Reflections on the 2016 KU Inspiring Women in Public Administration Conference

Comments submitted by Melody Henning, MPA Student

Students & sponsors of student seats at the 2016 KU Inspiring Women at Public Administration conference. Thank you sponsors! (Melody Henning, the author of this blog article, is not pictured.)
© Dan Videtich Photography with full usage granted to University of Kansas

There was an incredible amount of insight shared with the participants of the 2016 KU Inspiring Women in Public Administration Conference that should be shared widely. The speakers and panelists have all achieved high levels of success in their respective positions, and participants were fortunate to have a chance to learn from their experiences. The stories they told were indeed inspiring – from women who were the first females in traditionally male roles of correctional officer, firefighter, insurance commissioner, chancellor, state auditor – to those who lead through research, consulting, city management, and through the voice they give to so many others. These women have paved the way, and through the knowledge they shared, we discover how they do it.

Here are some of my main takeaways from this incredible group of women:

  • Take any advantage you have and make the most of it. – Julia Novak
  • The missing 33% of career advice for women is business, strategic, and financial acumen. In other words, understand the business, where it’s going, and your role in taking it there. – Susan Colantuono’s TedTalk “Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get”
  • Collaborate, share and ask for women’s input, rather than waiting for them to chime in. Have courageous conversations. Be mentors and role models, and understand the reciprocal benefits of these relationships. Find your voice and elevate it. – Dr. Mary Banwart
  • Find mentors, take risks, and assume authority. When things go wrong, own it. Socialize success, privatize loss. In other words, take the hit for your team and share the joys. – Kathleen Sebelius
  • I’m not what I’ve done – I’m what I’ve overcome. Strategies to develop resiliency: practice self-awareness, seek feedback, know what you believe in and foster the right organizational values, establish and articulate specific goals, embrace calculated risks and rebound with confidence, balance optimism and realism, pay attention to relationships, recognize what is within your control and what is not, think positively, learn and move on, give yourself one affirmation a day, visualize where you want to go, declare and believe in what you want to do, be open to listening to yourself, your family, and those around you. – Patricia Martel
  • Listen. Be a change agent, set the tone, become the expert, take initiative, and be careful on social media. – Betsy Gillespie

This list is in no way an exhaustive list of all the insights that were shared. The most powerful lessons were through the stories these women told – and those who were in the room can count themselves extremely fortunate to have heard them first-hand. A day spent among these remarkable women has left me with a sense of responsibility to use my privilege to continue these conversations, to appreciate the endeavors of those who have come before me, and to keep striving to achieve success not just for myself and my family, but for every woman who serves society but is never privileged enough to find this agency, this voice, and this power.