Womensphere: Empowering Women to Connect
Womensphere: Empowering Women to Connect and Highlights from the October 2009 Global Summit
“If a woman is sufficiently ambitious, determined and gifted – there is practically nothing she can’t do” Helen Lawrenson
Womensphere is: a global community of women leaders that gathers, connects and empowers women from diverse backgrounds to “unleash potential, create opportunity, inspire impact… and solve important global and local issues.” www.womensphere.org
Recently, on October 24 2009, I attended the wonderfully organized global summit held by Womensphere at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Chambers Street in New York City. It was an impressive gathering of successful, powerful and engaged women eager to listen, learn and share their stories and advice so others can arm themselves with the right tools on their journey to success.
The gathering which was titled: “Global Summit 2009 – Leadership. Entrepreneurship. Innovation” promised to inspire and empower us to effectively and successfully pursue our personal dreams, career goals and entrepreneurial ventures. Annalisa Balares, CEO/Founder of Womensphere, with her dedicated team of volunteers, keynote speakers and leadership roundtable guest speakers did not disappoint.
” Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.” Susan B. Anthony
To sweeten the deal, attendees had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Womensphere Film Festival which featured five acclaimed films made by female producers/filmmakers namely:
Pray the Devil Back to Hell: This story is about the courageous women of Liberia and their nonviolent struggle for peace and freedom. ~ by Abbey Disney and Gini Riticker
Tapestries of Hope: Shares the story of a remarkable community of refugees from Burma working against incredible odds to help their own. ~ by Michelle Titus
Crossing Midnight: Discusses the horror of young girls and infants being raped and contracting AIDS in Zimbabwe simply because men with AIDS are counseled by traditional healers that rape will cure them. ~ by Kim Snyder
Birth: A story about a 17 year old pregnant girl scared to give birth and comforted by older women who share their own scary birthing stories with her ~ by Signe Baumane
Wild Horse of the Eastern Barrier Islands: Tells the story of the conservation of the oldest breed and last remaining wild horses in the United States. ~ by Cass O’Meara
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you.” Attributed to Nelson Mandela Inaugural Speech and via Marianne Williamson
The morning keynote session kicked off with short presentations and then a panel discussion by five very successful women who spoke poignantly and powerfully about their individual journeys to personal and career achievements.
Abha Dawesar – Award-winning International Novelist.
***Abha spoke about the need to stand true to self and find that voice woven in the spider’s web of our intricate lives. She shared stories about her journey from India to international success and believes that focus can help us realize seemingly impossible goals
Barbara Adachi – National Managing Principal, Initiative for the Retention & Advancement of Women, Deloitte LLP
***Barbara spoke beautifully about the circuitous road she took from a secretarial position to professional success. She shared her personal life lessons for success via her Five (5) Cs ~ Clarity, Connections, Confidence, Communication and Courage. As we practice these principles, the collective flame gets stronger and our vision and will create our success.
Madeline Nelson-Small – Executive Director, Mary J. Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN)
***Madeline shared her journey from a difficult scattered childhood to her blog about “I like what I see when I walk by the mirror” and her new role as director for Mary J. Blige’s foundation for women. She sees the relationship between hope, encouragement and education as pathways to success.
Nancy Pedot – Managing Director, Golden Seeds; Former CEO, Gymboree
***Nancy shared her career journey from one success to the next and her decision when her son was 13 to resign from her high powered career path so she could be home to see him through HS. She believes we can stage our lives and never do it alone and that as organizations grow, leaders must innovate as they create and plan for NOW.
Shazi Visram – CEO/Founder, HAPPYBABY and 2nd Runner up to the NBC- American Express SHINE A LIGHT national small business contest.
***Shazi shared the financial struggles of running an independent business and the joy of seeing it finally make a profit. She reminded everyone that the trials and tribulations that happen when a new business goes through its growing pains are worth bearing especially for the sake of working for yourself and your own financial success.
“Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure so that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” Maya Angelou
After a short break, we were roundly entertained and inspired by a riveting presentation by the brilliant and effable Suzy Welch – Best selling Author of 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea, Co-Author of the bestselling book Winning, and respected Journalist.
***Suzy spoke about the 10.10.10 approach to life and how daily she makes a list of people to thank and honors it; about having a system and strategy for self growth; about spreading our joy and positive energy; and asking self three questions: What would you regret at 70? What would you want people to say when you’re gone? What do you like/dislike about your upbringing? These questions are meant to trigger deep emotional responses and spur us to action.
Suzy shared how, during difficult times in her life, she would go to her attic and jog to Mary J. Blige’s song “No More Drama.” She reminded us that great leaders reflect the glory of their teams and that we must be vigilant about the two deadly Gs; gut and guilt which should be controlled. The point she was making here is that women should not spend time wallowing in guilt when they make decisions that empower them to take control of their own lives; even if it means not being fully available 24/7 to others around them.
