WLF helps women to feel empowered and embrace being bossy

Marisa Pacheco, director of Exhibit Programs at T3 Expo, has attended the International Association of Exhibitions and Events Women’s Leadership Forum for the past two years. We wanted to get a recap of the event in her own words and are excited about her contributed blog post below!  Marisa attended many different sessions and offered her insight into the experience.

Each year, I look forward to attending IAEE’s Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF). This is the time of year when females in the exhibitions and events industry gather to focus on topics that are unique to women. It connects colleagues and fosters an environment for a collective dialogue around how to not only elevate our careers, but our organizations. This event gives women the space to come together for two days in a relaxing setting to chat over a cocktail or on the golf course.

This year’s 2019 WLF amazing speakers included Risha Grant who spoke on diversity and inclusion in her track “Granted to Get Rid of Your BS and Promote Inclusion,” and Jess Ekstrom who spoke about the importance of courage and belief in oneself during “Channeling Grit to Greatness.” The conversation that inspired me the most was given by Amber Rae, “Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential.”

I’ve never heard of Amber Rae before listening to her keynote, but when I was flipping through the WLF handouts, I was interested to see that she was described as “The Brene Brown of Wonder.” I knew right away I was interested in what she had to say because I love and admire Brene. (More on Amber Rae here if you are interested! https://www.amberrae.com/)

This empowering talk reminded us all not to listen to that annoying voice in our head that says, “You’re not good enough; you’re not smart enough, or talented enough.” She encouraged us to stop holding ourselves back and play bigger and asked us to question ourselves on how we can move beyond the fear and doubt that prevents us from living our best life.

The conversation was empowering and made a crowd full of women stand up and applaud. However, it brought some feelings of frustration for me. Women who choose to be strong, decisive and straight forward can be labeled a certain B word and I don’t mean Bossy. But, men who behave in the same way are commonly praised as assertive and aggressive go-getters. I could not shake this feeling and it reminded me of some negative situations I have experienced in other places during my career.

In my previous career, I would frequently be in rooms with men in powerful positions and although I had a seat at the same table, my assertiveness often led be to being called “bossy.” While I learned to shrug it off and tried to deflect it by laughing, I internally felt ashamed and hurt. What I really wished is that I had the ability to stand up for myself, believe in my own abilities and be confident that I was doing a kick-ass job. I wanted to be treated as an equal to my male peers.  

During Amber Rae’s talk she reminded the group of strong and assertive IAEE women not to be ashamed and to embrace any discomfort that may come our way- to be bossy and to be empowered. She encouraged us to get curious about what we’re feeling and why -- and to lean into our emotions in order to use those insights to reframe how we approach situations. Through that process we will gain confidence in ourselves to live our lives without worry of being labeled and to realize our true potential, to play big.

I feel very lucky to be at a company that has embraced women as leaders, as innovative thinkers and as equals. T3 Expo has given me a place to grow, to let my ideas be heard and to lead. I am grateful for the three founders, the leadership team and for my colleagues who don’t make gender ever an issue.

I walked away from the talk empowered and affirmed that being an assertive woman is a sign of strength and no longer willing to be labeled in a derogatory way.

I take all the lessons and teachings from the WLF forum with me -- back to my workplace and into my home, where I am raising my two daughters to be strong, assertive and confident leaders for the next generation.