My IWL Impact Story: 10 Years of IWL Conferences -- From Attendee to Board Chair

By Nancy Allen, Senior Director of Global Regulatory Affairs, Eli Lilly & Company


I didn’t fully grasp the advantages of working at Eli Lilly & Company until I was given the opportunity to see it from the outside - like when you see a photo of yourself taken by a friend when you were unaware. It took a day at the IWL Women’s Leadership Conference at Marian University in 2009 to provide me with this different perspective of the world - of my world. Throughout the day I met over fifty successful women from a variety of companies and with experiences that on the surface appeared nothing like mine own.

Yet by digging deeper, I found that we had more shared experiences than differences. I learned that the unique struggles we share can bond and empower us to lead change in the journey toward equality for all women.

Since that first conference in 2009, I have attended every annual IWL Women’s Leadership Conference in Indianapolis - and have even joined two in Louisville. I talk about my (Eli Lilly & Company) community of women every chance that I get. It’s through these conversations that I have learned that we have done some great things - like setting clear goals for women at all levels of leadership - but we still have room to grow. I’ve also learned that I have the power to impact this change, and the friends that I have made through IWL provide support, encouragement, and role modeling for how to make the greatest impact. As a visible representation of women leaders, I use my voice to echo the feelings of women and make it known that we are all here and we want change.

I believe in the mission of IWL - accelerating the advancement of women to drive individual and organizational growth and impact - and after seven years of attending IWL conferences, I knew I needed to become more actively involved in helping all women and organizations achieve it.

During the 2016 Indianapolis conference, I made it my goal to determine how I could best engage. I was fortunate to have lunch with an IWL board member who became my sponsor for an open seat on the IWL Board of Directors. This was yet another opportunity to engage with very successful women and men who were driven to create change and were taking steps to make it happen in their companies and sharing the message beyond, so of course I was thrilled to join. Then, a year and a half later, in early 2018, I had big shoes to fill taking over as Board Chair from Jennifer Browning Holmes, the Founder and the woman with the vision.


When I look back at the last 10 years, there are three lessons I want to share. The first is that change is like the tide washing across the sand – reshaping it with every wave. The waves are “events”, some big and others quite small. They reshape the sand and after time, it looks nothing like it was in the beginning. As women, we can create these events, big and small, that will lead to equality. The second is to take advantage of the community of women you meet through IWL. Share your story and listen, intently, to theirs. There are pearls of wisdom that you can apply today.

Lastly, use your voice. Speak for yourself and speak for your community of women. By doing so, you will help us create an environment that inspires and empowers authentic, inclusive leadership in high-performing organizations and the personal development of women.

From that first conference in 2009 as an attendee, to our 10th year now as Board Chair, I’m so proud of the growth and community that we have created at IWL over the past ten years and I am excited to see what the next ten bring.

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