Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Professional Business Women of California Conference

I was so fortunate last week to get to attend the Professional
Business Women of California's conference
in San Francisco. This was my
first time attending the event, and I was overwhelmed with everything
that went on. Every speaker was top notch, even at the sessions, and
the booths in the expo were filled with many interesting things - some
career oriented, others more personal - like jewelry or health care.
My only complaint is that with 6000 women in the Moscone Center, the 30
minute breaks were not really long enough.

The opening keynote from Martha Beck was surprisingly inspirational, as I don't normally find myself going for "feel good mumbo jumbo" - but I guess that's why her talk worked for me, she had substance behind her stories. Dr. Beck was talking about her own life and how she learned to "follow her joy" to find a career that both inspired her and that she was successful in. She noted that many people come to her, in her role as a life coach, and tell her they just don't know what to do with themselves. She found that they actually do know, but either think they can't do what they love or don't know how to get started. This gave me a moment to reflect in the joy I find in the work I do. True, there are days that aren't so "joyful", but having a rewarding job that I generally enjoy makes me a very lucky person, I think!

David Garibaldi, "Rhythm & Hue", was an amazing performance artist who made 6 foot portraits of both Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Madeleine Albright live, to perfect rhythm of the music, right before our eyes. It was very impressive!

I spent my morning in "Going Green: How Women's Economic Power and Counterintuitive Business Practices Can Make a Difference" where Diane Maceachern, Big Green Purse LLC, and Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm, spoke about green practices in our every day lives and in businesses and how they can actually save money in the bottom line. Diane, who also authored Big Green Purse, noted that women are responsible for spending of 85 cents of every consumer dollar spent - making an excellent point that if we all make wise consumer choices, we can shift the market. As an example, she noted that in 1999 there were no hybrid cars being sold commercially. Suddenly in 2004, there were 88,000. Car makers took note. In 2004 there were not enough hybrids to meet demand and by 2007 more than 315,000 hybrids were sold. Automakers went from pushing back on legislators demanding more fuel efficiency, saying there was no demand, to coming up with more options on their own. A perfect example of how consumer demand can shift the marketplace faster than legislation.

She strongly recommends everyone to install water filters in their own house and use refillable bottles for water on the go - it's cheaper, and much more environmentally friendly.

Gary Hirshberg was also very interesting, talking about how sometimes searching for a more environmentally procedure for your business, you will find something that is also cheaper. As an example, he noted how UPS had changed many of its routes to eliminate left hand in town turns - saving millions of dollars of fuel costs/year.

My highlight came at lunch time when I got to hear a very fascinating Cokie Roberts talk about the founding mothers of our country and all of the work they contributed to the US in our early years, and Madelein Albright talk about women's issues in general.

Albright spoke so eloquently, really giving me pause to think about everything that is going on in the world. She noted that it is impossible to have a true democracy in a society where women are treated as second class citizens, and that anyone who abuses the dignity of one group, whether it be women or a specific race or class, is a security threat to us all. In that vein, she urged all women to be willing to help each other, stand up for each other, and fight for education of women around the world. When the issue of the Queen Bee Syndrome was brought up, Albright noted that it is indeed an actual problem, but she felt "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

The day wound up with an energizing talk from Meagen Johnson on the four different generations in the workplace right now, Traditional, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millenials. She talked extensively about how baby boomers are really team oriented, whereas Gen X folks are more self motivated and generally prefer working independently. A neat technology point she made is that most boomers did not work with a computer until they had a full time job after graduating college. Folks from the Gen X generation on the other hand grew up with computers in the schools (I still remember my schools Apple IIe and playing Oregon Trail!). Millenials, though, grew up with a computer always around. It was a fun talk that made light of many multi-generational issues, yet at the same time got me to thinking.

Overall, the conference was amazing and I could not recommend it enough!