2014 PA Conference for Women Draws Record Crowd

More than 8000 women joined together at the PA Convention Center on October 16 making it the largest gathering of its type in the Commonwealth. 

“Do something hard,” Jane Pauley, former co-host of the Today Show and anchor of Dateline, advised during the opening plenary session, “inspiration is everywhere but you have to be looking for it. It takes courage to keep yourself alive and to be a lifelong learner. It’s okay to be scared. While I’ve always been confident, in my 60’s, my fear reached terrifying proportions.” 

New York Times, Washington bureau chief, managing and executive editor, Julie Abramson stated she began her career kicking the door in to become a correspondent, that she could “hear the glass shattering” as she worked her way through the ranks. 

She remarked about some of her trials and tribulations with different stories she covered, the importance of flexibility and bouncing back. Citing a recent Accenture survey among senior executive, where 71% identified resilience as a key value in retaining staff she pointed out the importance of supporting those women rising in the ranks. 

“Women are damned resilient and we owe teaching the power of resilience to younger women. We’ve got to show people what we are made of and continue to pave our own way.” 

Candy Chang, creator of the Before I Die project and co-founder of Neighborland.com shared her artistic experiences about involving citizens in the dreams for blighted areas. During the aftermath of Katrina, she painted a chalkboard wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans. She wrote on it, “Before I die, I want to _________________” 

Overnight it became a place for people to pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in a public place. There are now 425 Before I Die walls in over 25 languages and 60 countries. 

In a similar fashion, she fashioned a website that allows people to hare their suggestions about improving the public spaces in their cities with others who have similar goals. Beginning with post it notes and “I’d like to see…………….” about a blighted or abandoned building, conversations continue grabbing the attention of public policy makers. 

The digital forum provides residents with the resources needed to enact the changes they’ve suggested and how to move forward productively. 

Leslie Stiles, board chair of the Pa Conference for Women, and former executive director, helped begin this conference 11 years ago. Her sobering message referred to the amount of work that still has to be done by women and for women. 

“One in four women are abused by a family member. On February 15, the day of the Ray Rice video, more than 32,000 incidences of domestic abuse took place across America. Our work continues.” 

“Influence, power and clout come from a cool voice, kindness and commitment to education. It takes caring and concern, selfless dedication to others a smile on your face and joy in your heart.” Every day, over the loud speaker at Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia, Linda Cliatt-Wayman announces to her students, “… and if nobody else told you today, know that I love you.” 

“There is purpose, if you let there be,” she guided. 

Returning from her presentation last year, Cliatt-Wayman was able to share that the school had been removed from the 10 worst high schools in America during the two years she has served as principal. Her efforts to establish a safe and academic institute for learning has been featured on national tv, which resulted in an outpouring of support. 

She teamed up with prosecutor Robert Reed from the U.S. Attorney's Office, and Dan O'Brien from the city's PhillyRising neighborhood rehab program to flood Mansion kids with stay-in-school incentives they had never experienced. 

This year the school was able to provide books, additional supplies, had a football team for the first time in 50 years, and college scholarships to 10 outstanding students. 

Diane Keaton, actor, director, Academy Award winner, business woman who has amassed a fortune of over $1 billion, spoke about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. “It is overwhelmingly important how we define beauty for ourselves.” 

“It can be the flower in a stained glass window; a bouquet gathered in loss or regret. It is a feeling as in the beauty of love or the beauty of a friendship; the sound of laughter or children playing. It cannot be defined by others for ourselves.” 

Keaton rhetorically questioned, “How to be a great leader? Balls.” She went to countless auditions, failed at numerous projects and just kept at it. “Be curious about life and work. Make work play.” 

Finally, Robin Roberts, co-anchor of Good Morning, America, completed the plenary sessions, emphatically hyping her campaign against bullying of LGBT youth and plugging Spirit Day. 

She commented on the recent statement by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Arizona just one week earlier, when he said, “women should not ask for raises and instead ‘trust the system’ and ‘karma.’” 

Roberts declared that “I never waited for karma. Can you imagine? The margin of error was much smaller for me than any of my male counterparts at ESPN. If I’d waited for karma, I’d still be waiting.” 

Highlights from her comments included: 

• In times of conflict, don’t give the opposition and ammunition. 

• Demonstrate a willingness to be vulnerable. As women, we don’t always have to wear a tough shell. 

• Identify something that you want, and go after it. If you wait for fear to leave or subside, you’ll be waiting a long time. It takes courage to believe that the best is yet to come. 

• Have the courage to fail. 

• Everybody’s got something – get on your road to something better. 

• Simple phrases from her youth continue to guide her today. There were the 4 f’s: Faith, family, friends and fun. The 3 d’s: discipline, determination and ‘de Lord. Faith can take you anywhere. 

During the balance of the day, more than 100 workshops, meet-up for advice with experts, career and resume critiques and professional coaching sessions were offered. 

Kayte Connelly, Best Principled Solutions LLC, is an award-winning author, leadership coach, and organizational development consultant specializing in personal, professional and community leadership. She facilitates corporate retreats and conversations with dissimilar parties and helps individuals and organizations identify and eliminate what stands between themselves and their goals. Enriched customized services are designed to create and sustain generations of leaders for our community and your company, based on research and global development. Call 484.769.2327 for more information on how your company could become more collaborative, flexible, imaginative, and innovative and/or to discover your leadership “edge.” www.facebook.com/BestPrincipledSolutions. @leadercoachKT