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The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’s Professional Women’s Network (ACPWN) presents opportunities for women to come together and inspire, educate, and motivate one another. Last Friday, at the Women’s Leadership Forum at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, was one of those opportunities and I was fortunate to be able to attend.
At the fourth annual event of its kind, which has grown significantly over those four years, there was a great spread of career types, business types, and years of experience represented, and there was a decent amount of men who came out to talk about how we can shape tomorrow’s leaders within the current landscape of women in business. I was proud to be in attendance representing a company co-founded by a woman. A company that celebrates a diverse workforce and embraces work/life balance values.
Among the four-person panel, moderated by USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla, were women from corporate, non-profit, and family-owned small businesses, as well as women who owned their business or were an active member of the elusive C-suite.
From their mouths came stories of the importance of authenticity and the power of a woman’s quiet strength (okay, some are quieter than others). The crucial role that compassion plays, and the impact that simple concepts like listening and continuous learning have on business relationships. We also heard about struggles and challenges, such as the pressure to engage in the water cooler talk and ‘be one of the guys,’ being overlooked, being judged, and experiencing a double standard. But through the challenges and struggles, the common theme of ‘be yourself’ and ‘trust your instincts’ and ‘embrace your feminine perspective’ rang true.
What was my big takeaway?
There wasn’t just one. So here are a couple, some that I’ve already mentioned but are worth mentioning twice:
- Do what you love, and be your authentic self. Don’t be afraid to embrace your natural feminine perspective. As moderator Heidi Przybyla said, if you don’t like sports, don’t feel like you must talk about them to advance your career.
- Bring compassion, good reason, and an open mind to everything that you do. As Elizabeth Chisman Moon quoted, “don’t judge someone on the chapter you walked in on.”
- Never stop learning, and never stop listening. As Lori Malcolm referenced, listening is a powerful tool, a form of respect that can break down walls.
- Have a vision, and be who you want to be. Cynthia Hudson eloquently spoke about breaking the glass ceiling, and self-selecting into the position you want. Don’t be the flight attendant or the teacher if you want to be the pilot or the principal.
- And finally, find a mentor. There are amazing, successful, smart women all around us. We need to support our community and teach, inspire, and motivate every day. Allow a mentor to help you learn from their experiences.
For more information, visit: http://web.alexchamber.com/events
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