Women in the Channel hosted a Women’s Leadership Workshop at the Telecom Exchange LA event at the Montage Beverly Hills on November 15. The interactive event highlighted two critical keys to female leadership — creating connections and building confidence.
Khali kicked of the session with a lot of passion; we were on our feet from the start. She asked us to put our arms out horizontally and join hands with the women beside us to show how we are great at forming friendships and peer groups. Then she asked us to stretch our arms vertically to show that we also need to create connections with those in leadership positions to be our sponsors and mentors and to reach down to pull up and encourage women who are in earlier stages of their careers.
She then challenged our group to a professional self-inventory, identifying the quality of our connections — who had been our mentors, their qualities and where we met them. I thought it was interesting that the quality that we valued most from these connections were honesty, yet some women pointed out that speaking up to others in a honest and meaningful way seems to be the quality a lot of women struggle with. This exercise showed the group that these opportunities exist all around us. Look up, pay attention, commit to meeting new people, ask questions and share your experiences with others, connect.
Rebecca then engaged the group on building confidence using live polling via mobile text. We saw the honest feedback take shape up on the big screen. Some of the answers surprised me. For example, our views and perceptions of female leadership are still polarized. When asked what describes a woman leader, answers ranged from creative, brave and innovative to aggressive and lonely.
We also discussed the social conditioning that may be behind some of those descriptions. Rebecca talked about our culture viewing girls as being “bossy” or that they need to be “nice,” rather than “be strong.” Rebecca, not only an entrepreneur, but a wife and mother of two young girls, shared openly about how she is trying to parent her girls to embrace their natural leadership characteristics, not quash them.
Nancy shared a very personal talk about her journey to leadership. She showed us a photo of a 15-year-old Nancy Ridge standing in front of her boss and the executives at her first big job. She was feisty, hands on her hips, wild hair and smiling openly. Not a lot has changed. Her bold nature didn’t annoy her then-boss, a man; instead, he took her under his wing. He told her, “I’m going to make you a great one, Nancy!”
Nancy also talked about the confidence gap. She shared about how much women want to be completely prepared before volunteering ideas, taking leadership positions and starting new ventures while men don’t focus on the gaps in their resume before taking on new challenges. We hold ourselves back because we feel we’re ready unless we meet every criteria. “Take risks” was the message I got from her story.
Nancy closed her remarks by discussing the importance of encouragement from other women. The morning before an important talk she was giving in D.C., her laptop crashed with all of her notes saved on it from the night before. She frantically called her mentor and coach Kimber Kabell and after unloading all her panic over the phone, her coach said three words, “You got this!” And she does. And so can we.
At the end of the workshop, we were challenged to write down a goal for boosting confidence or creating meaningful connections. The catch was that we also had to ask another woman in the room to become our accountability partners, to make sure that we followed through. I had the privilege of having two women willing to make that commitment to me.
Many stories of women’s journeys toward leadership were shared during and after the event — all were were powerful and inspiring. For me, it felt good to be in the room, representing Women in the Channel, making time to connect and understanding that we deserve to make that time for ourselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Su Beler joined Telecom Brokers in April 2013 as their partner support manager. She has been an active member in Women in the Channel since she joined the industry. In September, Beler accepted the newly created position of PR Membership Liaison, where she will collaborate with the PR committee on membership recruitment and retention campaigns. Her first foray will be managing development of the Membership Matters initiative.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Khali Henderson is senior partner at BuzzTheory Strategies, WiC Board Member and Chair of the PR Committee.