For 14 years, the city of Philadelphia has hosted what is now the nation’s largest conference for women in the country. On Tuesday, October 3, close to 12,000 attendees came together for another unforgettable Pennsylvania Conference for Women (@PennWomen), a few of whom were talented members of the CardConnect team.
The events of the conference began early but had every attendee wide awake with the powerful voices of those including Shonda Rhimes (writer and executive producer of several hit TV shows including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”), Carla Harris (Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley), and Shawn Achor (New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness).
Carla’s confident and echoing voice reached every corner of the Convention Center’s grand auditorium and reminded the women (and a few men) who were hanging on every word, about the importance of discovering and embracing the power that each one of us has. What took the form of thoughtful advice to her 25-year-old self, was a lesson to all listeners about speaking at the table you’ve been invited to, in the room which you belong. She expressed the value of investing in relationships, which without you cannot fully reach the highest potential, and to be careful not to waste time on those who can “dim your light.”
When Shonda took the stage, her theme was that of renaming “obstacles” to change perspective and hopefully turn those challenges into opportunities, by giving them a new meaning. She revealed her own deep fear of public speaking, and the journey of renaming such, that brought her to speak in front of her 12 thousand listeners.
As the day continued, the agenda allowed for attendees to venture into breakout sessions that provided for opportunity to track down discussions of many different topics including lessons for how to lead authentically, advice for dealing with difficult people in the workplace, tips for finding balance and purpose, and strategies for tackling barriers.
When the thousands of attendees came back together during lunch, additional keynote speakers inspired the crowd including Joanne Ryder, Executive VP and Chief Administration Officer at Beneficial Bank, and Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston. Dr. Brown too took the audience through a story of belonging and shed some light on the science behind the feeling. She also taught us lessons of being strongest when you’re standing alone, in what may seem to be “the wilderness.”
What was arguably the most anticipated event of the day was the moment Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Shonda Rhimes shared the stage for a conversational interview. The energy in the room was wild as Michelle entered, welcomed warmly by a standing ovation.
She gave the intently listening room her best advice on being a mother, leader and strong woman. She reminded us to give our nation’s children a voice from the beginning, so they have the foundation and confidence to use that voice in the future. Both Michelle and the crowd were also surprised when Former President Barack Obama shared with the audience a heartfelt video message for Michelle on what was their 25th wedding anniversary.
The thread that seemed to string together the majority of the abundant advice spoken during the conference was the message of belonging exactly where you are, wherever you are, embracing that belonging and using your voice to harness the power of your seat at the table.