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With the iconic Elton John song “The B*tch is Back” pumping through the Iowa Events Center, the fifth annual Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC) women’s leadership conference kicked off with opening keynote speaker Carol Vallone Mitchell, author of Breaking Through B*tch: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly.
Speaking to more than 900 women leaders and 200 undergraduate students from Central Iowa colleges, Dr. Vallone Mitchell addressed how women can step up and lead. She spoke about her behavioral profile of success for women leaders, which she created and uses with Fortune 500 companies to develop women leaders.
Other dynamic keynote speakers at the Central Iowa Conference included Arianna Huffington, chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group; Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA; and Marietta Colston Davis, vice president of U.S. Dynamics at Microsoft.
Ms. Huffington sprinkled her remarks with humor about the story that led her to change her life and write her 14th book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. “We have defined success as money and power, which is like trying to sit on a two-legged stool,” she says. “We must expand the stool to include a third leg and metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.” Ms. Huffington’s revelation in her workaholic life came when she passed out, broke her cheekbone while falling, and woke up in a pool of blood. From this ordeal, she became more committed to better health and sleep, vowing to get at least eight hours each night. Her most recent book, which debuts in April 2016, is entitled The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night At A Time. “I feel really strongly that our country changes its direction on sleep,” she says. “I encourage our hardcore journalists to sleep in our nap rooms at The Huffington Post instead of drinking more coffee or eating a cinnamon donut.”
Ms. Chávez spoke with passion about elevating girls in leadership, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She noted that Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low recognized that it is imperative “that girls understand the power of science and math,” in addition to financial literacy and philanthropy – and that commitment continues today in Girl Scouts. “We are seeing a shift where girls are seeking even more activities and badges in math and science,” says Ms. Chávez. “We know we can provide the largest STEM program for girls in the country.” Additionally, she cited a Girls Scouts Troop in Iowa, “The Flying Monkeys,” who have a patent pending on a prosthetic finger device created specifically for a troop member who was born without fingers on one hand, as an example of Girl Scouts succeeding in STEM.
Des Moines area native Marietta Colston Davis urged women during a luncheon keynote to “own their lives.” She described four areas in which women need to own their reality, including “owning your trade-offs” by forming your own definition of work-life balance; “owning your network” by creating your personal board of directors and realizing the power in your women’s network; “owning your opinion” by having a point of view and a solution; and “owning your career” by taking initiative and offering innovative ideas. Ms. Davis stressed, “It’s all about the journey and not the destination – regardless of where you are in that journey.”
Liz Nilsson-Halder, IT director at Principal Financial Group served as the Conference Chair. Principal Financial Group was the 2015 Central Iowa Conference Presenting Sponsor. Ms. Nilsson-Halder praised the diversity and the quality of the keynote and breakout speakers. “IWLC raises the bar every year in the quality of speakers and content,” she said. “This year was no different. My inbox has been overflowing with compliments from attendees!”
At the conclusion of the conference, IWLC CEO Diane Ramsey announced that Principal Financial Group has signed on as the 2016 Presenting Sponsor of the IWLC Central Iowa Conference, to be held October 27, 2016 at the Iowa Events Center. “Principal Financial Group is proud of its role in driving positive leadership outcomes for women,” said Ms. Nilsson-Halder. “The company walks the talk. Its role as Presenting Sponsor for the conference is a natural extension of this commitment.” Ms. Nilsson–Halder noted that in addition to Principal’s corporate support, leaders within the organization sent more than 100 Principal employees to the conference. “This is a testament to the internal leadership support for growth and development,” she said.