pen-conference.jpegI’ve attended and have been a speaker at quite a few women’s conferences across the country, and I’m pondering today why women need such events.

Right now, I’m sitting in grand Hall A of the Pennsylvania Convention Center ready to hear the first keynote speaker of the Eighth Annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

The line up this morning:

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
Pennsylvania Governor’s First Lady Susan Corbett
Helene Gayle, president and CEO, Care USA
Irene Chang Britt, chief strategy officer, Campbell Soup
Gretchen Rubin, author, “The Happiness Project”
Martha Beck, a life coach and columnist for The Oprah Magazine

I’ll be live blogging throughout the day, sharing some of what I hear.

I’d love to know your thoughts, and also, if there’s someone at the conference you want me to ask of question of, or listen to speak, let me know. Here’s a link to the conference.

180px-shackletonhead.jpgCorbett is talking about Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer who led a failed voyage. “Shackleton is remembered as a great leader,” she said, because through hardships, he brought the 28 men under his command home.

“There is risk involved in making changes, or trying something new. If you take risks there is a chance you’ll encounter failure.” She said she suspects it’s that fear of failure that’s the hardest for women to overcome.

Is she right? Are women more fearful of failure, more so than men?

Also, am I crazy to think she should have shared a story about a women who conquered in the face of failure?

martha.jpgMartha Beck made the crowd do a wave. Why? Because “we live in a time of a huge wave of change.”

She talked about technological change and economic change, referring to it all as a tidal wave. And then she asked if we remembered the tidal wave in Japan, and how the waters first rose slowly and then engulfed towns, floating homes away. She went searching the Web to find images of the wave but ended up finding a video of a surfer riding a gigantic wave that looked as if it would devour him. He ended up coming out of it yelling “Woo, hoo.”

She used this as an analogy of how some of us come out of the tidal waves of life cheering and some of us don’t.

Gloria Steinem, women rights advocate, shared her ten top fear busters:

1. To reverse the Golden Rule.
For women it means to treat ourselves as well as we treat others. (Not what men think it means — to help others.) Only you know what form it will take. Just for most women, to treat ourselves as we treat others is a revolution.

2. Fear is a sign of growth. If you’re afraid it means that you’re stretching and doing something you haven’t done before. When you feel afraid that is a very precious time. I’m talking about your endeavors not people. If you’re afraid of some guy, trust your instinct.

3. You have a right to be angry, and women can be even angrier. Women have so much to be angry at.
Women will earn $2 million less over lifetime. Still they still have to pay back debt. Women are objects of violence in this country and around the world. Even if we lose control, do it anyway. Met a very high level woman executive who was afraid to express it because crying was seen as sign of weakness. So she got angry, cried and talked through the tears, and she said, “you may think I’m sad, but I’m angry.” And it worked.

4. Find your unique talent. How do we know what our talents are? When we do something and forget what time it is. When we do it even if we don’t get paid, although I want you all to get paid. When you’re excited, that has to do with your unique talent.

5. Measure yourself by the real not the ideal. As I go around to campuses and employment settings, I notice that women tend to hang back when asking for tenure, or a raise, because they have a feeling of inadequacy compared to the ideal. If I say to them, but what about Harry who has the position now? Then it’s a whole different world.

6. Look for allies everywhere. Don’t be bound by conventional hierarchies. Try to look what real interests are, not what old hierarchical values tell you.

7. What is viewed as a disability of being feminine has enormous advantages within it. It makes us better labor negotiators, and peace negotiators. Reason for lasting peace in Ireland. In Liberia, the Muslim and Christian women working together. We do not have to imitate all the time. Often we are selling our selves short when we imitate.

8. Just about everybody can learn to change, even us and even them. There were wrong rationalizations as to why men couldn’t type. Computers arrived and over night…. a great great truth we can all change. Women were seen to be too weak to play full court basket ball, we would injure our menstrual systems.

9. Ask for help. Surround yourself with people that make you feel smart not dumb. If someone makes you feel incompetent, don’t hang out with them.

10. Remember, our humanity our self determination is the key to everything. You are not being selfish when you insist on democracy in the home.

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