Written by Anna Hiran
Earlier this summer, Texas Scholarships posted an interesting scholarship opportunity on their website. The entry requirement was to write an essay of 2,500 words about women embracing risks and innovating solutions in the business environment. After much researching and editing, I sent in my 11-page essay that addressed how we can encourage millennial women to reach for positions past middle management by “leaning in” rather than “leaning back” in high-risk situations. In September, I received a phone call from Womenetics, the B-corporation that provided the scholarship opportunity, informing me that my essay had made the top-five cut out of more than 200 entries. It all felt so surreal. The award included a trip to Chicago to speak on a panel at the Global Women’s Initiative Conference and a generous scholarship prize sponsored by Discover.
On November 11 and 12, I visited Chicago for the first time to attend the conference and had the chance to visit Northwestern University, speak with partners from Bain & Company and Goldman Sachs, and listen to the former President of IKEA North America and Roberta Phillips of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The conference was held on the 66th floor of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) and showcased Chicago’s beauty through the ceiling-to-floor windows in the ballroom. The room was filled with bright, inspirational women who were anxious to share their stories about being a female in the workplace and how we can engage young women going into business to take up leadership roles and advance to C-suite levels.
My top takeaways from the conference were:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the panelists was a principal of eMentorConnect, a company dedicated to building corporate mentoring solutions within a workforce. She highlighted the benefits of asking for and gaining the support of other women and how people who work with and mentor each other are an organization’s greatest asset.
2. We need more women in government. Twenty female senators served in the U.S. Congress this past legislative session; there are 100 seats in the Senate. While 20 women in the U.S. Senate is a record-breaking number, the U.S. legislative body needs to be more reflective of our country’s population. Women bring diversity not only in gender, but also in thought and idea, and because of this, having females in leadership positions is becoming even more important.
3. Get back in the game. More and more companies are creating a work schedule and environment that is flexible and friendlier for women who return from maternity leave. Rather than slowing down, continue striving for high professional goals. One of the most memorable quotes said at the conference was, “don’t short-change yourself.” Have the confidence to keep aiming for the top because there are many companies out there that will be accommodating and support you as both a career woman and a mother.
I cannot thank Womenetics and Discover enough for the experience at the Global Women’s Initiative Conference, but the most appreciation goes to the knowledgeable female business leaders who are acting as mentors for young women in the workplace today. The insight and advice they gave sparked motivation and optimism in everyone sitting in the room. The chance to speak at the conference about my experience as a millennial was humbling, and I now feel a new energy and confidence to advance as a female in the workplace. I hope to attend more conferences like this because I learned an incredible amount over the course of just two days, and the issues discussed were all relevant to me as a BHP student. I look forward to seeing more innovative women become leaders in business and can say that the future of millennials looks brighter than ever.