one thing in common—a goal to empower women and promote the conference’s theme,
The Power of Possibilities
1. Don’t be Colorblind
Wait. Keep reading. Trust me here.
You see, the idea is not to learn that we are all the same. Because let’s be real. We’re not. There are some differences that need to be noticed.
Striving for diversity is good. But diversity expert, Verna Myers reminds us, it’s not just about counting our numbers. It’s about having an actually inclusive environment. And if we don’t recognize our differences, how do we create that environment?
PS. It’s okay if you say something “wrong” that accidentally offends someone. Let it be a learning experience.
2. We’ve Got Time
The most comforting thing for me as a currently unemployed twenty-something is that none of the women I heard speak seemed to have their lives mapped out at my age.
In fact Shirley Franklin was in her 50’s when she ran successfully to become the Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. And I know she didn’t have her heart set on that when she was 23.
When Leymah Gbowee was sleeping on the floor of someone else’s unfinished home in Liberia with three children, she didn’t know she would one day become a Nobel Peace Prize Winner. But she did know she would be something great one day.
3. Be Confident
Did you know—if a company puts out an advertisement for a job and lists 10 required qualifications, on average, a man will apply if he matches 3 out of the 10 requirements. On average, a woman will only apply if she has 7 out of the 10 requirements.
3 out of the 10. THREE.
When I heard this at the conference it blew me away! This isn’t to say that those men are getting jobs after having 3 out of 10 of the items listed, but you never know. At least they’re trying!
Fake it till you make it (Everyone is doing it. No, seriously. They are.).
“When you pretend you’re good at it, suddenly, you’re good at it”- Jenny Lawson
4. Act Deliberately
It’s important to take risks and seize new opportunities, but don’t make decisions without a purpose.
“Follow your passion, but also be incredibly pragmatic.” –Allison Dew
Be thoughtful with what you’re doing. Be self-aware. Evaluate your current situation and don’t lose track of “where you’re going.”
5. Embrace Your Failures
Your flaws and embarrassing stories are awesome. They could literally turn you into a New York Times Best Seller (just ask Jenny Lawson).
They’re what make you relatable. Sometimes you’ll try something new and
1. Hate it 2. Be awful at it.
Great! Now you know, what you don’t want to be doing.
And sometimes you’ll find something you
1. Love 2. Are amazing at
and get fired from it.
Sallie Krawcheck, who might be Wall Street’s most powerful woman, was fired. Twice. And it made it to the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Twice.
It’s all part of the experience, but it’s not the end of the world. (7 Things Sallie Krawcheck learned from getting fired again)
6. Have a Sponsor, Not a Mentor
A mentor is good, yes. But a sponsor is what you really need. While a mentor will give you advice and insight, a sponsor has the power to speak on your behalf and really move you up in your company/industry/world.
That’s what you need. But please, don’t ask someone to be your mentor or your sponsor. Don’t be “that girl.”
“You don’t get a mentor by asking someone to be your mentor…It’s like asking someone to marry you on a first date.”- Holly Gordon
Let someone become your sponsor naturally because they have a relationship with you and truly believe in your skills and abilities and you as a person.
7. Your Children Will Still Love You
Yes, ladies and gentleman. Surprise! You can still have a successful and demanding career and have happy, loving relationships with your children.
And it’s not about “finding a balance” between your family and your career. It’s about being 100% there when your work needs you to be and 100% here when your family needs you to be.
I have a heading in my notebook from the conference that says “How to balance having children” and you know what? It’s completely blank underneath it because that “problem” is a no-brainer.
On the other hand, if you want to and can stay at home with the kids, then go for it. And feel free to replace “you” with “your spouse” instead. It’ll be okay.
8. Think BIG
“Don’t just wait for your moment, create it!”- Esmeralda Santiago
Bob Beaudine shared an awesome story with us on how Arnold Palmer was offered a gift of his choice by a king in the Middle East after designing a golf course. Palmer told the king that he collected golf clubs (naturally).
A few weeks later, Palmer didn’t receive a jewel encrusted, all gold 4-iron.
The king bought him acres and acres of land and an actual golf club.
So what are you thinking? Golf club? Or golf club?