You can’t turn on the news lately without hearing mention of the #MeToo movement. What I like about this movement is it is an extenuation of the women’s movement that started last year. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL) Conference hosted by Coastal Carolina University. I was graciously invited back again this year. Last year’s conference focused a lot on the political forces in play. This year’s conference went beyond politics to really address the core of the #MeToo movement and the women’s movement in general.
After seeing firsthand discrimination and misogyny in my own industry, I knew I wanted to go back to this conference and spend a day discussing some of the issues I have gone through with other women and how to address these issues. Below are three things I gained from attending the 2018 WIPL Conference.
1. Work and Life Don’t Have to Be Opposing Forces
Last year when I attended WIPL, I was working full time at a local marketing agency. I had begun thinking that I wanted to break away from the 9 to 5 desk job and begin freelancing and working in a remote position. A month after last year’s conference, I was given an opportunity to work remotely for the Link Builders, a brand and reputation management company. This has been the best decision I have ever made. I now have so much more flexibility in my life and with my work.
Barbara Pierce Bush and her twin Jenna Bush Hager (former First Daughters) were the first to speak at this year’s event. Barbara, who is head of the Global Health Corps, mentioned during the panel discussion, that she didn’t understand why Work and Life had to be opposing forces and why we had to always talk about there being a balance. She said that is okay to be passionate about what you do and want to do it all the time. This is truly how I feel right now in my career. I have a job that I love and don’t mind putting in my time and energy. I take my work everywhere because I am passionate about it. I don’t see what I do as just another “job”.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Do Big Things
The second speaker at the event was Cara Brookins, an author who wrote about her experience leaving an abusive relationship and building her own house with her four kids. I really enjoyed Cara’s speech. I, too, didn’t have a typical upbringing. I have been in similar situations in which I was scared to live in my own home. I understood her struggle.
Cara told the story of how she left her abusive husband and decided on a whim to build her own “country” home with her four young children. In her speech, she mentioned that you shouldn’t be afraid to do big things. Building a house with your own two hands is a ginormous thing! While I am not able to just that, I am in a position where I can do big things with my career. I had reservations about working in a full time remote position. My position didn’t offer benefits. I wasn’t able to have my own health insurance, 401k, and stuff you get when you work full time in an office. I ran the risk of isolating myself from the world, but I took these risks and I have flourished. There are still even bigger risks that I want to take. I am over analytical by nature and sometimes hold back in fear. Cara’s speech reminded me that is okay to take a leap every now and then when you know it is in your best interest to do so.
3. We Need More Women in STEM
I never thought I would be a huge advocate of STEM. I am a journalism major. I like to write. Science and Math were “never my thing”. However, my position at my company led me down the Technology path. Last year, I begin getting involved in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, initially because my boss wanted me to write for his website. As I started to write for
this site, I became really invested (literally and figuratively) in the industry. I became fascinated by it. I also became aware of how little women are involved in the industry.
The lunch panel and the second half of the day featured various women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) positions. Some of these women included Joan Robinson Berry (VP and General Manager at Boeing South Carolina) and Vanessa Wyche (Deputy Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center). In both of their speeches these women highlighted the lack of women in STEM positions. Some of their points hit so close to home with me. Recently, I was asked if I would co-host a podcast series with several other women regarding Women in Crypto. The day before the conference I was reading through some comments on a Tweet I was mentioned in regarding the podcast. It was disheartening to read many men comment with “gender plays no role in the industry” or “I don’t see gender”. I held back from replying to them all and creating a Twitter firestorm, and instead want to showcase on the podcast how gender does matter.
Whether you are sitting behind a computer or standing on stage, you are still a person with a gender. And it matters. As mentioned time and time again throughout the conference, these men are threatened by women challenging the status quo. However, to truly grow an industry, you need the help of both men and women. And if women aren’t involved or are scared away from STEM jobs, then how will we ever evolve and promote real change within these sectors?
I left this year’s conference again with fire under my feet and ready to make a difference. It is important as women that we take time to give back to ourselves, and this conference does just that. It reminds me that I am on the right path and that I can bring about real change, if I set my mind and heart to it. I hope years down the line, I may be someone who can offer inspirational advice to the other 800 women in the room!