I’ve attended conferences across the globe, including an education industry show in London and an energy-efficiency segment event in Kuala Lumpur. In past roles, I’ve even had the opportunity to speak at several—two highlights being at the World Energy Efficiency Congress in Abu Dhabi and at regional conference in Thailand. As a veteran to keynotes, breakout sessions, inspirational speakers, and the art of conference lanyard collection, I feel like I have experienced it all.
And I was wrong. Attending a leadership conference specifically geared to the inspiration, celebration and development of women was a new experience. Celebrating its 10th year and hosted by the MGM Resorts Foundation, this week’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC2016) in Las Vegas was a dynamic event with a full agenda for its sold-out crowd of 1,000 women (and a few men). I could wax poetically about the powerful lineup of amazing women, like Phyllis A. James (MGM Resort International’s chief diversity officer), who left me with this thought—that “women have multiple glass ceilings, yet each of us has a hammer.” Yet, I thought I’d rely on the experiences of my talented colleagues who also attended WLC2016, all of whom were invited guests of the R&R Foundation, a proud WLC2016 sponsor.
“The big theme I took away was leaning in to fears,” says Julie Teasley, director of operations. Several speakers directly mentioned the ideology that Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg made famous in a TED Talk, and others emphasized that instead of waiting to be recognized, women should move forward to success. Donna Brazile, a favorite of attendees who made an impact on several of us, quipped, “Why are you still waiting to be asked to lead? Why not you? There is no one better.”
Donna is a veteran democratic political strategist and most recently named interim chair of the DNC. Her hilarious sense of humor and words of wisdom also resonated with Yanick Dalhouse, account director from R&R Resources+ in Washington, D.C. She recalls Donna saying, “We don’t have to check the boxes that others give us; we can check our own.” And this author giggled along with the entire room to this Donna-ism: “I’ve always told the men I’ve worked with … when I come through the door, I’m not asking you to leave. I’m just saying scoot over!”
R&R’s Chantel Perreault, operations supervisor, recalls several speakers talking about focusing on the important priorities, and breakout speaker Judi Holler added that the master of all fears is the fear that one will succeed. Judi, a former improv comedian at Chicago’s famous Second City, had a quote that resonated with Chantel: “Make fear your homeboy.”
Something that resonated with Joan Jungblut, corporate media director, from several of the speakers, was best articulated by Donna Brazile: “No matter how you got in the room, bring others with you,” which is to say seize the opportunities that arise for you, as well as create opportunities for others to rise. Another point that was covered in sessions by both Dr. Lalia Rach and Eric Boles was that mediocrity is contagious. Joan says, “It’s easy and ‘safe’ to be average, and so we don’t set goals high enough. We have to set high expectations for ourselves and our teams so we rise to those expectations.”
“Overall, I came away with mixed emotions: on the one hand, we’ve come so far,” shares Sara Macfarlane, director of insight. “But on the other, you could see how even among some of the monumental women on stage, we continue to struggle with the duality of being a professional woman and that we continue to limit ourselves.” Karyn Hearn-Phillips, project supervisor, recalls Judi Holler’s “There are no mistakes, only gifts,” and this advice that sums up the elegance and professionalism that we all hope to be, shared by Donna Brazile: “Be a woman of grace, valor and tenacity.”
Lindsey Patterson, media director, recalled this additional Donna gem that I will leave you with: “Relationships matter. Even when you have staunchly different views, it’s important to play nicely.” With such an outstanding leadership conference under our belts, and with the wisdom by such incredible leaders at our fingertips, we are inspired. And I hope this recap and the learnings of several women leaders at R&R Partners serve to inspire you, as well.