This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the first annual Women at Werk Empowerment Conference. This was an event that combined presentations from successful working professionals with vendors, information booths, and give-aways by women-owned and operated businesses. “Werk” is intentionally spelled with an E for Empowerment. The goal of the conference for attendees was knowledge, networking, and inspiration from fellow females at many different stages of career development. I can truly say that this event met and exceeded my expectations in terms of what I was hoping to get out of it. The speakers were inspirational, the vendors were diverse and creative in their scope of services and products, and the energy of the women who attended and participated in the conference was inspirational. I wanted to share some of the things that I personally took away from my experience at Women at Werk (in addition to some free bling by Kendra Scott Jewelry!).
“Success is not measured by money, it is measured by Joy” –Dr. Asha Brewer
This statement by one of the morning speakers really resonated with me. Money may be the tangible goal that many of us are working towards as we seek career success. However, for many people, when you really examine what it is that we want, it’s not the actual money. I know there are many people out there who truly just want lots and lots of money. However, I think for more of us, what money represents is freedom, and it is that freedom that allows us to pursue our Joy. Joy, of course, can be attained through many things: time with our families, new and interesting experiences, fulfilling our hobbies, goals, and dreams, and giving back in meaningful ways to causes and communities we care about. When we are able to use our work to fulfill our potential and achieve our goals, the joy will come. When we choose to focus on achieving joy, then success becomes much more tangible. If you find yourself reaching more and more career success as measured by income, but have no joy, then what is the point? I know for me, there is no specific amount of money that would mean “success” to me. For me, success is more about achieving what I need to accomplish in order for me to experience the joy that comes from freedom, and be able to transfer that joy to others whenever and however I can.
#MeToo – Brenda Bellard
A women’s empowerment conference could hardly have avoided the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace in light of the Me Too movement of 2017. While Ms. Bellard came to talk about financial literacy and the importance of understanding banking and finance for female entrepreneurs, it was her personal story of resilience and success in the corporate banking culture that really inspired me with gratitude for the women of the older generations who have carved out the paths for women and racial minorities today. As an African American woman who started in banking as a teller and achieved Vice President status at Sun Trust Bank, she’s seen and experienced it all. As a woman in a male dominated field, she described the harassment she faced, including a man who would throw paper balls down the front of her blouse for his own amusement while at work. With no allies around her, and the corporate culture of the time unlikely to support her, she had to deal with the man herself, which she did, after hours, in a break room, by herself. When I try to imagine the courage it took for Ms. Bellard to confront this harasser on her own, risking her career and possibly even her safety, I’m in awe. It is because of women like her that we are where we are today. We have still further to go in order to make workplaces safe and fair for all women, but I feel more empowered knowing that women have been at this fight for a long time, and we’re not giving up, we’re getting louder.
“Your vagina has power…SQUEEZE” -Dr. Ieshai Bailey
Hats off to the lady who got an entire room of well over 100 attendees doing kegels together! As a licensed sex therapist, amongst other notable accomplishments, Dr. Bailey epitomized the embrace of positive sexuality. Many may have been blushing, but she did manage to get our fists in the air to embrace the SQUEEZE! Her message of rejecting the language of sexual shame and embracing sexual power and JOY, was uplifting and a great reminder that our bodies are ours to enjoy. I loved her mixture of frank talk and disarming humor. Her message was a great addition to this conference, as she reminded us to embrace every part of our femininity, and to caste off the shame that our culture has tried to tie up female sexuality with.
There is so much more that I could share and talk about with this conference, and I I’m sure I’ll be called back to remind myself of the energy and inspiration this event triggered for me as I continue to work on my own goals. I want to give a Big Shout Out to the organizer of the event, Stephanie A. Jones, who is herself an inspiring and empowered woman who is always seeking to lift up those around her who want to come along for the ride. I can’t wait to network with this group of ambitious and creative women. I also managed to snag some swag from a few vendors as well, including beauty products from Apple Rose Beauty that do double duty by supporting the fight to end human trafficking, and some self-care items from Unapologetically Single, which supports my own need to Zen-out as often as realistically possible. In short, don’t miss this event next time around if you want to network with other ambitious and creative women, support local and female owned business, and get those ideas flowing for your own projects. I will definitely be there (did I mention I got free jewelry?!?).