After lunch, which included a special VIP book signing segment with Suzy Welch, the afternoon sessions began. I must add that during lunch, I sat at a table with Rama Louis, staff accountant for the nonprofit group DonorsChoose.org; an online site that provides much needed materials to the poorest schools/classrooms and relies on donations from people like you and me. This is truly a worthy cause deserving of our support.
“Love and respect a woman. Look to her not only for comfort, but for strength and inspiration and the doubling of your intellectual and moral powers. Blot out from your mind any idea of superiority; you have none.” Giuseppe Mazzini
For the afternoon sessions, there were 4 leadership Roundtables with guest speakers (we could choose 2 of 4 to attend as they ran concurrently) and this was topped off with the closing keynote speakers. All the speakers shared their thoughts and tales on a range of topics under the three key themes of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The first Roundtable I attended tackled the topic of Building a Business and Brand in Challenging Times. The panelists, made up of some of the most successful female entrepreneurs today, agreed that knowing your brand story and what the customer wants and says about you is critical to your survival. The message is more important than the image.
Moderator Jane Wesman, President & Founder, Jane Wesman PR Inc, had Beth Schoenfeldt CEO, Collective-E and Founder/former CEO, Ladies Who Launch; Karen Muir COO, Blue Legacy International; Kathlin Argiro, Fashion Designer/CEO, Kathlin Argiro Atelier; Maura Curtin, Executive Director, Social Media Advertising Consortium and Shazi Visram, CEO/Founder, HappyBaby Inc, discussing the finer points of branding and distinguishing your perceived value from the real thing.
Someone suggested that logotournament.com was an excellent site to bid for logo designs and the subsequent discussions prompted the following five key questions to ask around the subject of branding: What is your message? What single thing must they know? What are you telling your audience? What do you want them to do? What is your biggest obstacle?
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Abigail Adams
My second Roundtable discussion was mainly, as the title suggests, about Financing and Building Sustainable Ventures with a focus on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. The panel agreed that while Angel money was tighter, given the current economy, the government was a great resource for funding innovative businesses and a level of persistence was important.
The panelists, moderated by Nichole Wright President/Founder, Bon Vivant, and VP Business Development, Womensphere, included Lara Galinsky Senior Vice President, Echoing Green, Sarah Endline CEO/Founder, Sweetriot, Peggy Wallace Managing Director/Co-Founder, Golden Seeds and David Freschman Founder & Chairman, Early Stage East Innovation Capital Partners, LLC.
“Every man loves two women;the one is the creation of his imagination and the other is not yet born.” Kahlil Gibran
The panelists agreed that with the increasing focus on green/sustainable products, there is a growth opportunity in that arena and entrepreneurs with a great idea, focus, purpose, delivery capabilities and the know-how will thrive. Three questions were posed as imperative for every business owner to answer; Who is the customer? What is the problem? How are you going to solve it and sell to the customer?
Two capital lenders were identified, Social Capital Partners (SCP) and Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). Both lenders offer contracts awarded for R&D that directly supports a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) project. This roundtable session ended with an exhortation to all attendees that we have our business plans and a clear vision of our target market ready before shopping for financial help.
“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Attributed to Nelson Mandela Inaugural Speech and via Marianne Williamson
The final closing keynote speakers spoke eloquently about the importance of women building community and finding ways to develop common ground and a supportive space where all women feel supported and validated. The topic, Womensphere Community Circles, addressed the need for far reaching connections and synergistic relationships that help women build effective and lasting community.
The speakers, Michelle Titus, Executive Director, Freshwater Haven Producer, “Tapestries of Hope”; Sara Green, Executive Director/Founder, Art for Refugees in Transition, Saranne Rothberg, CEO/Founder, Comedy Cures Foundation, Susan Colacello Director, Programming and Education Wings Worldquest, Elaine Barsoom,Founder/Chairman, Windows for Widows, Kate Koehler, COO, The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (The Pentagon Foundation) and Kim Snyder, Filmmaker, “Crossing Midnight” Co-Founder of the BeCause Foundation, encouraged all attendees to actively seek out communities that are life-affirming and encourage thought-leaders within those communities to share wisdom freely.
The Metropolitones; an a capella women’s group, completed the summit with the song, Lean on Me, and then everyone headed out for chocolate, wine or home. This was an invaluable conference and I would say keep your eyes peeled for next year’s summit and kudos to Analisa, the speakers, and all the volunteers who gave so freely and fully of their time.
What are your thoughts about this event? Did you attend it? What would have liked the speakers to address? Do Share
For More: Women’s Lives & Issues
Positive Motivation Tip: A healthy heart is a happy heart. Make Mother’s Day the start of healthier habits.
PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Other Photos via Strong Woman ~ Google Images, Pray the Devil back to Hell 1 & 2 Google Images, Conference Shots ~ from my Personal Collection.