Being a part of the IWL Foundation community is a gift that keeps on giving. I never could have imagined the IMPACT that my involvement in this organization would have on my life when I first met its founder, Jennifer Browning Holmes. A scheduled 1-hour networking meeting with her at Paradise Bakery in November of 2010 turned into a 3-hour discussion and the beginning of an exciting growth journey for me.
At that time, I had already been working nearly three decades, led several companies as President/CEO, and frankly, hadn’t spent much time or energy on the “women/gender issue.” It became clear to me in that conversation with Jennifer how similar our career journeys had been, with their ups and downs, and that our conversation sounded very similar to many discussions with my long-time best friend, who was a senior executive at a large publicly-traded firm. Things hadn’t changed enough relating to the value of women in the workplace and with a daughter about to graduate from college and begin her own career, I recognized a new passion.
Fast forward nearly 7 years after that breakfast and I am honored to be switching hats from long-time board member of IWLF to Interim CEO. I am so grateful to be part of this like-minded community of women and men that is focused on developing individual women into leaders through empowerment, support and connections.
IWLF has helped me grow as a leader, inspired me and impacted my life in such a significant way:
I am much more knowledgeable about the inherent strengths that both women and men bring and the differences in “wiring” and communication styles that are very real.
I better recognize the biases that we all have, whether we recognize them or not, shaped by our upbringing and life experiences and how those can affect relationships in and outside of work and the importance of awareness and adaptation.
I have gained tools/frameworks for how to leverage this knowledge, show up even better, and lead more effectively in all parts of my life.
I was hired to launch and lead trueU in 2013 based on an important connection and friendship I made through IWLF and it was one of the proudest chapters in my career.
I no longer put up with certain behaviors and treatment that lacks respect, puts me down and doesn’t value the contributions and strengths I have demonstrated as a strong, experienced female leader. Yes, I have left more than one senior level position for gender challenges and disrespect.
I have had some wonderful experiences that initially pushed me out of my comfort zone and highlighted other strengths—serving as program chair twice for the annual conference, emceeing the conferences in both Indianapolis and Louisville, setting up a scholarship fund in honor of my friend and former program co-chair, Christi Anderson, who courageously battled cancer while continuing to serve IWLF.
I am able to share IWLF with my daughter and son, both successful adults who have embarked on their own professional journeys.
I have met incredible women and men through IWLF, whom I now consider dear friends and a valued support system.
Speaking of special friends, I have to highlight one remarkable person, Maggie Anderson Phelps. I watched this talented, young woman transform from a college intern to the Executive Director of IWLF. Over the past 4 years, Maggie’s leadership has taken the organization to new heights. Maggie is a special friend to me. We mentor one another, and I have learned so much from her.
The board and staff of IWLF are extremely proud of Maggie, not only for what she accomplished leading IWLF, but for what she will take with her and accomplish in her new role as Leadership Initiatives Manager for United Way of Central Indiana. Thank you, Maggie, for all you have done for IWLF and its stakeholders. Thank you for all you have done for me.
With a transition like this, there are new opportunities, and we look forward to building on Maggie’s great efforts and taking IWLF even further. I also want to say thanks to Jen Tornatta, who was recently promoted to Director of Events. IWLF is Jen’s passion and she is awesome to work with.
Having just come off the very successful third annual conference in Louisville, we look forward to an equally impactful day in Indianapolis on August 31. Look forward to seeing you there and as the conference theme reflects, helping YOU move FROM INSPIRATION TO IMPACT. That’s what has continued to happen for me since that breakfast 7 years ago and I am very grateful.