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Thoughts on the Women’s Leadership Institute

December 6, 2011

Hello, dear readers! I hope you are well and getting into the holiday spirit. Here on campus it is finals week which is always such an interesting week on campus. The term is coming to a close and yet before the campus goes completely silent, there is a mad rush of energy and activity. Anyway, today I just want to share some thoughts I had as I’ve been meditating on what I heard, learned, and experienced at the Women’s Leadership Institute I attended last week in Laguna Niguel.

First of all, it was my first time at the Women’s Leadership Institute and my first time in Laguna Niguel. Both were wonderful experiences and the first takeaway from the experience was how supportive a lot of supervisors are to fund the travel to the institute for their employees. There were about 150 women who attended the conference and the California State University system was well-represented at the institute. It was nice to see that many supervisors hold professional development of their staff to be important. (I’m very lucky that our University Librarian told me about the conference and supported my attendance.)

Overall, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had at a conference. All of the speakers, from the panelists to the keynote speakers, were amazing. I’ve never been to a conference that had speakers who were so good across the board.

One of the best sessions was the opening keynote by Sara Laschever who, along with Linda Babcock, wrote the book: Ask for it: How women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want. She was a fantastic speaker and her book is great (I bought it while at the institute and devoured it on the flight home). Her research shows that women are fantastic negotiators when negotiating on behalf of someone else but not good at all when negotiating for themselves. Because of this, women don’t get promoted or get the perks and benefits that men get simply because they don’t ask. Now there are a lot of other gender biases that women have to overcome that men don’t, but actually asking for what they want is a huge first step.

After Laschever’s talk, lots of the women were sharing stories of when they should have asked or negotiated for something and what they had asked for that they never thought they would get. It was great because many then started asking for things, that may seem small but that they would not have thought of before the talk. For example, on the last night of my stay I noticed that I hadn’t been left one of those tiny bottles of lotion in my room. I really wanted one because I hadn’t packed any, but was going to just forego it because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. Then I stopped and thought that was silly, picked up the phone and requested a bottle of lotion. Three minutes later, housekeeping was there with two bottles of lotion and I was happy (and proud of myself for actually asking. This may seem like a small thing to you, but to me it was a huge victory to actually ask for something, even if it was just lotion). I highly recommend the book to everyone and suggest you share it with the women in your life.

One of the major themes that ran throughout multiple talks was the large issue of work/life balance. I know I continually struggle with balance in my life (even on the yoga mat) and I was excited to hear about what the very powerful and influential women leaders had to say about work/life balance. Basically, no one has a grasp on work/life balance and the take away message was that you can’t have it all, something always has to give.

I was talking with a library director while I was there and she said that the best thing one can do is extend grace to one’s self because not everything will go perfectly and that’s okay. I think this was one of the most important pieces of wisdom I heard while at the conference because it helps me remember that I don’t need to be perfect when I would never expect anyone else to be. The other very important idea, which we all know but it is a good reminder, is that you have to decide what is most important in your life. To do this, you have to determine what you define as success for yourself and not what others think should define success in your life.

There were also some amazing talks on different styles of leadership, developing your career and your brand, and successfully having difficult conversations. It was an inspiring three days surrounded by many current and future leaders in higher education and now my reading list for the holiday break has grown about three-fold.

Throughout the institute, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts was the structured wellness time each afternoon. During wellness time, there were different activities you could choose to join or you could choose to go off on your own for a walk on the beach or time just thinking. It was a great mix of activities and a reminder to take time to slow down and actually be present instead of trying to multi-task for the entire day. It was also a great time to reflect on what we were learning and it made the institute feel less like a blur than other conferences I’ve been to in the past.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share more with you, dear readers, about what I learned and how I think it will impact my career path and journey in the coming years. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about leadership and any of the conferences you recommend.

Have a wonderful rest of your day, read a good book, talk with a friend, and remember to enjoy the journey. I’ll be back with more libraries, archives, and tech news soon. Allons-y!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Malka Helfman permalink
    December 6, 2011 12:25 pm

    Diana, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I learned (too late) that there is no harm in asking for what you want. The worst you can expect is that your request will not be granted.
    I’ll put the book on my ‘to read’ list.

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