On the 1st and 2nd of November, I had the opportunity to attend YWCA Mankato’s 6th annual Women’s Leadership Conference. This year’s theme was Our Time Is Now, and over 320 women attended the conference from all walks of life: there were 17 year olds and 75 year olds, black women and white women, CEOs and small business owners, and mothers and sisters. As a young woman about to enter the workforce, it was inspiring to see so many women all in one room, encouraging and guiding one another, ready to change the world.
After reflecting on the two days of panels, keynotes and networking, here are five takeaways from Our Time is Now:
1. Leadership is about serving others.
In her talk Active Leadership: The Climb of My Life, motivational speaker Liz Nead gave a humble reminder that appreciation is not an automatic byproduct of leadership. Sometimes your work leadership won’t be in the spotlight or won’t be glamorous, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you are there for people: to listen, to love, and to serve.
2. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” – Donna Williams
Performance coach Cindra Kamphoff (yes, the same woman who works with the Minnesota Vikings) told us that this is her favorite quote of all time. She spent a large part of her keynote address explaining that we can only grow if we push ourselves, and we can’t push ourselves unless we choose courage over comfort or fear. If we want to reach our full potential, we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
3. As women, we need to build each other up.
17-year-old Sesame Glackler-Riquelme spoke about the importance of role-modeling, and how young girls need positive female role models more so than ever. She compared the workforce to high school, saying that women try to take each other down in order to reach the coveted spot at the top. However, it’s important for women to encourage each other, support one another, and build each other up because we are stronger together
4. Stop comparing yourself to other players’ highlight reels.
Tiffnie Jackson, who is YWCA Mankato’s Racial Justice Director, told us that it took her a long time before she started considering herself a leader because, to her, leadership meant Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and MLK. She explained that her voice as a leader emerged only when she realized that leadership is a lot more than a person’s highlights or huge accomplishments; leadership is about being authentic, learning from failure, being there for others, and nevertheless persisting.
5. “The best place to watch a dance circle is from the center, dancing in it.”
This is what Sesame Glackler-Riquelme’s mother told her daughter after speaking today, and this really touched me. I hope that every woman gets to experience life in this way — a life with others, in the middle of the action, invested fully.
Our time to be leaders is now, collegiettes. Let’s do this.