Women’s Leadership Symposium

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 15 April 2016

Waking up at 4 am on a Wednesday sounds like an awful way to start the day, right? Pair that with a four-hour bus ride to the other side of the state, and you’d think that the day is going poorly. Actually, when it involves networking with women in professional leadership positions, it’s not so bad.

I spent my Wednesday at Cleveland State University attending seminars and panel discussions on what it means to be a woman in the workforce, and what we can do to support our sisters in professional growth.

Here’s about how the day went:

4:00 am (Athens): Wake up, eat a small breakfast, get dressed in business professional attire—don’t ask me the difference between business professional and business casual, I probably couldn’t tell you—and try to leave my house on time.

5:30 am: Be late, leave my house in a hurry, and take one step down the hill, purse breaks. Great start to the day. Speed walk to Baker Center to catch the bus that’s supposed to leave at 6, see a bus leave the Baker parking lot, panic, consider going home, decide against that and begrudgingly walk with my head down to the designated meeting place.

5:45 am: Realize that the bus I saw leave was theGoBus, feel embarrassed, stand with the other attendees and wait for the real bus, not saying a word to anyone.

6:00 am: Bus leaves for Cleveland. Commence napping.

9:45 am (Cleveland): Bus pulls up to the Cleveland Public Auditorium. Attendees all pile out of bus, directly go into first session.

10:00 am: Walk in late to a panel discussion on women in male-dominated fields. Listen to testimony from female police chiefs, construction company CEOs, and athletic directors. Feel empowered. Take lots of notes. Scurry off to next seminar.

11:00 am: Arrive early for discussion on LGBTQ rights in Ohio. Realize that Ohio is still very far behind in the fight for equality. Leave feeling motivated.

12:00 pm: Lunch at a table of professional attendees. Discover one is an OU alum. Briefly chat about Athens. Lunchtime keynote speaker begins. Listen to presentation on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Feel enlightened.

1:30 pm: Keynote speaker ran long, after-lunch sleepiness kicks in. Wander into panel discussion on women in creative fields. Ears perk up at the statement “I graduated in a class of 75% women”. Try to imagine what engineering would be like with 75% women. Leave feeling disconnected and a little jealous.

3:00 pm: Attend discussion on emotional intelligence. Learn so much on emotionally conscious leadership. Decide to implement in everyday life. Leave feeling rushed, but excited.

4:00 pm: Load back up onto bus. Immediately fall asleep. Realize that I’m an 80-year old woman trapped in a 20-year old’s body.

8:00 pm (Athens): Arrive home. Fall back asleep. Too much excitement for me in one day.

It was an interesting event, to say the least. Usually, I attend these kinds of things with at least one person I already know, but this time I decided to roll solo. As a remarkably socially awkward person, this was probably not a good idea. I don’t think I had a conversation that lasted more than two minutes the whole day. But, this allowed me to spend a lot of time sharpening my observation and listening skills.

I did feel a bit disconnected from the other attendees, being one of the only engineers there, but the community was still very strong. I’ll probably try to attend again next year, if possible. Even though it’s not an engineer-focused event, it would have been nice to have an engineering presence there. Maybe it’s an event that SWE would like to partner with, since it’s like a mini-conference. I think that would be a good idea!

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