Pennsylvania Conference for Women: Four Lessons Learned

This year I had the immense pleasure of attending the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. And I wanted to share with you four of my personal highlights and takeaways from the day.

1. Millennial women face different challenges when it comes to work/life balance. I attended a panel on Achieving Work/Life Integration: How to Have it All… At the Right Time. The panelists – Amanda Steinberg Founder and CEO of Daily Worth; Molly Watson, COO of Tierney; and Mally Roncal, celebrity makeup artist and founder and president of Mally Beauty – were extremely fierce yet honest about their own struggles to the point of exposing their vulnerability.  It was an amazing panel. However, I noticed a few things: these women were all top executives, they were already at least a decade into their careers, and they all had children.

Linda Cliatt-Wayman, Principal of Strawberry Mansion High School. Photo taken from Pennsylvania Conference for Women

Linda Cliatt-Wayman, Principal of Strawberry Mansion High School. Photo taken from Pennsylvania Conference for Women

So I’m thinking: well, I’m just starting out in my career, I do not hold a c-suite position, and I am FAR from having children. So, what does work life integration mean for Gen Y women? For me, I think it’s a few things.

Learn when (and how) to say no (… and YES).

Make time for yourself to do things that keep you sane, and not feeling guilty about that because, at this point in your life, that doesn’t happen to consist of spending time with your kids.

Use this time in your career, when you have a bit of flexibility, to build your network and experiment with different paths.

I’m thinking of suggesting a panel surrounding Millennial women and the workforce for next year’s conference. Maybe I will just have to Take The Lead and ignite the conversation myself. Stay tuned…

2. “Women must learn to INTERRUPT” – Madeleine Albright. Click to Tweet

Women must learn to interrupt the status quo. Women must learn to interrupt discrimination, sexism, and double standards. Women must learn to interrupt in order for their own voice to be heard. I happen to have no problem interrupting people (ask anybody who’s ever had a conversation with me), but when it comes to interrupting the system, there’s always room for improvement.

3. “Write your own story. When you get to torn pages don’t stop, you gotta dare to dig in” – Judge Glenda Hatchett. Click to Tweet

I think when people hit a roadblock, it can be hard to push through and keep on going. When you’re fighting an uphill battle you inevitably run out of breath. But, when we fall, it’s when we pick ourselves back up that our true strength is realized. Do not be afraid of failure. It’s just another chapter in your story.

4. Linda Cliatt-Wayman is my hero.

I’m not going to lie. In coming to this conference I was initially most excited to see Hillary Clinton. I had never seen her speak before and I considered this to be an opportunity of a lifetime. Which it absolutely was, and she was AMAZING. However, my favorite speaker was in fact Linda Cliatt-Wayman, the principal of Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A woman I had admittedly never heard of before the conference.

At a school that has 94 security cameras, police that line the hallways, and an environment where students make direct threats against her life, Wayman’s  approach is to say “I could not find a principal who was suitable to handle this school. Therefore, I said to myself, because I love these students dearly and I knew the community … I would just volunteer to be the principal.

When sharing her story and explaining that every child, regardless of poverty, should receive an equal right to education, Wayman received several standing ovations from the audience of 7,000 women. A local high school principal in Philadelphia received more standing ovations than Hillary Clinton.

It’s not everyday that extraordinary women working on the front lines to make this world a better place are recognized. But at the conference, the narrative of heroism was re-written.

To help support the Strawberry Mansion  Scholarship Fund, click here.

Kaitlin writes about current events, pop culture, and innovative ways to promote gender equality through online advocacy. Read more of Kaitlin’s posts here.

About the Author

Kaitlin Rattiganis a recent graduate with an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Gender and Peacebuilding. She is a firm believer in social media as an effective and meaningful tool to promote positive societal change. Never underestimate the power of 140 characters. Kaitlin is a voice for the Millennials, a constructive disruptionist, an advocate for women’s leadership, and is a believer in challenging and expanding the definitions of what it means to be a feminist. For gender-analytical fem-tastic commentary on current events, follow Kaitlin@KaitlinRattigan. Do you have an issue you want highlighted on The Movement Blog? Is there an area within women’s leadership that you feel passionate about and want to share with a wide audience? Feel free to send Kaitlin a DM or Tweet to@KaitlinRattiganwith the hashtag #Women2025 and let’s keep the conversation going and work together to propel women into their equal share of leadership positions by 2025.