Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Professional Business Women of California Conference: Opening Session!

Last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the Professional Business Women of California's annual conference in San Francisco! This conference is both inspirational and educational, a real treat to be able to attend. Oracle, my new employer, is a sponsor of this conference as well, so I got to meet many Oracle "classic" employees and got to learn more about the company and the new corporate culture.

The day started with a wonderful suggestion from PBWC Board President Ann Barlow: "Put the Blackberry down and tune in!" This is important, particularly in today's culture - most of us do not multi-task as well as we think we do (I know I don't!) and it's nearly impossible to be reading email and fully paying attention to people in the room. Personally, I was glad to give this day my undivided attention (though I did wish they had wireless access so I could live blog... which would've gotten this entry up a lot sooner!)

Ms Barlow noted that while women have many strides as professionals, the layers over middle management are still dominated by men! While it's clear this is a problem, it's not so clear what we, as women, can do to fix this.

Our morning keynoted was from Sheryl WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize-Winning journalist, author of Half the Sky, and world traveler. Ms WuDunn told us about some of her travels - including a trip to China, where she met Dai Man Chu, a little girl who's parents were going to take her out of school in the 6th grade because $13/year in tuition was unaffordable and she was only a girl. When WuDunn wrote about this, readers from the New York Times came through with enough in donations that not only Dai Man Chu could attend school, but so could other girls in the village!

In her travels, WuDunn has learned that in many countries all resources, including food, go first to boys. In India, for example, 1-5 year old girls have a 50% higher mortality rate. In places where people make less than $1 a day, only 2% of that income goes towards educating their children, while 20% goes towards tobacco, alcohol, festivals and prostitution!

WuDunn feels the best way to end poverty and terrorism is to educate women and allow them to enter the workplace - but in order to do that, somehow a shift has to happen in spending priorities in impoverished countries. She feels that groups performing micro-loans, as well as places like Heifer International that gives livestock are some of the ways that can help make women more independent in these countries and hopefully make positive strides towards education and entering the workplace.

What an inspiring way to start the morning!