ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference: A Review From Three Perspectives


By Bob Cronin
ICAN Board Member
SVP, IT and Infrastructure, ACI Worldwide

You had me at “Hello”… Or maybe more accurately, you had me at: “This girl is on fire!”

What an exceptional event the 2013 ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference turned out to be. The opening song, sung by the extremely talented Brownell-Talbot student Grace Bydalek, set the tone. And from there, each and every presenter added to the deeply emotional, totally real connection we have to the world and helped open our view to the world we could be.

As a man attending my third ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference, I am writing this blog from three different, but interrelated perspectives – as a man, as an IT executive and as an ICAN board member.

From the board member point-of-view, two key themes arise. First, is a feeling of great pride. How wonderful Mary and her team are, as well as the board members such as Tonya Kaminski and Leisa Hillman. Tonya’s and Leisa’s stories took us way beyond the roles of co-chairs to personal and lasting connections with each of them. Second, there is clearly a great opportunity in front of us. At every turn, there are ways for ICAN to expand its circle of influence. From partnerships with Harvard Medical School (to study the importance of sleep) and with the organization SF.com, to the exploration of extending ICAN’s mission into Africa, to work ICAN is doing with Girl Rising in support of education for girls, the list goes on and on. Mary’s and ICAN’s goals will be realized! They can’t be stopped.

As an IT executive, my thoughts quickly turn to the talent and leadership represented in the room on Wednesday – Over 2,000 of the most skilled and creative women (and a few men). How can we build and extend the connectivity of this talented group? How can we have greater positive impact on our workplaces, our community, our country and our world? Again, the opportunities seem to be everywhere. I personally was involved in multiple conversations with women who are already taking the next steps. The HR team from ACI was talking about meeting next week to discuss how we begin a journey to win the “Best Place in Omaha to Work” Award. I talked with Carolyn Johnson from Cox who described to me the “Women in Technology in the Heartland” team that she and a few other forward-thinking women have started in Omaha. Again, it seems like the ideas and opportunities are unlimited, and with the right leaders taking point to lead the charge, anything and everything is possible.

Finally, what is my perception of the 20th anniversary of the ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference as a man?  Well, my initial guess – and my overarching hope – is that my conference takeaway as a man aligns very closely with the majority of the women who were in attendance. My most overwhelming feelings walking out of the CenturyLink Center were of tremendous hope accompanied by the strong urge to serve.  The messages of human connection, trust, relationships, service and education all directly align with the need for us to acknowledge and value the dignity of each and every human. When you mix together the impactful, heartfelt stories with the right amount of humor, you have to feel compelled to do more and be more. Of course for some individuals, the conference was just a day off from work, and that may be fine if she or he was able to recharge the batteries. For everyone else who now feels the yearning to ignite, to serve, let us have Azure Antoinette’s closing poem ring in our ears forever more. In the tomorrow’s we are given on this earth, let’s take advantage of the opportunities we have to engage with our fellow women and men. Let’s build on one good day at the conference to do more. We don’t have to do everything at once, but let’s find our first steps and let’s take them. Let’s make a bigger, more profound difference in our world. What an opportunity we have!

Thank you ICAN for this event. Where do we go from here? Let me know all of your great ideas. Take care, my friends.