Some of the world’s greatest advancements have come from strong women. Amelia Earhart, Madam Curie, Rosa Parks, and countless others have left lasting impressions in history. While the world has exponentially changed, the potential for women to enact change has not. At the 2019 Women’s Leadership Initiative Conference women gathered from across the local community, state, and country, with great excitement for another year of encouragement, equipping, and edification.
The conference opened with a welcome from Eli Jones ’82, Mays Business School Dean and Professor of Marketing, and a champion of the Women’s Leadership Initiative in Mays. “The Women’s Leadership Initiative is directly in step with Mays vision to advance the world’s prosperity. In all of our endeavors we aim to embrace change, paint vision, and move our organization towards it,” Jones said. “This conference is a part of the vision painted to include women in the advancing of the world’s prosperity.”
A common thread
This year’s speakers all spoke to that common theme – Advancing the World’s Prosperity.
Laura Arnold, Co-founder of Arnold Ventures, proposed the idea that maybe advancing the world’s prosperity had more to do with improving people’s lives, not just their situation. That to truly advance the world’s prosperity we, as a society, need to leave people better than we find them. And in order to do so, we need to maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. That sentiment is not without challenge though. Arnold was quick to acknowledge, “It’s not like smart people haven’t thought about improving people’s lives and just didn’t feel like doing it. It’s a slow process because it’s hard.” Arnold also mentioned that “there is nothing abstract about the American Dream” as she advocated for better access to education for all people. She shared her own story of success after moving to America from Puerto Rico and working hard to earn the opportunity to study at Harvard. “We can continue to write checks, but the real power is to set the system right by law and public policy. To create a chance for prosperity for all, not just a few. We don’t need to just lift people over barriers but remove barriers entirely.”
Jacquie Baly, President of BalyProjects, gave the conference her rules to advance prosperity, achieve dreams, and defy odds. Baly walked us through her life, in which adversity is a reoccurring cast member. She moved to Florida from the U.S. Virgin Islands when she was seven and was subsequently bullied for her accent. She was the first female department head in the city of Sugarland. Baly was a single mother to two boys while juggling a full-time, very public career as a tv show host. Through all of these stages, she learned to believe in herself, to prioritize her time and commitments, and to be flexible. All of these lessons, she imparted upon the WLIC audience saying, “Maybe you’re not where you thought you’d be. Or maybe you don’t know where you’re heading… Those are just speed bumps. Adjust. Adapt. Keep moving forward.”
Dr. Patricia Sulak took the stage after lunch. At a time of day where it is easy to lose focus, Sulak had the crowd sitting on the edge of their seat. With a heavy focus on advancing your wellness as a piece of advancing prosperity, Sulak really dug into defining wellness. Wellness has five categories: physical, social, psychological, financial, and spiritual. To achieve true wellness, Sulak posited that we must fulfill each role’s expectations, but we tend to self-limit ourselves. She asked, “If we have self-limiting thoughts, how will we fulfill the expectations of our roles?” and then followed it with, “Inside all of us is the ability to have a great life, but you have to get the imposters out of the way. Things happen that cause us to be someplace we don’t want to be – while it’s not your fault, it is your problem. How will you solve it?” Sulak gave us her 12 essentials to wellness and gifted a copy of her book to conference attendees.
Mays Talks live
The conference wrapped up with Mays Talks – a live podcast taping of Mays MasterCast. Host Ben Wiggins facilitated a conversation with Bridgette Chambers, Shannon Deer, and Janet Turner Parish. The hour-long conversation covered topics like the balance of work and life, the impact our words have, and the power that the millennial generation holds.
Next year’s Women’s Leadership Initiative Conference, on October 16, 2020, is already generating excitement. With a rapidly growing attendance rate, the conference is sure to remain an impactful and important space for cultivating women in leadership and generating connections that will advance the world’s prosperity for years to come.
Whether you missed this year’s conference or had the opportunity to experience the power, share your story with #MaysWLI and @MaysBusiness