Posts Tagged ‘Arizona Women’s Conference’

Lessons and inspirations from the Arizona Women’s Conference

Today I want to share some of the lessons I took from the first – and hopefully annual – Arizona Women’s Conference held yesterday at Scottsdale Community College. (I learned long ago in journalism school that it is incorrect to say First Annual Event, as it can’t be annual until there is a second one, and you can’t know there will be a second event until it happens.)

The theme of the event was INFORM • INSPIRE • IGNITE, and I experienced all three of those things during the conference. Here are the highlights that stood out for me:


Julie Erfle, immigration reform advocate: Widow of fallen Phoenix Police Officer Nick Erfle, who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, Erfle gave an emotional, impassioned talk about the importance of finding our common ground on even the most divisive issues: immigration, healthcare, education. She writes a fantastic blog: Politics Uncuffed. She also advised against investing too strongly in future plans, because life so often throws us unexpected curveballs.


Sheila Tobias, feminist activist: Leadership isn’t getting people to do what you want; it’s getting them to want what you want. It is essential to be able to provide accurate, actionable feedback to people you’re leading in order to steer them to live up to their potential.

Linda Shaffer-Vanaria, 21-year Navy pilot vet: It’s important to find balance between the team and the self. It’s up to you to step out to be known and understood, but that can only happen once you’ve decided how you want to be known.

Jan Gehler, Ed.D., president of Scottsdale Community College: It’s important to find balance in leadership, between who you are intrinsically and who leadership demands you become.

Roberta Mack, activist: There is immeasurable benefit in volunteering, probably more so than in working at a job for which you earn money. She also spoke of the essential need to build teams.

SHAPING MINDSET, PHILOSOPHY, AND INSTINCT, presented by Linda Shaffer-Vanaria

Transitioning from Navy pilot to coach, Shaffer-Vanaria understandably derives much of her philosophy from her Navy experience. My biggest takeaways from her presentation were: To what degree am I responsible for targeting my own mindset? What am I breathing in – what am I inviting in to my air, my space, my energy, my being? How do you move from 20/20 hindsight to 20/20 foresight?

IMPROMPTU SPEECH BY LILLY LEDBETTER, author of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond

Far and away the most inspirational part of the day was getting to hear Ms. Ledbetter speak. Her southern drawl is delightful, but she’s a firecracker and determined as hell to get her important message across. She had originally planned only to sign and sell her books in the vendor room for the event, but someone offered her the mike at lunch, and she graciously accepted. I made a connection with her when I asked a question during the Q&A: “You have a roomful of women here. Which single action would you recommend we take in order to make a difference on this issue of pay equality for women?” Her answer: “Get educated and vote!” She admonished the room not to form our opinions based on TV ads or newspaper editorials, but to check actual records of the candidates and know what they’ve really done, as opposed to what they’re promising to do.

Later, when I stood line to purchase my book, she remembered me, thanking me for my question, and asking what I do for a living. “I help people who are self-publishing their books,’ was my answer. “Really?” she asked, her face lighting up. “That’s great!”I asked if I might leave my card with her, and she said yes. What she does with it next is anybody’s guess, but it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

DIGITAL STORYTELLING: Finding Your Voice through Story, presented by Linda Hicks and Rachel Woodburn

The facilitators showed a number of very short films made b y their students in which the students combined images and narration to tell their poignant and funny personal stories. The allotted time was far too short for the material they had to present, but I was encouraged to do more video exploration and to make more zines.

A delightful participant, Evelyn Guenther, shared that she’s working on a project to transcribe her grandfather’s diaries that began about 1908 and her father’s diaries that date back to about 1925 for her children. She’s not writing a book, just putting the diaries into a digital format for posterity. She described herself as a conduit between the past and the future.

Awesome quote shared by the facilitators: “My children listened me into storytelling,” by Jay O’Callahan, professional storyteller.


Though you’ll have to read her forthcoming book (which I will have the privilege of editing) to fully grasp the concept, Natasha delivered the seven steps to transition from the Western status quo focus on illness to a new paradigm: focus on health.

  1. Stop.
  2. Become aware.
  3. Be health (not illness).
  4. Cultivate curiosity.
  5. Channel creativity.
  6. Grow and renew.
  7. Heal, change, and thrive.

I loved this presentation! It’s so refreshing to hear a doctor, initially educated in indoctrinated into the status quo Western focus that keeps us ill, challenge and empower her audience to take responsibility for their own health by shifting their focus from disease to health.

In one exercise, she provided us a small sheet of 4 labels and had us write down four current health concerns, and then apply the labels to our clothing. Then, she said, “Rip off those labels. Those labels – the words you wrote on them – are NOT you!” As her presentation continued, I made label backing sheet into a tiny zine on which I wrote eight health affirmations. When I showed it to my husband last night, he said, “Now you just need to say those every day, right before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up.” I intend to do just that!

What’s in all of this for you?

  • When conferences come up in your area, make a point to be there!
  • Go with an open mind, rather than an agenda carved in stone.
  • Be strategic about which events you attend. Simultaneous to the Digital Storytelling presentation was a presentation titled How to Write and Publish Your Book. Would my prospective clients have been at that presentation? Yes. But I didn’t want to tread on the presenter’s space – and I figured I was more likely to learn or be inspired at the Digital Storytelling presentation.
  •  Get a vendor table, if it’s a conference tailored to your niche audience.
  • Take plenty of business cards, and don’t be afraid to use them. BUT – don’t just throw them at people. Make sure the connection is authentic before you hand your card to someone.



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