By Karyn Taeyaerts, Karyn Taeyaerts Coaching
From the hum of conversation in the restaurant, it was clear that the 1 hour allotted for small group discussion wouldn’t suffice. The women at each table were deeply engaged in dialogue around their stories – the similarities and differences in their professional experiences – across generations. Vibrant conversation – and delicious lunch – forges new relationships and opens up new ideas, which was precisely the thinking for the WLiB Committee in hosting this event. And this event did not disappoint.
A little background: What the WLiB knew from previous events was that there was interest in the Ravenswood community to open up an exchange between generations of women leaders. In addition to fostering new relationships, they hoped to shape the future goals of the WLiB and encourage more young professionals to become involved. All of these goals were achieved.
Right from the start, as the invited participants arrived, there was a great energy. Those who said ‘yes, I’ll be there’ were engaged and thoughtful and ready to share. And, so when Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer kicked off the luncheon with her empowering and motivating call to get “Off the Sidelines”, the room responded. And, the timing was perfect. These days we all seem to be reflecting a little longer, digging a little deeper and opening up a little more. All of that was true in this room.
So, yes, the small groups talked about the external: work/life balance, financial security and professional growth and path. And they also talked about the internal: importance of finding a passion, making a difference, and feeling valued. They opened up about the relationship between confidence and behavior; discussions of communication, vocabulary, and mindset. And, importantly, the groups talked about overt and subtle discrimination. In this smaller setting, the conversation opened up about the intersection of race and gender bias, the kind we see and the kind that sits in our blind spot. And, women felt comfortable asking for ideas and imagining ways to keep this dialogue going – to raise awareness.
For me, as a coach, I know the power of shifting energy to a place of potential. The energy in this room was an energy of possibility. Of “what’s next?” And, together, this group created a powerful list of next actions – including fostering connection through social and business events, creating mentoring opportunities, hosting conversations with a diverse group of women to intentionally widen our lens, and sponsoring practical workshops, such as Fiscal Health for Millennials.
I know the WLiB Committee is using this roundtable’s ideas to frame their 2017 agenda. And I can’t wait to participate in all the ‘what’s next’.