We don’t have 117 years to wait: A reflection on the Women’s Forum

 Infographic of mindfulness

Being a professional business woman in today’s political and social climate certainly has its navigational challenges. When I first considered acquiring my MBA, I was naturally concerned I’d be thrust into a homogeneous boy’s club. But luckily for me, Portland is home to PSU’s School of Business, which proudly boasts its reputation for innovation and commitment to diversity. Its full time MBA program is 58% women, which is well above the national average of 36%. So when the School of Business announced a Women’s Forum at the Nines for a conversation about what makes us uniquely qualified, I leapt at the opportunity. (Also student pricing for an event at a 5-Star hotel? Hello!)

But what to expect?

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Are we going to metaphorically burn our bras … perhaps literally? Will the conversation focus on all the misogynistic things we encounter every day from the bus to the boardroom? Am I going to leave feeling burdened, upset and disenchanted?

Well, I’m happy to report that of course none of these things happened – must just be this election season has me on edge. The event was thoughtfully put together, and despite being in a room full of women, I never felt singled out for being one. The speakers focused on conquering the fears that keep us from fully participating in our work and our life. As a result of this forum, I am eager to draw my future, let go of the pursuit of perfection, and break my silence.

Redefine your creative genius.

Patti Dobrowolski reminded us that genius is a combination of ‘genie’ and ‘of your unique talent’ – that our association of genius with men that look like Albert Einstein is false. In her colorful career of acting, drama therapy and corporate consulting, she has found that drawing your current state calms you down, and drawing your desired future tricks your brain into thinking creatively. She led us through a workshop where we drew our current reality, desired new reality, and formulated 3 bold steps to help us get there (mine is pictured above). Learn more or download your own template here.

Perfection is all about fear.

Man, you have not cried until you’ve listened to Victoria Lara discuss the hardships she has endured. You also haven’t experienced such warmth in your soul as when she tells stories of life lessons learned. She reminded us that the root of many women’s barriers is our own fear – especially the quest for perfection. We must remember the true measuring stick of wealth and impact is love. She reminded us that for every dollar a white male earns, a white female earns 79 cents, and a Latina earns 43 cents – that it will take 117 years to eliminate workplace inequality. “I don’t have time to wait 117 years! Do you?!” she asked playfully but in all seriousness. It is important we learn not to confuse imperfection with worthlessness and start getting uncomfortable because it is the only way to grow.

What is silencing us?

Dr. Melanie Billing-Yun gave us the tools to start breaking the sound barrier. She said, “Don’t dwell on what makes it hard; let us talk about how to make it easier.” Women are silenced by everything from fear of conflict to feeling we are worthless. With only 5% of Fortune 500 companies run by a female CEO, it’s more critical than ever for women to start speaking up. With men negotiating 8-9 times more often than women, we have to make our voices heard and make sure we aren’t silencing ourselves or each other out of fear. She shared 6 tips for success, and because she is a Professor at the PSU School of Business, I would highly encourage you to seek her out to learn them directly (or pick up her book, which I’d put money on being amazing).

I have to say I’m proud I chose PSU’s School of Business and I am grateful for its commitment to developing programs like this that help women leverage their strengths as leaders. This was my first formal PDX B-School Event and I’m excited to attend more in the future. You should too!

KT Goeke was previously a branch manager at U.S. Bank and currently co-owns and manages a Pacific Northwest art business called Place & Time. KT is using her MBA to advance social responsibility.

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