Virtual Interactive Workshop Recap: Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers and Forging the Future

On March 10, 2021, Management Concepts partnered with Federally Employed Women (FEW) to celebrate Women’s History Month with an interactive virtual workshop, “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers and Forging the Future.”  Over 200 attendees from multiple countries, all levels of leaders from the public and private sectors, and active-duty military members attended the event.

Michelle Clark, Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Management Concepts, opened the workshop by welcoming attendees and introducing Karen Rainey, President of Federally Employed Women. Rainey’s remarks highlighted the contributions of women leaders in the workforce, current challenges, and how FEW supports its members’ personal and professional development.

The workshop was facilitated by Debra Eshelman, Managing Director at Management Concepts. Eshelman has more than 25 years of experience in human capital management, organizational development, strategic planning, group facilitation, and leadership development. She opened the workshop by interviewing her co-presenter, Dr. Karen Milner, about her own professional experiences. Milner is the current Special Assistant to the President for Mentoring for FEW on the National Board of Directors and had begun her career in active duty in the U.S. Army and later as a civilian at the Department of the Army.

The workshop explored the struggles and triumphs of professional women from the past to the present, referring to famous historical figures such as Harriet Tubman’s courageous feats in the struggle against slavery as well as unsung heroes such as research scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose work was integral to the development of the DNA double-helix model.

The discussion also covered common gender-based barriers in the workplace today. Several of these biases include implicit, paradoxical, and intersectional biases.

  • Implicit biases – Attitudes and beliefs outside of our conscious awareness or control.
  • Paradoxical biases – A person, situation, or action that has seemingly contradictory qualities or phases.
  • Intersectional biases – The complex, cumulative way in which effects of multiple forms of discrimination (i.e., racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect in the experience of marginalized individuals or groups.

Individual participants were given the opportunity to speak about their personal experiences regarding their challenges and how they navigated these situations to lead to positive outcomes.

All participants left the workshop with a list of strategies to overcome gender bias in the workplace, including:

  • Reflect on your own behavior and try to minimize your own biases at every opportunity
  • Educate yourself and others about how stereotypes work
  • Use language consciously to make sure you aren’t reinforcing gender stereotypes
  • Hold decision-makers accountable when you see gender bias occurring in the workplace
  • Vouch for the competence of women leaders
  • Be a mentor or sponsor to help others in your organization address gender biases
  • Identify a mentor to consult with when needing to navigate a bias situation

This hour-long workshop was only a small sample of the content covered over two days in the new Women in Leadership course. Attendees enthusiastically provided positive feedback, demonstrating the immense value they gleaned from this event and its pertinence to the professional development of women everywhere.

Leadership & Management
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