2019 Women in Leadership Conference to focus on accountability, action

The WIL leadership team
Women in Leadership (WIL) conference team members: Left to right: Sandra Tamer, MBA 19, Lauren Grimanis, MBA 20, Mila Pires, MBA 19, Annie Powers, MBA 20, Geena Haney, MBA 20, Kate Hancock, MBA 19, (conference co-chair) Jordan Baxter, MBA 19, (conference co-chair) Lipika Grover, MBA 20, and Erin Casale, MBA 19.

If 2018 was the year that the world woke up to the #MeToo movement’s allegations, marches, and debates around diversity and equity, 2019 is shaping up as a year of accountability and action.

That’s where the Berkeley Haas Women In Leadership team drew its inspiration as members organized the 23rd annual conference, to be held this Saturday, March 16, at Berkeley Haas. For six months, a leadership team of seven second-year MBA students and partners have been prepping for Haas’ longest running student-led conference. Organizers are expecting more than 300 people will attend, with 20 speakers lined up to talk about everything from inclusive culture to imposter syndrome.

This year’s theme is “Your Stories, Your Growth.”

“We recognize that everyone attending this conference brings something to the table, and we created this theme to inspire people to recognize the value of their own stories, and share them with others,” said Erin Casale, MBA 19, a WIL leadership team member who worked in management consulting before coming to Haas. “Stories inspire change, and that’s our ultimate collective goal.”

Pioneering women leaders

After breakfast and a welcome address from Dean Ann Harrison, the day will feature a keynote, talks, and four breakout sessions. Sessions will cover, for example, how millennials can drive corporate change for gender equity and how to fight imposter syndrome (and learn what kind of imposter you are). Another session, led by two T-Mobile senior employees, will allow attendees to practice having courageous workplace conversations.

Among the list of speakers and companies participating, many are women who broke into senior positions in industries or roles that were historically closed to women. They include Sandra Lopez, vice president at Intel Sports and Teri List-Stoll, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Gap Inc., who will give the day’s final keynote. Other speakers include Tyi McCray, the interim director of diversity and belonging at Airbnb, Brandi Pearce, the faculty director of Teams@Haas and a lecturer in the Management of Organizations Group at Haas, and Elena Gomez, CFO of Zendesk.

Coming away with a “clear next step”

For Casale, a big part of planning this conference required reviewing formal written and informal feedback from last year. The goal was to make this year’s conference unique and fun, especially given the current climate in which #MeToo news dominates the headlines regularly. “We wanted to make sure people didn’t feel tired or worn out from current events, but rather  inspired to take action at work and in their lives,” Casale said.

She added that business schools can do a lot to improve equity fluent leadership, a term coined by Kellie McElhaney, the founding director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership at Haas, which emphasizes the value of different life experiences, encouraging people to use their power to remove barriers, increase access, and drive change for positive impact.

The hope is that attendees will walk away from the conference ready to start a hard conversation at work—or share an inspiring story with friends or coworkers, Casale said.

“For us, it will be a win if attendees come away with a clear next step of what they can do to set themselves and their peers on a better path toward equity and inclusion,” she said. “We want people to feel equipped for change and inspired to start it.”

Tickets are available here.