Introduction by Mary Prefontaine
I want to share with you why we chose the theme “IGNITION” for ICAN 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference. On April 3 we will celebrate a twenty year legacy of gathering women together to have a conversation to create and bring forth new learning, inspiration and connection.
Many gifted women gave us insights into our work, our lives and our hearts at each and every conference.
Over the years women have told us that being at the ICAN women’s conference has ignited something new in them – courage, hope, boldness, ideas, happiness, forgiveness, perspective, vision, wholeness, freedom, excitement, gratitude and love…love for who they are, who they want to be, and for what is their gift to bring to the world.
With this legacy in mind, we step into the next twenty years and ask you and ourselves this question: What is it in me that is ready to be ignited? What will my legacy be in twenty years from today?
Please read our guest blog from one of the young women, Ruthie Kaplan, who shared the day with us in 2012. She is our future…
Lessons in Success for a Young Woman
by Ruthie Kaplan
Every year over two thousand businesswomen come to Omaha, Nebraska in April for the ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference discussion and inspiration about women’s empowerment in the workplace. I was lucky enough to be one of those women at the 2012 conference as a behind-the-scenes volunteer, as well as meet the successful businesswomen serving as speakers. As I listened to the women speak, I found it easy to relate to their messages, even though I have yet to enter the workforce. Even after returning home, their messages and insights stuck with me and I now have a better outlook not only on success, but also on the day to day challenges of my own life.
Arianna Huffington, CEO of the Huffington Post and one of the most influential women in the business world today, served as the keynote speaker. Arianna’s positive views on failure were surprising and admirable. She explained how failure creates more opportunities to succeed, through examples from her own life. Arianna shared when she was young she had been dating a man who she eventually broke up with because he wouldn’t marry her. “All my success came to me because a man wouldn’t marry me,” she said. This caused me to reflect on hardships in my own life. A couple of years ago, I had been participating in high school cheerleading and was not entirely enjoying it anymore. After a half-hearted tryout on my part for the following year, I ended up not making the team. So I decided to try out for tennis and made the varsity tennis team – and had much more fun than I did cheerleading! And not only did I enjoy myself more, but I also raised my high school GPA dramatically. I now realize that not making the cheer team was one of the best things that has happened to me in high school. I would never have succeeded in cheer the way I have in tennis.
Arianna’s speech also directed my attention toward college applications. As I enter my senior year this fall, I will be sending out applications to many colleges. While I know I may get rejected from some schools, instead of viewing this as failure, I now see that a better opportunity may present itself because of a college rejection. Thanks to Arianna’s message, I will always try to remember that something better may be waiting for me around the corner. The conference concluded with a speech from Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle. She had a similar message about positivity and not becoming a victim of your past. Jeannette reflected on her childhood in poverty with a dysfunctional family. She made it apparent that no matter how bad things may be there is always a reason to stay positive. She was inspired by her parents, who were always focusing on the positive even through constant financial struggles. She spoke about how embarrassed she was by her family for years until she realized she need not run from her past, but to face it and embrace the skills her experience gave her. When Jeannette spoke about living in the moment, I realized even when I am with my family, I am not always completely present because I may be concerned about something else. After reflecting on her speech, I am trying to be more appreciative and aware of the time I spend with my own family and friends and am striving to be more present in the moment.
I was lucky to have a personal conversation with Jeannette Walls during the conference and could see that she lived by the ideas she promoted. She was so friendly and approachable. As we discussed my future plans for college and career, I told her I was interested in studying psychology. She shared her experience with psychology and gave her input on how I could benefit other people’s lives and told me it was very important to do what I love. Jeannette really seems to love what she does and inspires other people to do what they love. During our conversation, and in her personal conversation with others throughout the day, she was very much present in the moment and genuinely seemed to care about each and every person she spoke to. I was so grateful not only to hear her speak on the main stage, but to receive her advice personally and experience her passion. Jeannette was definitely one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.
In addition to listening to the keynote speakers, I also took time to observe the women attending the conference and gained insight from their personal reflections. These women have already been through college and started careers, and yet they are still yearning to do greater things. I realized that all these women were in my position at one time and someday I will be where they are now. Just because I am much younger doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything in common. We all wish to grow, learn, and have a future to plan for and look forward to.
I am so appreciative that I was able to attend ICAN’s Women’s Leadership Conference. Very few high school students are able to experience an event like this and I’m honored that I was a part of it. It taught me so much about myself, strong career women and the business world. I am excited to apply the information I attained from the conference to my soon-to-be college life and, eventually, to my place in the workforce.