Attendees converse with each other during the 2022 Women's Leadership Conference

Camaraderie, connection focus of 17th Women’s Leadership Conference

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A sense of shared purpose, camaraderie, and solidarity was in full force in the McNamara Alumni Center on Friday, March 4, 2022 at the Women’s Leadership Conference, hosted by the Carlson School of Management. More than 250 women and men participated in the event, including alumni, faculty, and current students from the Carlson School and the University of Minnesota, as well as executives and emerging leaders from the regional business community and around the country.

In the morning, Kim Nelson opened the conference with her inspiring vision for Future Forward Leadership. The former General Mills executive and active independent board director for companies such as Colgate-Palmolive discussed the changing workplace and environment in which businesses operate, sharing strategies that leaders at all levels of an organization can utilize. At the close of her remarks, Nelson encouraged attendees to cultivate the four leadership traits she thinks are most important: curiosity, humility, trustworthiness, and courage.

Kathryn (Kathy) Marinello, president and CEO of PODS, a member of the Carlson School’s Board of Advisors, and the honorary chair of the event, closed out the afternoon with the Inside the Boardroom conversation with Dean Sri Zaheer. Marinello offered her own take on what a strong leader needs; most importantly, to be confident in oneself and one’s abilities. Attendees were captivated as Marinello gave advice on how to make it to the C-suite, and how to successfully accomplish goals for those already there. She also spoke candidly about the hard work and the sacrifices she had to make at times as an executive with a family.

“I have been a great mom and a great CEO,” said Marinello. “You can’t have everything, but you can have the things you really want. You do have to pick and choose,” she continued, explaining that she had her career, time for her family, and close friends to lean on, but no time for hobbies.

In between these presentations, participants had the opportunity to network, have professional headshots taken, and select from among 12 relevant sessions, covering topics as varied as negotiation strategies, being successful women in male-dominated industries, the business case for family-friendly workplace policies, and the necessary role women allies play in leading anti-racism in the workplace.

Diversity in the workforce – in all senses of the term – came up again and again in formal remarks, breakout sessions, and conversations among participants. In response to a question from an audience member, Nelson summed up her thoughts on the leadership case for promoting diversity in an organization.

“The skills you need in your workforce are sprinkled around the population and contained in many different packages," said Nelson. "If you are looking to fill your roles with people from only one type, you are going to miss out on a lot of talent, skills, and resources that would make your organization even better.”

Now in its 17th year, the 2022 Women’s Leadership Conference was the first opportunity in three years to host this annual event in-person due to COVID-19. Women business leaders and allies, as well as those looking to advance their careers are encouraged to attend to learn from executive speakers, panelists, and each other. Next year’s Women’s Leadership Conference is planned for March 3, 2023.