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PowHER conference at ASU aims to inspire confidence in young women

Women attend PowHER Women’s Conference at ASU.
October 06, 2015

Be legendary.

That was one of four strategies for success shared by Tish Norman, keynote speaker at the inaugural PowHER Women’s Conference held Sunday at Arizona State University.

The event, organized by five ASU Panhellenic sorority members, aimed to inspire young women with the confidence and habits that would serve them well in college and beyond — while also acknowledging that although strides have been made in female empowerment, there is still work to do.

“A lot of women are really graduating not knowing that a lot of things have not changed,” said conference speaker Dale Kalika, senior lecturer at ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business.

Kalika, who spoke about the challenges Millennial women face in the workplace, said women need to be empowered to become change agents — both to change their opportunities and to change today’s organizational culture.

Speakers at the conference ranged from business experts, such as Kalika, to marketing managers to academic professionals. The event, though organized by sororities, was open to all.

Norman, executive director of leadership-development company Transforming Leaders Now, discussed how to prepare for success and how to maximize life.

“You are living in a very special time where you can be more, learn more, serve more, give more, have more, help more, read more, sing more, dance more, write more and be more,” Norman said.

Beyond being legendary — that is, making your mark, she challenged the audience to adopt three other strategies for achieving goals: Do the work; be strategic with your friends (surround yourself with people who want to achieve great things and improve themselves); and find a mentor.

“I think it’s great that there is something like this,” said conference-goer and ASU junior Alyssa Tufts, who is majoring in journalism and mass communication. “That way women can start, especially in college, they can start building leadership skills and getting into those roles at an organization, at an internship, at a job.

More than 250 women attended the conference at the Memorial Union ASU's Tempe campus and heard sessions on topics ranging from stress management to leadership to confidence.

Marlene Tromp, dean of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, told attendees that although women have come a long way there are many cultural attitudes that still need to change. By no fault of their own, people have no conscious awareness of their implicit biases, she said.

In her lecture, “Why You (Yes, You) Should Be President,” Tromp focused on social expectations that people have about women in leadership and why women should care. She laid out the challenges women face, dared the audience to think in new ways and taught them how to change gender expectations.

“There are all these double binds, there are all these challenges, and we know that one of the things that stops women from being in successful leadership positions, one of the biggest factors is what they think about themselves,” said Tromp, who is also vice provost of ASU's West campus and a professor of English and women's and gender studies.

She talked about what can be learned from research to overcome sexism, including persisting in the face of setbacks and embracing challenges.

“If you let your fear making those mistakes drive you, you won’t take those risks,” Tromp said. “You won’t accept those challenges.”

The days' overarching theme was learning to understand the stereotypes and expectations people have of women. Once recognized, the goal is to help women break those stereotypes and teach them how to succeed.

“Women can make an impact on many different scales," said Jasmine McAvan, business law and business management major and PowHER Conference committee chair. "If they can directly take a message from a particular speaker and better themselves through their personal lives or spread their willpower to improving their communities — our goal of the conference is accomplished.”

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