Watermark Conference: 20 Takeaways About Women’s Leadership

Watermark is a community of executive women in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose mission is to increase the representation of women at executive levels to drive innovation, human development and economic growth. Every year they host a one-day conference. This year, of the 6000 attendees, seven members of the Blue Beyond team were there and reported back on highlights from the day, which included rousing talks from actor Mindy Kaling, Olympian Abby Wambach, Life is Good founder, John Jacobs and many more.

20 Takeaways About Women’s Leadership from the Watermark Conference

  • The inclusion of women in business isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. In the past, I’ve been to some women’s conferences where the sentiment seemed to be that there should be more inclusion of women because that’s the “right thing to do”, but the sentiment in all of the sessions I went to at this watermark conference was more that this is the “smart thing to do”.  I believe Abby Wombach said this explicitly; and others talked about the business imperative for this.  There is a strong business rationale for inclusion of different voices, experiences, perspectives, skillsets. You can’t just include 50% of the population in strategy/decision making/leadership and expect great results.
  • Embrace failure as a motivator and erase the negativity of it. Failing fast is a key component of innovation, progress, growth, and rewarding risk.
  • Verbalizing your insecurity and moving quickly to the “learning stage” is a great tool.
  • Brilliance is no more important than hope and optimism.
  • The proverbial “box” has been crushed. The first wave of feminist women in the workplace were asking for the basics of equality, the second wave were trying to have it all, and the current wave have realized that they don’t have to fit the mold of the first two waves to harness their power in the workplace.  There is no mold. We should all own this freedom.
  • We should all tap into our inner badass. The Watermark conference was both a celebration of how far women have come in terms of gender equality and also an honest look at where there are significant gaps that we need to be paying attention to and actually doing something about. It was a good reminder that nothing happens if nothing happens. Abby Wambach’s talk was particularly raw and honest. She talked about learning from failures, and even referenced her recent DUI. She admitted that she could have “done more” in terms of fighting for equal pay while she played on the women’s US Soccer Team but that maybe she was “a little too scared.” It’s surprising to think that a badass like Abby Wambach could ever feel scared, but actually doing something, pushing for any change, or challenging the status quo takes courage and effort – maybe if we all tapped into our inner badass and “stand for something” like she suggested we can make that change — whatever it is – happen faster.
  • We are proud of our client Juniper Networks for their sponsorship and for putting diversity and inclusion at the top of their agenda. CEO Rami Rahim said he hoped that somebody in the audience would take over his job someday.
  • Trust the process and do what’s authentic and true to you. Great advice from Life Is Good Founder, John Jacobs.
  • Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs. So, don’t postpone taking action. Great advice from a crowd favorite, Abby Wambach.
  • Collaboration is key. For companies to remain relevant in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment, speed of execution needs to increase. How is this done? Through collaboration. — Trudy Bourgeois, CEO, The Center for Workforce Excellence
  • Be generous. Go out and find someone you have never met before and ask them, “What can I do to help you? and see what happens. — Bourgeois
  • You are an actor in your own play at work. If you are upset about culture, you are part of it, so get involved. — Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Founder & CEO of Joyus
  • Show up constructively to help support progress. — Cassidy
  • Step up to solve problems. Nothing gets solved if no one steps up. Frame problems in a language that is also good for the organization. — Cassidy
  • Think about what you can become. Transform your career by having a bigger image of yourself. — actor and best-selling author Annabelle Gurwitch
  • Seek community and mentorship — also, be a mentor to support community. — Gurwitch
  • Look for welcoming environments where your age and experience is a good thing and work there. — Gurwitch
  • What would you do if you thought you wouldn’t fail? — Gurwitch
  • Align your present with the future you yearn for. If what you are doing and where you are at does not support who you want to become, your current set of circumstances may need to be reconsidered. — Gurwitch
  • Respect is a basic human right. — Abby Wambach