Updated: May 9, 2019
By Virginia Rauh, 5th Annual IWL Louisville Conference Attendee
On April 25, 2019, I attended my first IWL Women’s Leadership Conference at the invitation of my granddaughter, Anna Rauh, who is on the staff of the Integrating Women Leaders Foundation. At last I had the pleasure of meeting IWL CEO, Kim Graham Lee - who I had heard about over the last several years - and Katie Sheets and Margaret Geist, the other two members of the staff. At the end of the day I was in awe of these women and the Conference Planning Committee who planned and coordinated such an outstanding and inspiring day. Five hundred women and also men (known as "allies!") attended - a diverse and inclusive group - awake, aware, listening. The energy in the room was electric.
I was curious about IWL and open to whatever the day would bring. My expectation was that while it would be interesting, it probably would not offer much that would be helpful to a 91-year-old like me.
During my childhood 1927-1937, the Great Depression caused long periods of unemployment and life was difficult for my parents with 6 children to care for. During my teen years in the 1940s, going to college was out of the question; I knew only one girl who went on to college. I took the business course (typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping) and was pleased upon high school graduation at age 16 to be hired as a stenographer.
I had no motivation to have a career and certainly did not expect to be a leader. Being a follower was more my temperament. Actually, my heart’s desire was to marry my childhood sweetheart when he came home from WWII in 1945, have a home and children, and be a stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately, a conference such as the April 25th IWL gathering to motivate, inspire, and challenge women to set higher goals for themselves did not exist during my earlier years.
For me, Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, President of the University of Louisville, and the opening keynote speaker on April 25, set the tone for the day and an excellent perspective for daily living. She began with the question, “What are your CORE VALUES as a person?” There is such a need in today’s world for authenticity, for knowing our core values and allowing them to guide our decisions, choices, words and actions as an individual and as part of an institution or corporation.
Several core values considered were:
Respect - treat others with respect even if you disagree. We as human beings are all connected at a deep level by our creator.
Accountability – being responsible.
Diversity and inclusion – ask yourself who is not being heard.
Integrity – live our core values, do not just talk about them - act with integrity.
Dr. Bendapudi taught us to let this be our Authentic Voice, so that personal and institutional values are the same.
Another high point of the day was attending the breakout session led by Sara Potecha, who discussed "Articulating Your Value Through Passionate Storytelling." She used examples from her book, “West Point Woman: How Character is Created and Leadership is Learned.” She described some of the tools she used in storytelling to paint vivid pictures of her experiences as one of the first women to graduate from West Point. Sara was kind enough to offer some helpful comments to me as I prepare to write my life story.
After this impactful day, my personal action steps are:
Finding and using my Authentic Voice to tell my life story.
Receiving the Power to continue to live an abundant life until I leave this world for the next.
Living one day at a Time with a grateful heart.
I am grateful for the time given by so many who contributed to the success of this inspiring day. I heard many other remarkable women, and men, sharing their experience, strength and hope, and I hope to be back again next year to continue the learning!
Virginia Rauh is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion. At age 91, she is actively involved in the League of Women Voters, as well as volunteering with her church, St. Francis in the Fields. Virginia was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where she and her husband started a small business in 1968 - Creekside Landing Marina. She continues to run the business with her son and his family who live next door.