Women’s Symposium Blazes a Trail Further into “The Year of the Woman”

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Due to the vast majority of women running for congress recently, many have dubbed 2018, “The Year of the Woman.” This sentiment was reflected in Atlanta this past Friday, April 20, when some of the top women in Georgia convened to learn from one another, become better leaders, and therefore, continue to push the U.S. further into the year of the woman.

Organized by the Georgia Diversity Council and hosted by the Arby’s Restaurant Group, the 7th annual Georgia Women in Leadership Symposium was a sensational experience. This year’s theme for the symposium, and it would seem for 2018 as a whole, was “Women Blazing Trails.” To speak on this theme were women who have blazed their own trails and risen to leadership roles in their respective fields. The panelists included five women in corporate leadership positons ranging from human resources to the Coca-Cola Company. Moderating the event was, Scarlet Pressley Brown, director of diversity at Dentons Law Firm.

Vice President of digital & voice-strategy, planning, & analytics at InterContinental Hotels Group, Maggie Tucker kicked off the discussion with her topic of “Charting a Course: A Financial Guide for Women.” Tucker summed up charting your course into 3 F’s which are Frugality, Freedom and Fees. The essential goal of these three F’s is to provide you with financial freedom.

The way to do this, she says, is to purposefully live below your means. For example, just because you can afford a $500,000 home doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy one. If you’re constantly maxing out your budget, then things like your house begin to own you instead. She explained how it’s important to have that freedom and not be chained to paying this great amount, especially in the event that your job situation changes. Give yourself that wiggle room.

Tucker quoted the Fruglawoods blog to further her point, saying, “There are methods not born out of deprivation and hardships, but rather of conscious decisions to joyfully live far below ones means. They believe frugality is not about what you’re giving up but what you stand to gain from the freedom of a financially secure lifestyle.”

She also discussed the importance of financial freedom which covers everything from having an emergency fund, so as to worry less if you lose a job or face some other trial in life, and also the importance of spending your money how you want which is why it’s crucial not to be tied down with debt. When there’s no debt eating away at your money, you can take that guilt-free European vacation. Financial freedom is truly being able to decide on what you want to spend your money.

Next up was Deanna Hamilton, vice president of partner development for the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA). Hamilton discussed “Applying Your EI to Leadership.” While emotional intelligence (EI) is something that most people think they have, according to Hamilton, most people actually do not. In order to help get the audience members on the EI path, Hamilton first explained that emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how you respond to external factors. She then provided the five traits that one must practice to gain emotional intelligence.

These traits include:

  1. Self-Awareness: Allows you to see yourself as a separate entity of your environment. Know why you do what you do.
  2. Self-Regulation: Ability to limit, on your own accord, how you will behave despite outside factors so that you respond in a positive manner.
  3. Motivation: When you’re motivated to do the right thing, it’s easy to be self- aware and to regulate.
  4. Empathy: Understand the point of view and feelings of others and be motivated to do the right thing to/for that person.
  5. Communication: Have courageous conversations and effectively communicate the desired outcome while self-regulating.

“If you can do these five things, then you are exercising your emotional leadership voice. Learn to validate that voice and let it be disruptive, because it is powerful,” added Hamilton.

Vice President of executive talent at McKesson Corporation, Ximena Juncosa was the next speaker and developed a timely discussion on “Turning Lemons into Lemonade.” She delivered a different approach than the previous speakers by giving key tips very similar to spiritual principles. The main tip included the golden rule of “treat others like you want to be treated.” Juncosa’s other key points included phrases like, “life is full of choices; make the right one” and to “focus on the road not the wall,” meaning if you focus on your journey instead of the negatives, criticisms, etc., that’s how you succeed. She then shifted the focus to “killing people with kindness” and a crowd favorite: “learning the subtle art of not giving a f**k.”

However, the most poignant thing Juncosa brought up, which was later repeated throughout the conference, was being true to your authentic self. According to Juncosa, it is in your authenticity that you have uniqueness and power. For example, when it comes to the business world, there are tons of people who could probably do the same job as you, have similar resumes, and qualifications, so what employers often look at is the person not the paper. The main thing that’s going to set you apart from other candidates is you; your personality, intellect and authenticity.

The fourth speaker, Alba Castillo, vice president of customer marketing at the Coca-Cola company briefly discussed the importance of “Building Your Value.” While she spoke on how crucial it is to do the right thing and have consistency in your actions, what really stuck out was something that Castillo said her mother used to say to her which was, “Always know what is important to you, and always learn. This is going to be your ticket, what you know in your mind, and what you know in your heart.”

According to Castillo, these are the things that can never be taken from you, “what you know in your mind, and what you know in your heart,” and this is why it is so important to never stop nurturing them. And with this constant learning and improving of ourselves, will come opportunity.

Moving away from the warm and fuzzy side of the symposium, came the final speaker for the morning which was Corrin Drakulich, a principal and litigation group leader at Fish & Richardson law firm. As a woman working in a highly competitive male-dominated field, such as law, it was only fitting that Drakulich’s topic was “How to Swim with Sharks.” Drakulich discussed several ways to deal with corporate sharks as well as how to thrive in a male-dominated field. These 10 tips include:

  1. Have Confidence: Women tend to have a bad habit of second-guessing themselves whereas men tend to assume they’re right. Try to ditch this habit and stand firm in your decision-making process.
  2. Be Willing to Take Risks: Don’t shy away from the big projects, and don’t be afraid to try something new. The key is if you have a solid team to catch you, the big risks aren’t all that risky.
  3. Be Aggressive Without Being Passive-Aggressive: This essentially means if you have a problem or concern, voice it right then and there. Don’t send out a passive-aggressive memo days later. Just be upfront with your coworkers in a professional manner.
  4. Loyalty to the Team: Your coworkers want to know that you support them and have their back. This will usually result in a good sense of community with them having your back as well.
  5. Build Strong Relationships with the Sharks: Just because someone is a shark doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad person. They’re just extremely ambitious and successful. These are people who you want supporting you in your career because where they go, success usually follows.
  6. Do Good Work: You can’t be successful if you don’t put in consistently good work. Your coworkers have to trust that whatever task you’re given will be done well. Your work ethic can’t be up and down. Consistency builds trust.
  7. Find Advocates: If you’re putting the work in, it shouldn’t be hard to find people who will speak up for you. Seek out those genuine people who will defend you to your boss or vouch for your character.
  8. Decide What Matters: Little things are always going to bother you at work. Someone will piss you off. It’s up to you to pick your battles. Don’t make everything a huge issue at work. Go home, vent to friends, and then let it go. Save your energy for the stuff that really matters.
  9. Be Real: Be your genuine authentic self, and be upfront and honest with people. If you have a problem with a coworker, discuss it with them not behind their back.
  10. Fake it Until You Make it: This doesn’t mean you should be “fake.” It simply means that you should practice who you want to be until you actually become that. For instance, Drakulich talked about trying to be the person her daughter thinks she is. Another example might be that you’re not a confident person. If you practice acting confident even when you don’t feel that way, eventually you’ll find that the confidence has become real. It’s just like learning a new habit.

Overall, the symposium brought together a wide variety of strong women who, if they’re like me, left feeling even more empowered than when they arrived. It’s conferences like this, keeping the conversation going, and building our skills that are going to help women continue to grow and not only make 2018, “the year of the woman,” but every year after.

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