Photo credit: Brooke Alexander
Last year, Starr Butler attended WISE’s Annual Women of the Year Awards Luncheon. It wasn’t until after that she discovered there had been a professional development event the day before, so she did her research, and when this year came around, she was ready to sign up. She had to be there, she said, and the day did not disappoint.
The director of entertainment booking for Prudential Center put faces to the names of LinkedIn connections, embraced the insights offered, made note of advice that resonated and — perhaps most importantly — was reminded that she’s not alone in her journey.
“It was just good to hear that it’s not just you in a lot of these situations,” she said, adding that knowing others have experienced similar professional challenges provides a light at the end of the tunnel to push toward.
Butler was among nearly 300 professionals in attendance for a day of learning, reflection and relationship building at the fifth WISE/R Symposium on June 18 at TheTimesCenter in New York City. The event’s on-site activities and many of its eight sessions — which explored a variety of topics, ranging from opportunities in collegiate athletics to the value of executive coaching and navigating career transitions — encouraged attendees to take action, both at the event and after.
Valerie Gordon, an award-winning TV producer and founder of a consulting agency that helps people author their professional stories, led a hands-on session in which attendees candidly shared their most common reasons—ahem, excuses—for not achieving their goals. Gordon shared her 40 and challenged attendees to find an accountability partner, even offering to fill the role herself.
The “REAL Conversation: #BiasCorrect” session, which tackled what unconscious gender bias looks and sounds like in the workplace and how women can reverse its negative effects, was accompanied by an interactive social campaign. Attendees were invited to explore biased labels they may have encountered and their unbiased equivalents and post them with the hashtag #BiasCorrect.
Featured speaker Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC's TODAY Show and co-founder and CEO of HerMoney, discussed the need and benefits of talking about the uncomfortable topic of finances. Attendees received a copy of her book Women with Money: The Judgment-Free Guide to Creating the Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful (and, Yes, Rich) Life You Deserve, which dives into Chatzky’s three-part plan to help women improve their relationship with money. And, in his session on positioning yourself for success, motivational speaker and NBA chief human resources officer Eric Hutcherson used a call-and-response technique in teaching his PRIDE Principle — positive mental attitude, respect, intelligent choices, dreams and goals, and execution.
“I left feeling incredibly ramped up and excited,” Traci Borders, research director for Fox Sports, said of the session. “I was like, ‘I feel like every decision I’m making is the right one.’ It made me feel empowered.”
For Beth Green, director of sports inventory management for Fox Sports, the sheer volume and talent of women in attendance was inspiring in its own right. When she started with Fox Sports over 16 years ago, she was a woman of one in a small department. Today, she is one of eight in a department of 12 — and she loves it.
“It’s just so amazing how many women are involved in sports,” she said.
WISE Washington DC member Jana Brooks, who was attending the symposium for the first time, was similarly struck by the company.
“Since I focus on the DC chapter, I had no idea how many amazing and accomplished women — and men — are involved,” she said. “It was refreshing to network and form relationships with some real power players.”