When Sandra Sims-Williams (Chief Diversity Officer, Publicis Groupe), extended the invitation to attend the 2015 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit (BEWPS), we expected that we’d listen to a couple of good speakers and network a bit in sunny Ft. Lauderdale. Little did we know, we’d walk away from this life-changing experience truly inspired and rejuvenated with enthusiasm to be better performers at work and in our personal lives.
About the Summit
The Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit (BEWPS) launched 10 years ago as a professional leadership conference designed especially for executive women of color. This year, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the summit reached its highest attendance record to date with over 1,000 women participating from around the world. Publicis Groupe also broke an attendance record by sending approximately 60 women from across the country and it’s network.
The three-day conference included back-to-back workshops in a variety of areas including financial planning, career advancement tips, health and wellness, and technology. To lead the workshops, Black Enterprise attracted key industry leaders to share their experiences and paths to success. These industry leaders included Mellody Hobson, Don Thompson, Lisa Nichols, Judy Smith, Susan L. Taylor, and Carla Harris, to name a few. The themes presented in this year’s summit focused on holistic development. The thought is that in order for one to succeed professionally and in their career trajectory, one must also develop and establish goals outside of one’s career—specifically, goals in spiritual and emotional areas, as well as with family and relationships, finance, and health and wellness.
Summary of the Seminars
To help set the scene, here are a few key take-aways from the “Business to Personal Empowerment” seminars we attended.
As women of color, we face a unique set of obstacles both in the workplace and in society, some of which are apparent and others imagined, that can make us feel powerless at times. In her “We’ve Got the Power!”seminar, Lisa Nichols kicked off with a few tips on how to harness one’s inner power:
“power is in your surrender to the assignment…power is in the need not to be right, but the commitment to harmony…power is being willing to make a plan.”
Carla Harris, a thought leader in the financial services industry, shared the mantra “Fear has no place in your success equation.” These statements and quotes from women who wield their power on a daily basis and use it to their advantage truly resonated with us.
The “Building Real Leadership in Real Time” seminar, which featured executives from Under Armour, USTA, and Northwestern, shared advice on how to quickly and effectively advance your career. The key is to focus on cooperation and the uplifting of colleagues so that when you succeed, the team succeeds. They also stressed how strength lies in our differences. Adrienne Lofton, SVP of Global Marketing at Under Armour said, “It’s not about black and female, it’s about diversity of thought.” Don’t be afraid to speak up because of your physical differences—they contribute to who you are and the valuable perspective you can bring to the table. The panel also provided more concrete tips on how to advance professionally, for example: being knowledgeable about the happenings outside of your business vertical and the higher level goals of your organization.
What we learned from the summit
The BEWPS summit was truly an empowering and inspirational experience for both of us. The summit provided us with key learnings that we can apply to our workday, including how to build confidence within our teams while also allowing us to forge relationships with professional women both in and out of healthcare. The experience renewed our sense of purpose, and our enthusiasm for work and what we do each day. We truly appreciated the experience and are looking forward to sharing empowerment tips and tools with our internal teams and further building upon our relationships within Publicis by participating in BESA, an organization for women of color that was started a few years ago by BEWPS attendees.
– Allison Watson, Senior Analyst, Strategy & Analysis
– Danielle Tate, Media Director