Women's Leadership Recap

Be Amazing … The Second Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium drew more than 800 people to Cleveland’s Public Auditorium for a day of inspirational, thought-provoking talks; shared meals and conversations; and renewal of drive and spirit. Collectively, our guests and presenters represented a breadth and depth of talent and leadership that ranged from a woman running her own construction company, to women thriving in the arts, to entrepreneurs, lawyers, and authors.

The day opened with CSU grad Dr. Rachel Talton, the self-described “nerdy geek in six-inch heels,” describing the personal tragedy she overcame before starting her company, Flourish, as a “safe space where women could come together, be uplifted and not feel empty.” Flourish now operates in four states. Talton implored her audience to “Plan for your purpose… stay hungry (and) never be complacent.”

Afternoon keynote speaker Nancy Frates, “the mom behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” cited Talton several times and shared her own moving, first-person account of her 27-year-old son’s ALS diagnosis. “What I’m going to tell you is mostly a story of love,” Frates began. She went on to describe how her son, Pete, chose to chronicle his illness to raise awareness of the degenerative disease and more than $200 million for research. She spoke of the community of people who rallied around her son. “We had the power of we,” she said.

“He wakes up every morning and he is proactive and positive. It’s a choice we make every day,” Frates told a rapt audience. “Once you have hope, you’re going to get yourself to the finish line.”

After the keynotes, participants heard from 12 insightful presenters in nine breakout sessions; 40 smart, creative and connected panelists on seven different panels; and representatives of some 50 different organizations at Expo tables.

In a breakout titled “Women in Retirement: Challenges and Opportunities,” Nan Cohen, CEO Creekside Financial Advisors, talked to audience members about time, talent and treasure. “Success is dependent on how you respect and deploy your time… Take your treasure and invest in your talent.”

In a panel discussion titled “Business 101 for Lawyers,” Sonali Wilson, general counsel for CSU, referenced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when she said “In law, we are supposed to be the drum majors for justice, (yet) this is the profession that is behind all others in terms of diversity and justice.”

CSU grad Shanette Buford-Brazzell, manager of special events at United Way of Greater Cleveland, served on a panel titled “Women of Color: Aspiring and Inspiring.” She implored young women in the audience to “Develop a quarterly list of goals, keep a journal and surround yourself with people who can uplift your daily.”

Participants posted inspirational words they heard and their own reactions throughout the day using the hashtag #WLS2016. Leonaday summed up several, writing, “I had a wonderful time at the Women's Leadership Symposium today. It is always wonderful to be surrounded by women making a positive impact in their companies, community and world. I especially enjoyed the presentation on how gender stereotypes threaten women's success and can lead us to self sabotage.”

The symposium was co-sponsored by Cleveland State University’s Alumni Association and Division of Student Affairs; the Ohio University Alumni Association; and OU’s alumnae group, ohiowomen.

See more photos from this amazing event here.