Leadership Development at its best: Multicultural Women’s Conference
By Teresa Correa
The common message I heard at this year’s Multicultural Women’s Conference was simple yet extremely compelling: “A seed is always planted, but at some point you have to water it.” These were the inspirational words of Walmart Senior Vice President, Claire Babineaux – Fontenot, and ones that were obviously felt by many of the women I met.
For women in leadership positions, the bulk of those who presented and attended the conference, there came a point in their careers when they made a decision to persevere and breakthrough barriers. Sure they faced fears, challenges, and hard times but they never quit. As Lisa Nichols said in her opening speech, “Winners never quit, quitters never win.”
Johanna Martinez, who attended the leadership development conference, shared how her high school teacher had told her that she would never pass Economics. The professor planted a seed of inferiority but Johanna Martinez didn’t water it and consequently, that seed never had a chance to grow. She stayed in the class, and later went on to get her undergraduate degree and masters in Economics. She is now the VP of Corporate Risk at JP Morgan Chase. I asked Johanna what helped her persevere, what motivated her to be one of the women in leadership who got to tell her story at the event. “I could’ve easily quit after hearing that from a professor,” she said it. In her case, however, her motivation was seeing her mother’s perseverance and commitment to higher education, along with her hard-working example to improve her family’s life. For Johanna watching her mom push the boundaries encouraged her to be perseverant.
Photos from Women in Leadership during the event
The founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, shared with us a moment in her life which some might deem a failure and that for her was part of what marks the careers of many women in leadership positions. In 2010 Reshma lost the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York’s 14th congressional district (19%-81%). “I remember I wanted to cry so badly but I couldn’t… I had to be strong. We live in a society that is so ashamed of failure. Especially as women, we often feel we have to do the job to get the job.” When striving for success there are always moments of “failure.” But as Mariela Dabbah reminds us in her book Find Your Inner Red Shoes: Step Into Your Own Style of Success, “failure” is a “fracture”, a break-away from what came before, an opportunity to start new, to figure out a way to fulfill our goals.
The women at this phenomenal leadership development event have been fighting the odds for their entire careers and finding their successful path. As women in leadership positions who know many more women are needed at the top, they challenged other women to do the same.