While many believe that women’s leadership seminars and conferences cannot help achieve the larger goal of gender equality, we at GC4W firmly believe the contrary. In recapping on the recent Conference For Women, Shawn Anchor shares his belief that conferences of this nature have a powerful effect: if conducted in the right manner.
Shawn shares that 71% of the Conference For Women attendees said that they “feel more connected to others” after attending. This is important. While not every conference may have such a long-term positive impact, it’s safe to say there is an inverse relationship between the benefits you’ll get from a conference and the time you spend on your laptop or phone.
But the key to a beneficial conference, based on Shawn’s experience speaking at more than 900 conferences over the past 12 years, are (1) a sense of social connection felt by the attendees, (2) engaging sessions, (3) leaders who role model and exemplify the qualities that the conference is attempting to instill, (4) a memorable moment, and (5) a realistic assessment of the present with an optimistic look to the future. Based on the responses of the women in this sample group, we see elevated optimism and social connection, as well as superstar role models. Moreover, many of the sessions offered practical applications for moving forward at work, such as how to ask for a raise, or stories from other women to let you know that your experiences at work are not unusual or isolated.
Laurie Dalton White, founder of the Conferences for Women, adds, “Something special happens when you see that you are not alone. Making connections and building relationships with other attendees and speakers helps women form an understanding of their worth, and then they learn strategies to ask for promotions, seek fair pay, and even become mentors to others. We invite women like Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg to speak at our conferences not just because of their own personal success stories, but because they are role models who inspire women in both big and small ways.”
There is power in connecting, and it’s not just about gender. Men and women alike can benefit from the power of connection. If you are a manager, encourage your employees to go to events where they can connect with others to remind them that they are not pursuing success and happiness alone. If you are a CEO, invest in conferences that help build up all members of your organization, regardless of where they sit in the organizational hierarchy.
We have so much more to learn about the value of connection in a hyper-competitive world. To the rest of us seeking a positive path forward at work and in society, regardless of gender: We must pursue happiness and success together. Like the lightning bugs, rather than trying to light up the darkness alone and in isolation, there is power when we add our light to something bigger. In doing so, we shine brighter.
Read more on hbr.org.