By Maureen Renzi, vice president - communications
I was psyched to attend this year’s PICPA Women’s Leadership Conference. It’s always an event with such great energy, and this year the event was going to be extra special since we were honoring Women to Watch award recipients. I’m happy to report that my high expectations were exceeded.
At this year's Women's Leadership Conference, Lisa Myers (l), PICPA president, and Mike Colgan (c), PICPA executive director and CEO, with the 2017 Women to Watch award recipients: Melissa Bizyak (next to Myers), Karen Facer-Mee, Donna Massanova, and Linda Guendelsberger.
The event is charged with positive energy and support. There’s a type of “sisterhood” that you get when the speakers place an emphasis on how current issues in the workplace and the accounting profession uniquely affect women. It is a safe place to hold frank discussions about human resource issues, family challenges, and work-life balance.
The program began with a mother/daughter interview. Margery Piercey, a member of AICPA’s Women’s Council, and her daughter and fellow CPA Natalie Piercey talked about career choices and firm inclusion efforts. Questions about attracting and retaining millennials also included observations about being a mom and how different people mentor their own children. Yes, it was valuable to talk about the value and challenges of working with multiple managers in public accounting; gaining access to high profile clients; and the need to build systems that support collaboration. But it was also interesting that the mom perspective creeped into the conversations in several instances, providing some bonus knowledge for the young moms in the room.
When Tamera Loerzel led the discussion on “Closing the Gender Gap,” the main focus of the discussion was on workplace issues. But as participants joined in the conversation, attendees started providing advice on “family management issues” and tips they employ to ensure that the family doesn’t suffer as women increase their firm responsibilities. One participant suggested that women “let go of the guilt if they are able to afford help with cleaning, running errands, and other ‘family business.’” Another attendee shared that her husband reminded her that as a team they are showing their children how to be both a successful mom and a supportive husband. Great takeaway advice!
I knew what was coming next when we honored the Women to Watch award recipients since I had worked on that piece of the program. The four recipients this year come from different life experiences, and I challenged each of them to offer a succinct message in 140 characters or less. I found that their tweetable advice demonstrated their varied approaches to success. I’m pleased to share their thoughts:
- Melissa Bizyak: There can be more stars in the sky! Don’t be intimidated by young and talented women, assist in their development and success.
- Karen Facer-Mee: Never compromise your values. Identify and pursue your passions. Excel in defying obstacles: don’t quit, plan, adjust, conquer!
- Linda Guendelsberger: Look at life as a pie with many slices. The biggest and most important pieces always come first - your faith and your family.
- Donna Massanova: The most powerful professional advice I have received was “find something you love to do and become the expert.”
After lunch Jonna Martin gave great insight into how to reframe anxiety as excitement to empower attendees to accept new challenges, and had us all stand and hold a power pose. It was empowering to have 140 women assume a “power pose.” In the last session, Kristen Rampe helped us identify ways to take the “difficult” out of difficult discussions. The role playing was helpful to practice some conversations that we all know we need to have, but one of the toughest questions she asked was “What’s unique about you?” That’s a question that has stayed with me.
So, what does this conference have to do with Mother’s Day, as hinted at in the title? I love being a mom, but I struggle with how to celebrate this day. I’m not really into finding time for a pampering massage. I don’t want gifts from my children; their time and love are much more precious. But the Women’s Leadership Conference gave me time to enjoy the PICPA sisterhood, learn a few things to make me a better and more effective leader at work, and gather tips on how to be a better mom. So, thank you PICPA. This conference was a treat for me. You reminded me of the great opportunities for future leaders and reenergized me to help make that happen.