Team 834 Takes the Indiana Conference for Women

Last week, we sent web director Rebecca Dutcher and content director Lindsay Patton-Carson to the fifth annual Indiana Conference for Women. So, what’s a Grand Rapids-based company doing in a completely different state? We’ve gotten to know our southern neighbors a little better thanks to Rebecca, who recently relocated to Terre Haute, Indiana. When we heard about the conference, its speakers and breakout sessions, we knew we had to represent Grand Rapids in this sea of badass women.

Dare, Dream, Do

The conference is open to women everywhere, but is mostly made up of Indiana-based career women looking to gain knowledge on the next steps for their careers. The theme, “Dare, Dream, Do” was fitting for the audience. Women entrepreneurs, executives and industry experts were invited from all over the country to share their wisdom with other women just like them.
Conference organizers Deborah Collins Stephens and Billie Dragoo spoke about the conference’s history before introducing keynote speaker, Arianna Huffington. Inspiring, on point and feminist, Stephens and Dragoo encouraged the 1,300 women in the room to be hazards to glass ceilings. They parted with a requirement for all attendees: “If it’s not broken, break it.”

The Speakers

Huffington was the day’s first speaker and was there to promote her latest book, The Sleep Revolution, as well as her media platform Thrive Global, which launches in November. Both ventures focus on the same topic: well-being. By taking care of ourselves – be it getting better sleep, eating right, prioritizing self-care, etc. – we become more creative, productive and better in our careers. She encouraged everyone to focus our energy on the most important things and to do those things with joy instead of with stress and exhaustion. She also brought up how our technology is keeping us from our most productive and energetic lives. Looking at screens before bedtime interrupts our sleep patterns and gets in the way of a solid night’s sleep. In our waking lives, these devices interrupt productivity. At Thrive Global, Huffington has a no-device rule for meetings. As a result, meetings are shorter, saving more time for things that are top priority for the day.
The conference had one more group speaking engagement during lunch. This time, three speakers were brought up separately and reconvened for a panel discussion. Moira Forbes was the first speaker. The publisher of Forbes Women, she is the first woman in the Forbes family to work for the family’s 100-year-old media empire. She spoke about achieving your dreams by taking action and reminding everyone that success depends a series of big and small actions.
Forbes was followed by Stella & Dot founder and CEO, Jessica Herrin, who encouraged every woman in the room to find their confidence. She gave an anecdote about a community college counselor who told her she couldn’t get into Yale. Herrin did, telling the audience “I could doubt myself or I could doubt others who doubt me.”
The third speaker was THINX founder, Miki Agrawal, who is using her period-underwear product to break the taboo that surrounds women’s periods. Agrawal spoke openly and honestly about the way we treat something that not only happens naturally, but is essential to life. Agrawal’s product was so successful that she branched out into other “taboo” industries: pee and poop. Icon Undies is her brand that creates incontinence-proof underwear, a self-confidence boosting alternative to Depends. She also created the Tushy, a bidet attachment that helps clean your bum while lowering toilet paper and flushable wipes waste.

The Breakout Sessions 

The hands-down hardest part about this conference was deciding which breakout session to attend. There was no way to attend all of them, so each woman had to choose wisely. Of course, Team 834 took the smartest path and divided and conquered. Here are some of our key takeaways from the sessions:
“The Brand Called You”
Most importantly, embrace what is unique about you and find a way to market it. If you don’t work on creating your brand, someone is going to create one for you. When it comes to personal branding, deliver a quality product and keep it consistent while being aware of your ongoing personal growth and evolution. Remember: a good personal brand evokes a feeling in people. But make sure it’s a good feeling.
“Glass Ceiling Breakers: Lessons from Wise Women for the Next Generation”
Our society has conditioned how each gender should behave as early as the playground. Boys push and shove to get to the front, while girls wait politely in line. Throughout their lives, we try to erase qualities in women that make them great leaders. Instead, what powerful women have taught us is to embrace your inner bitch and own the playground.
“Body Language Traps and Tips for Women Who Lead”
When you walk into a room, your credibility is evaluated in the first seven seconds. We are judged constantly, and as women, our body language tells other people whether we are to be perceived as weak or powerful. Women have been taught to make themselves smaller in whatever way they can. Men, on the other hand, spread out. (Think “manspreading.”) By taking up more space, a person is seen as more powerful, which comes with its fair share of gender bias. By tweaking small body language cues, women can make themselves appear as more powerful, better leaders and more memorable.
“From Grit to Great”
GRIT is the great equalizer in life. You can teach it, you can learn to be gritty. Our country was build on grit. It’s more about the effort you put in, being resilient and having the tenacity to persevere. And for women with grit, it’s okay to own it – you’ve worked hard for where you are and the things you’ve achieved. Own it! The last words of wisdom from this session was to never quit on your worst day. Stick it out longer than you think – you’ll learn more about yourself and your own GRIT.
“Doing Good and Doing Well”
Companies who are doing good things for their employees, the environment, and other good will are changing the focus from just the bottom line. This session included four speakers who have all started companies focused on doing good. Here we heard from Grace Autosport, and all women Indy racing team – yes, every single one of them. Their mission is really to show girls that they can do this – these are STEM jobs including engineers, mathematics and statistics, aerodynamics and much more. The premise from LeanIn – is if we show girls women in these roles, then they can see themselves in those roles. “If they see it, they can be it.”
We also heard from Amy Peterson, legal counsel to the Detroit Tigers – but more importantly Co-Founder and CEO of Rebel Nell. Rebel Nell is a company that makes fantastic jewelry from fallen graffiti found in the Detroit area. They hire women from the area women’s and homeless shelters to teach them skills. The company is funded by it’s cofounders, grants, other pitch competitions and sales of their own products. Here we learned you can follow your dreams and passion, make money and still change the world.
“Emotional Agility”
Stimulus > (s p a c e) > Response = Space is where your choice is made
The last speaker, and author of Emotional Agility Susan David, Ph.D. The biggest takeaway she shared was that you are not your thoughts and emotions. When you are presented with a stimulus or an event to respond you must give yourself some space before you respond. This space is where you’re in control and have a choice in your response. It is also where our growth and freedom come from.

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