Since 2019, I have had the pleasure of being involved in the Empowered Women’s Event series as a committee member, with our organization as an in-kind sponsor. The event focuses on storytelling and according to event founder and host, Susan Freeman,
Stories have a transformative power to allow us to see the world in a different way than we do if we just encounter it on our own. Stories are an entry point to understanding a different experience of the world. Storytelling, presenting a different perspective of the world, is important when it comes to connecting with each other. It gives us an opportunity to learn from another person’s experience and it can shape, strengthen, or challenge our opinions and values. When a story catches our attention and engages us, we are more likely to absorb the message and meaning within it than if the same message was presented simply in facts and figures. When someone tells their own personal story, we catch a glimpse of a view of the world that may be slightly or radically different from our own. When we see the world as they see it, or walk in their shoes, the experience can inspire empathy.”
I never fail to leave the event inspired, challenged, engaged and enthused. Volunteering as a committee member is a lot of work when you do it well, but it’s incredibly rewarding and never more so on the day of the event itself. Yes, other genders are welcome too (and encouraged!) and we learn so many lessons throughout the day.
So why attend an event designed for women?
I asked some of our committee members in the weeks leading up to Empowered Women 2022 and added my own thoughts and this is what we said.
- Learning how to harness the power of vulnerability – not only is this the topic that speaker Eva Wisnik connected with us on, but it’s something we learn over and over again at these Empowered Women Events. This is the special sauce that you’ll get when you’re in the room at EWE. So many women shared their stories – on stage and off – in ways that they never had previously. It was truly beautiful.
- Connecting with amazing women leaders: We had TWELVE incredible women speakers who showed us the power of storytelling throughout the day, women leaders from TWENTY-TWO phenomenal sponsors and their guests who were in the audience, another TWELVE powerhouse committee leaders, not to mention over 100 attendees who brought their own leadership skills with them. It was an amazing room full of phenomenal women.
- The chance to open your mind: When we’re working in the day-to-day and often in our personal lives, it’s easy to get stuck in the details – and of course, those details are important. That’s how we get things done and it’s how we move from one thing to the next. But stepping back and attending a conference like Empowered Women 2022 allows us a moment to breathe, to take in other women’s stories, and other perspectives, and to open our minds in a way that may let some new ideas in. A quick anecdote – I remember being at a legal marketing conference a number of years ago when the keynote speaker was from Zappos. A few attendees muttered that they didn’t know what shoes had to do with legal marketing and skipped the session – but it was immensely valuable. Something doesn’t always have to be within our wheelhouse for us to benefit from it; in fact, many times, we benefit from something BECAUSE it’s different from our experience. I have notes upon notes from Thursday’s events to follow up on in the coming weeks.
- Flex your empathy muscles: Empathy is my superpower, so I love this one! With everything going on in the world at the moment, it can feel like we’re in empathy overdrive. But the opportunity to be in a room with so many incredible people, who are sharing their raw and honest stories with us allows us to be both compassionate AND hopeful. We shed so many tears last week, but we also got actionable items to walk away with that made us all feel powerful.
- It fills you up: Many of us are running on empty these days, between demanding careers and equally demanding personal lives. It’s hard to imagine taking the time out to do one.more.thing (am I right?). Particularly when we’re also being called to show up in the world around us for some pretty heavy stuff. But what I’ve found at Empowered Women Events is that the day fills me up in a way so that I’m able to recharge and re-center; I better connect with myself and what my purpose is, so when I return home and to the office, I am fresh again. I felt so ready this past Monday to hit the ground running, and that’s thanks to the amazing women in that room.
- Learning how to support other women: We’ve all heard a lot about mean girls and bullying – how to spot them, how to avoid them, etc. But we don’t hear as much about how to find your “girl gang,” how to lift women up and how to tangibly support other women. Not only does that happen at EWE, but there are concrete examples given for HOW to support other women, both at the event and afterward. We heard the stories AND we connected with each other, both offline and on, so that we can continue to support each other.
- Investing in yourself: A whole day event can feel daunting, but it’s truly an investment in yourself. Everyone in the room was committed to each other and the discussions that we were having, the stories that were being told, and the follow-up. We invested in ourselves and we’re investing in each other.
- We’re back in person! This may seem silly, but while virtual meetings can be and ARE valuable and last year’s Empowered Women Virtual Event was AMAZING, there is something special that happens when everyone is in a room together. You have the benefit of social cues and body language, studies say that you gain more trust and pay more attention, and there really is just *something* that happens when we’re together. There were so many great hugs, meaningful glances, real connections and lifelong friendships made in that room.
- Supporting Dress for Success: Each year, we partner with Dress For Success and ask all of our attendees to bring a gently used handbag (or two) to donate and the response has been tremendous. We love working with them and helping to further their mission of empowering women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire, and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. I thought I knew a lot about Dress for Success already before last week, having partnered with them over the last three years, but it turns out there is a LOT more to them than I realized! So if like me, you think you know all there is to know about them, maybe take a quick look at their website and see what else they do and where you can pitch in to support them better.
- Being inspired and empowered: For everyone who has attended the EWE before, there is something magical that happens there – it sounds hokey, but it’s true. Whether it’s the strength of over a hundred women being together in a room, the vulnerability of our speakers sharing their personal stories, or the recognition of ourselves in each other, everyone leaves feeling a fire within themselves. I certainly did!
This is just one women’s event (and admittedly, it’s a pretty special one!!). But there are many women’s events and other types of dedicated affinity group events that celebrate the people you identify with best – find the one that makes you feel the most connected and engaged. Maybe it’s even Empowered Women 2023! We’ll be in Philadelphia on June 1st!