IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum Draws Sold-out Crowd in D.C.
Last week’s IAEE Women's Leadership Forum, held at the InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., drew a sold-out crowd of more than 220 attendees to hear several dynamic speakers talk about topics that ranged on how to not get burnt out trying to manage the elusive work/life balance to permitting yourself to ‘ask outrageously’ for something you want.
The event kicked off with two sessions the day before – one that focused on How to “Negotiate Your Life – Tips for Quintastic (those who believe 50 is the new 30) Women in the Workplace” and the other was about “Projecting Your UV (Unique Value) on Social Media.”
Afterward, IAEE WLF attendees had a joint reception with the IAEE DC chapter, before a full day of programming kicked off the next morning.
Cathy Breden, IAEE's COO and executive vice president, said the event was "designed to to focus on the topics unique to women in the exhibition industry."
Emilie Aries, founder and CEO of Bossed Up, emceed the day and spoke during the first session about how to beat burnout.
“I recall a time when I found myself completely and utterly burnt out before the age of 25,” Aries said.
She added, “I longed for permission to put my feet up … that I didn’t have to martyr myself for my career.”
Here are some key takeaways form Aries’ session:
- People need to take care of themselves before they try and take care of others
- Men and women experience burnout differently – women lead with physical and emotional exhaustion; men lead with cynicism and detachment
- Burnout is not a personal problem, it’s a systemic one.
Aries told everyone, “You are worthy of your best effort. If we as women can take that caretaking power towards ourselves it can have an impact.”
Linda Swindling, president of Journey On, took the stage next and told a great story about how she once went to go see Jay Leno and he chose her to ask the first question before the show started. She asked something benign, and the next person asked if they could have their photo taken with Leno and Leno agreed.
He said to Swindling that maybe she should have asked that too, and she wholeheartedly agreed.
“You need to ask first for what you really want!,” Swindling said, and then asked the audience, “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you ask for?”
Asking for a raise, for example, is something she encouraged people to do, but also said, “when you ask form a raise, you need to make a good case.” Don’t just say you deserve one, or it’s your time.
Overall, she said that everyone should give themselves permission to ‘Ask Outrageously’. “Only the powerful can say yes, compared to people who always say no,” she added.
Speaker Anna Akbari, founder of Sociology of Style, was next and gave a sobering statistic during her talk about how to find ‘digital happiness’; “Most people touch/interact with their phone 85X a day.”
She added there is an actual name for the phobia – Nomophobia – when you are afraid to be away from your phone. “Is there such thing as TOO much connection?” she asked.
Akbari suggested to delete social media apps off people’s phones, not sleep with the phone next to them, take breaks where there is no social media or checking email at all – basically create a healthier balance with it all.
“Consider disconnecting to be creative,” she added.
During lunch, IAEE’s Woman of Achievement Award was given to Taffy Event Strategies’ Jennifer Hoff.
After accepting the award, Hoff said, “You should always just be yourself. You don’t have to follow stereotypes. If you can be true to yourself along the way, you can find the right path for yourself.”
Gina Rudan, president of Genuine Insights, spoke how people should ‘collect’ others around them to check in with on a regular basis and gain knowledge from – ‘unofficial mentors’. “You don’t even have to tell them!” she added.
She told everyone to consider acting on things they are passionate about. “Stop being who your mother, husband, wife and boss wants to you be,” she added.
Taking the time to do simple, mindful acts throughout the day – like meditate – is important. “De-clutter the stuff,” Rudan said. “Hold every object and if it gives you happiness today, keep it.”
The last session of the day was “Being a Female Leader in Politically Charged World” led by CNTV’s Carrie Ferenac.
“It is very challenging to be a female leader,” said Sherron Washington, founder and CEO of The P3 Solution. “The glass ceiling exists. Gender pay gap is still there.”
She added, “Let’s do this. Let’s get together and vote women in!”
Jessica Finnerty, manager, meetings and events, Auto Care Association, said it was important to not “always surround yourself with people who only agree with you. It gives a false sense of reality…. There are millions of layers that make people who they are.”
A quick poll was taken, and 70 percent of the audience said they had been sexually harassed at work.
Another subject was work/life balance. “I am tired of even hearing this phrase,” Ferenac said, adding that if she was go-go person all the time, that was O.K., because that’s just the way she is.
Nora Ellingwood, UBM Fashion’s VP of operations and Expo Billing, said she helps her staff figure out how to create more of a balance by having them cross-train to do each other’s jobs “so no one is stuck doing something.”
Overall, the panel agreed strides had been made advancing women in the workplace, but a lot more still needed to be done.