· 5 min read
Sold-out Women Lead 2022 event empowers leaders
Husker alumna Connie Collingsworth, chief operating officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, kicked off the Women Lead 2022 — Leading Through Change event in front of a sold-out crowd at Nebraska Innovation Campus on March 4. A collaboration between the university’s College of Business and College of Law, the conference advances women in law, business, philanthropy and government.
“Women Lead creates a space for women to learn from each other and grow their networks,” said Molly Brummond, assistant dean for external relations and strategic initiatives for the College of Law. “This event sells out each time, which is a direct result of the investment from our generous sponsors and the contribution our speakers make of their time and expertise.”
Spearheaded by Brummond and Sheri Irwin-Gish, executive director of communications, marketing and external relations at the College of Business, Women Lead began due to a College of Law initiative to provide training and networking to female lawyers. At the time, the College of Business hosted breakfasts for female business leaders featuring speakers such as JoAnn Martin, former CEO of Ameritas; Kim Russel, former president and CEO of Bryan Health; and Rhonda Revelle, longtime Husker softball coach. Combining efforts led to Women Lead 2020 — Claim Your Power.
“Two years ago, we created the first Women Lead event in early March, just two weeks before most of Nebraska went remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Irwin-Gish said. “Attendees shared how what they took away from Women Lead inspired and helped them during the pandemic. For the 2022 event, we wanted to recreate that empowering experience in person again.”
The 2022 speakers included a strong mix of local and national lawyers and business professionals. In the opening keynote, Collingsworth encouraged the attendees to lead through confidence, build a great team and actively seek growth opportunities.
“Have confidence on each stop of your journey,” she said. “Lead with intentionality by deciding how you want to show up as a leader. Open yourself up to uncertainty and embrace change.”
Christine Gregoire, former Washington governor, and DeLee Shoemaker, Microsoft’s general manager for U.S. State and Government Affairs, participated in an in-person fireside chat about leading through change this year after attending via Zoom two years ago due to the pandemic. Husker alumna Deb Gilg, former U.S. attorney for the District of Nebraska, moderated the discussion. Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, delivered the closing keynote with support from ACLU of Nebraska.
“Women leaders definitely are making a difference in the world,” said Jill Davis, vice president of Wealth Management Trust at U.S. Bank, who attended the event. “Powerful women, bound together by a common purpose, can empower others to achieve their own success and drive change in business and their community.”
Four women also shared personal leadership moments. They included alumna Jennifer Bear Eagle, senior associate attorney of Big Fire Law and Policy Group LLP; Teresa Ewins, City of Lincoln chief of police; alumna Helen Fagan, assistant professor of practice in agricultural leadership, education and communication at the Institute of Agriculture and National Resources, who recently authored “Becoming Inclusive: A Worthy Pursuit in Leadership”; and alumna Amy Ostermeyer, executive vice president of development at Monolith Materials. Breakout presentations ranged from the ABCs of allyship and avoiding burnout to harnessing the power of emotions when leading others and leveraging feminine strengths.
Breakout presentations ranged from the ABCs of being an ally and avoiding burnout, to harnessing the power of emotions when leading others and leveraging feminine strengths. Presenters included: Aakriti Agrawal, co-founder of Girls Code Lincoln and senior data governance specialist at Ameritas; Jamie Bahm, project manager, Center on Children, Families and the Law; Amy Bartels, assistant professor of management; Gwendolyn Combs, associate professor of management and director for faculty diversity and inclusion in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor; Karla Corona, health and behavior coach specialist and creator of the Corona Method; Michelle Paxton, director, Children’s Justice Clinic; Lindsay Thomsen, assistant professor of practice in management and director of business at the Center for Entrepreneurship; Ashley Votruba, assistant professor of psychology; and Dana Washington, general counsel at Boys Town.
“It’s so important that empowered women empower women, and Women Lead brought together leaders who were excited to support one another. At the event, we were able to support female-owned businesses and collaborate to aid in the growth of each other’s industries,” said Agrawal, who presented “Leading Through Code,” where she taught attendees to code while sharing the leadership lessons learned when teaching fourth-grade girls the same lesson.
Sponsors included ACLU of Nebraska, Baird Holm, Baylor Evnen, Cline Williams, Husch Blackwell, McGrath North and the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center. Women Lead also featured a marketplace with women-owned businesses, such as Art Bus LNK, Bright Spots Paper, Fleet Feet, Jilly’s Socks ‘n Such, Lulubee Artisanal Chocolates, Of the Earth Floral Design, Sapahn, Smartass & Sass, Una Gratia Co., the University Bookstore selling Fagan’s book and Wax Buffalo.
“As a student nearing graduation, the Women Lead conference was an amazing opportunity to connect with inspiring leaders in our community and beyond,” said Mallory Krenk, a senior management and marketing major from Dwight, who led a breakfast roundtable and introduced Fagan. “My takeaways from the day will help me become a better leader as I start my career.”