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The AWESOME from the Professional Business Women of CA conference

Home / Motivation  / The AWESOME from the Professional Business Women of CA conference


The PBWC conference was held in San Francisco’s gorgeous Moscone center. I had the opportunity (with 4000 other women) to hear from some fantastic women! Here is a summary of some the best advice I heard:

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook spoke about her latest book ‘Lean in’

She captivated the audience right away by asking the question “Are you going to be CEO?” According to her, there are 3 key reasons why women don’t aspire to be CEO:

  1. Not sure that they have the skills and ability. Turns out, when women are successful, they tend to attribute their success to luck, hard work and all the people around that played a role. “Sit at the table, damn it! You will learn on the job”
  2. It’s just obnoxious. I mean who gets up in a group of people and says they want to be CEO? Ambition can be tricky for women.
  3. They want to be a good parent. The problem is that women nowadays are frequently doing 2 jobs, not one. There needs to be more equality at home if there can be equality at work.

Notable quotes up on the walls of Facebook:

“Done is better than perfect.”

“Fortune favors the bold.”

and my personal favorite:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”


Lareina Yee, partner at McKinsey and Company provided us with stats on women in the workforce. Turns out women make up only 14% of executive committees in this country – a number that hasn’t moved in the last decade!

She spoke about mindsets and how they are like an ice-berg. You can only see a small portion but there is a LOT more that lies beneath the surface. It’s critical to bring them out and make them explicit.

Top 2 values that make leaders stand out?

  • Feedback – do you ask for regular feedback? Are you looking to improve?
  • Grit – do you have what it takes to keep pushing forward?

From congresswoman Jackie Speier (who in fact founded this conference):

“We have to stand for something, even if we stand alone.”

“When someone puts up a wall, figure out a way to walk around it.”

“Create a strategy to manage your fears and your tears.”

“Build true friendships rather than great networks.”

“Develop a razor sharp focus on what’s important.”

“Family and friends need to be number 1.”

“Pay it forward AND pay it backward.”

As great as the morning keynotes were, I was blown away in the afternoon. Rita Moreno, acclaimed singer, dancer and actress (only one of 8 living performers to have won the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony and the Grammy) took the stage. I can’t begin to do justice to the impact she had on the audience. At 81 years old, she came on stage dancing. She had a vibrancy and vitality to her that’s hard to find. Here are some golden nuggets:

“Act on your dreams.”

“Have integrity – do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.”

“Don’t hang on to old resentments.”

“Share your successes and failures – write a book! I just did!” (She just penned her first book Rita Moreno: A Memoir, released in March. Her note to all – there are juicy details on her years with Marlin Brando and yes, even Elvis).

“I am in the prime of my life. I don’t worry about my bones. As long as I have my spirit and my song, I will sing as long as the music plays.”


Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan then took the stage. She led the state through the economic downtown that resulted from the meltdown in the automotive and manufacturing sectors. Yes, Rita was a hard act to follow but she pulled it off!

Here is her advice:

“Choose your partner well. And no. I’m not referring to your business partner.”

“Let the tough stuff fuel your fire.”

“Only challenge produces the opportunity for greatness.”

“Conquer and be not afraid of taking on the hard stuff.”

“If you emerge from life without any scars…I ask was there nothing worth fighting for?”

To end off my day, I attended a session on ‘The Art of Personal Branding” by Ellen Looyen. What can I say except that she was the perfect end to a close to perfect day. Ellen is founder of Ellen Looyen Communications and works with individuals and corporations to build their personal brand.

Her talk was both informative and extremely entertaining! Here are some snippets:

“There is no such thing as objective reality. All that exists are perceptions.”

“Position yourself. Occupy a distinct position in the mind your ideal customer.”

“Be heartfelt. Be authentic. Be known for contributing your value.”

Ellen’s talk brought up an important point to note. Whether you are a large corporation, a small business owner or a professional working for a corporation, you have a brand. And if you don’t work on it and have it reflect who you truly are, then the people around you will do so for you.

Here’s how to figure out your unique value:

“What are you..

known for?

known as?

known for knowing?”

Ellen then spoke about the 3 sources of Power:

  • Authority – by your position and title
  • Persuasion – application of logic and evidence
  • Influence – the ability to affect change without exerting authority

According to her, the most successful people are those that can use Influence.

“Be fully present with people.” The 3 things that keep you from doing so:

  1. A busy mind
  2. A worrying mind
  3. A critical mind

Identify which one or combination you are and work on being present.

And then what I thought was the best advice:

“Find one thing to connect your passion to your life. If you can’t, you are wasting your life.”

Overall, the conference was fantastic. I loved being in an environment with so many intelligent and accomplished women. While I’m not a fan of generalizations, I do realize that there are fundamental differences between men and women and the more we can learn and understand our natural tendencies, the more we can work together to create a highly effective, successful and fun (in other words AWESOME) world.

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