According to McKinsey's 2020 Women in the Workplace report, obstacles start early and set the stage for how quickly women advance, with only 85 women moving from entry level to management for every 100 men. The number decreases further for Latina women (71) and Black women (58).
WISE national board chair and president Kathleen Francis opened the 2021 WISE/R Symposium on March 15 with these stats — and followed with a promise.
"WISE is doubling down to help you level up by making sure women have the tools, resources and community to close this gap," she said, pointing to this year's chapter-wide mentoring events, the WISE Executive Leadership Institute and the organization's newest leadership development offering, the WISE Emerging Leaders Certificate Program.
For the more than 350 attendees who logged in for the sixth symposium, a virtual event, WISE's new education partner Leading Women hosted workshops that were tailored specifically to attendees' career levels.
Emerging Leaders and Executive Level Professionals
Attendees selected their program track at registration from two options: "Emerging Leaders" for those overseeing teams and projects and "Executive Level" for professionals whose responsibilities involve organizational strategy.
The Emerging Leaders workshops focused on developing agility to effectively anticipate and respond to organizational change, creating a leadership brand that aligns with how you want to be perceived, and growing and using internal strategic networks to accomplish professional and company goals; the Executive Level workshops dove into the critical business indicators behind CEO decision-making and adjusting your communication style to demonstrate your grasp of and impact on those indicators.
"As someone who is in a career transition and looking to take on more leadership roles, the WISE/R Symposium Emerging Leaders track provided great knowledge and insights to help me through this stage of my career," said Mollye Peters, a first-time WISE/R attendee.
Evolution and Leadership in the Business of Sports
Between workshop sessions were the symposium's traditional panel discussions. In "REAL Change: The Evolution of NASCAR," sponsored by NBC Sports Group, Jill Gregory, EVP and general manager at Sonoma Raceway; Steve Phelps, president of NASCAR; and Brandon Thompson, VP of diversity and inclusion at NASCAR, discussed with Francis their response to the pandemic, their efforts around and commitment to diversity and inclusion and social justice, and the role of racetracks as community partners. Said Phelps,
We today are stronger as a sport than we were pre-COVID,
In "REAL Leadership: Finding the Perfect Fit," sponsored by Infinite Scale, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, general manager Kim Ng and COO Caroline O'Connor talked leadership and cultivating a working environment for organizational success with FOX Sports Florida sideline reporter, producer and host Kelly Saco. When asked about personal and professional progress, Ng said,
You have to be persistent as hell, and a lot of times, you can't let white noise deter you. You have to be true to your process, be true to yourself and just keep at it.
In addition to NBC Sports Group and Infinite Scale, WISE was also grateful for the support of MLB, the NBA, the WNBA, ESPN, the NHL, MLS and Molson Coors, who also sponsored sessions throughout the day.
Connecting from Afar
And while circumstances prevented WISE/R attendees from being in the same physical location, that didn't dampen their spirits. Attendees found new ways to engage, exchanging hellos from cities including New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Dublin and the Canadian province of Ontario via the event chat, using the virtual photo booth to capture a moment from the day, and "meeting up" for the "REAL Connections: Peer Groups" networking session, sponsored by Molson Coors.
"This was my first WISE event, and it was better than I could have imagined," said Danielle Barta. "I have not been able to stop telling everyone about my experience. I look forward to the next event, whether it be virtual or in person."
For general information about the symposium, visit the WISE/R Symposium homepage, and for takeaways from the 2021 event, check out our social channels — @WISEworks, #GetWISER2021 and #WISEworks.