10 years later, OCU conference continues to inspire women
Approach job interviews like you’re talking with an old friend. … Act on feedback given in performance reviews. ... Pre-plan for crises. … Stay on the edge of change.
The tips are among the key takeaways of the 10th annual women’s leadership conference of Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business. The event drew some 525 participants to the Cox Convention Center on Thursday.
The inability to accept feedback stops careers, Linda Clark, veteran human resources professional-turned-business coach, told attendees.
“Consume the message,“ Clark said, “versus the irrational stories we tell ourselves, like ‘Oh my God, I’m getting fired.’”
She suggests thanking managers for feedback and, most importantly, responding soon after with action plans.
Brian Parsons, associate dean of OCU’s theater department, told women to avoid questions such as, “Does that make sense?” or “Is it OK?” when giving input.
“You were hired because of what you have to say,” Parsons said. “And when you understand you have something to say, you’ll be slower, relaxed, confident — and be heard."
In interviews, candidates should act as if they’re visiting with someone they’ve known for years, Parsons said, noting story-telling is a key tool.
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“Treat the interview as if it’s your first day of employment,” he said, “like you’re getting to speak with the person you’ll be working with.”
Today’s workplace might as well be the 1950s when it comes to the lack of women in upper management, said Peter Glick of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
A masculine contest culture of “show no weakness or emotion,” “put work first” and ruthless competition still prevails across many workplaces, Glick said. Assertive women and minority men are the most harassed and put back in their place, he said.
Change requires deep work in organizational culture, he said. The most effective initiatives to bring together all employees, Glick said, are ones that organically leverage core, mission-related organizational goals, such as reducing workplace accidents or increasing innovative products and services.
A panel of communications experts advised attendees to pre-plan for crises, such as the Wells Fargo account fraud scandal. Public relations expert Kym Koch recommends TV training for would-be spokespersons and building an authentic, believable brand on social media.
“You can be harmed by your response, or lack of response to crisis,” Koch said. “It’s best to be transparent, don’t try to couch it or explain it away.”
The Oklahoman Publisher and Editor Kelly Dyer Fry agreed.
“Get the facts out,” she said. “It’s usually better than the rumor mill.”
Change, change, change
Keynoter Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and Snapchat board member, said professionals must stay on the edge of change, or risk being irrelevant.
“What worked six months ago, won’t today,” she said.
Coles knows the lesson all too well. When the circulation of Cosmo dropped from 2 million on newsstands to less than 100,000, she “took an old magazine we knew people loved and introduced it to Generation Z on Shapchat multimedia messaging app. The thing just took off,” she said. Today, there are 12 million subscribers.
Coles urged women to check in every three months with people across their networks.
“It’s often the loose ties, or friends of friends, who turn out to be the most helpful,” she said.
She urged women who’ve been turned down for raises or promotions to ask again, politely and with a common goal, three months later.
“Don’t hover over middle management, but aspire to executive positions,” she said. “The higher up the ladder you go, the more support, money and control over your schedule you’ll have.”
The theme of this year’s conference was “pivot,” which was introduced by the first speaker, Linda Rossetti, author of “Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life.”
“Transition is a shift in what holds value and meaning to us,” Rossetti said. A transition may follow a happy or unhappy catalyst like remarriage or job loss, or simply restlessness, she said.
“But it’s an invitation to bring more of who we are into the conversation.”
Rossetti challenged attendees to dream of imagined possibilities, such as starting their own businesses or changing industries.
“Then take a small step to test your vision, validate your confidence level and build on that,” she said. "That step could be as small as watching a TED Talk."