Photo courtesy of TJ Funso

Last Saturday saw the development and celebration of prominent women figures on campus with the Women’s Leadership Conference. Since 1998, the conference has served as a means of cultivating the leadership qualities of the women at Tech to help prepare them for the struggles they’ll face in life and the work force. The theme for the event was “be bold”, placing an emphasis on confidence and forwardness in both its recognition of the achievements of past women leaders and its strengthening of the skills they will need
in the future.

A large portion of the event was given over to workshops which would help develop the skills and knowledge women will need to deal with issues in the work force. Of the many workshops that were offered during the conference, including “Be Bold: Envisioning Yourself as a Bold Leader,” a hands-on workshop about creating a vision board to envision a future as a bold leader, “Power, Influence and Bold Leadership,” on understanding the difference between positional power and influence and “Stand Up and Standout,” a presentation that reviewed gender differences in communication, especially in the workforce.

One popular workshop was “Sorry Not Sorry,” headed by Dr. Erin English of Georgia Tech’s counseling staff. The workshop aimed to make participants aware of the tendency in the workplace for women to be expected to apologize excessively, and sought to help women counteract this tendency by becoming aware of it. Many of the exercises tended to focus on confidence, a quality singled out this year for
development.

“In the evaluations of the conference, there’s an area where it asks, what skill or quality do you think was most developed and supported by the conference program? A lot of them talked about confidence,” said Colleen Riggle, director of the Women’s Resource Center and advisor to the event.

“The two workshops I attended consisted of learning about my individual leadership style and how we have different styles of leading within a group. Being aware of each style’s strengths and weaknesses can help us be more aware as leaders,” said Sheena Patel, third-year EE. “My favorite workshop was the one on startups. Entrepreneurship is something that really interests me so it was neat to learn about certain things that should be taken into account during the design of a product. I also enjoyed getting to create my own ‘prototype’ of an eating utensil using Play-doh! It’s not everyday you get to relive your elementary school years, which was fun.”

“‘Be Bold’ was the theme chosen for this year’s conference in the hopes that the conference would provide a vibrant discussion on the theme of achieving dreams,” said Bindi Patel, the overall conference chair.  “Sometimes we don’t reach for things that we think are ‘too ambitious,’ but at this conference we wanted to reject that notion and encourage people to try to go for those things, and to be bold enough to achieve them.” The theme was emphasized many times throughout the conference, and was represented by a logo sporting appropriately bold colors.

The conference also featured a number of guest speakers who served to inspire attendees while celebrating the guests’ achievements. One such figure was Parisa Khosravi, former senior vice president of CNN. Also present was pastor Donna Lynne Hubbard, who overcame domestic violence and gang crime in her home life to create the Woman at the Well transition center, a non-profit ministry which helps support women emerging from prison.

A number of awards were also given out during the course of the event to students and faculty who had proved themselves to be “women of distinction”. Siham Adous, the undergraduate woman of distinction, was recognized for her involvement with different groups around campus, having acted as a Residence Hall Association peer leader, officer for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and president of Georgia Tech’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

The goal of the conference was to inspire women as leaders through the description of specific strategies and the presentation of success stories as ideals to strive for. Bindi Patel ultimately expressed satisfaction with the conference. “I think the conference went really well,” she said. “We hope that everyone walked away from the day believing that they can reach their goals.”