Invent Your Future: 5th Annual Conference for Women in Silicon Valley

BlogHer Original Post

At the 5th annual Invent Your Future conference on April 26th and 27th in Santa Clara, California, professional women came to interact with nationally known authors and business experts. Approximately 200 women attended, including many local students as part of the IYF Scholarship program. Ruth Stergiou, CEO of Invent Your Future Enterprises, spoke during the conference about helping showcase professionals for the next generation of women and getting teen girls interested in computer science through a program called “Dare to be Digital."

Invent Your Future Conference

In addition to book signings, breakout sessions, and roundtables, Invent Your Future provided a place for Silicon Valley professional women to network.

Speakers at the conference this year were top-notch, and although it was not the theme, social media was a topic that resonated through each keynote and session. The first ten minutes of Wednesday’s conference turned into a social media free-for-all: Attendees were invited to turn on their mobile phones and use them to text, tweet and Facebook pictures of the event (see above) to friends and co-workers everywhere.

Invent Your Future Speaker Highlights:

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: The author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, spoke about spending time with the women of war-torn Afghanistan, where she learned to see them not as victims, but as powerful survivors and entrepreneurs.

Julie Hanna: The chair of the board of directors at Kiva, an online microloan organization that has helped people start businesses around the world, spoke about how technology is a force for politics and business. She said, "People don’t view themselves as victims. Most don’t want charity, they want access.:

Almaz Negash: The CEO of Entwine Global, spoke about her childhood in Africa, the powerful influence of her mother and the necessity that we, living in one of the richest places in the world (Silicon Valley) have to make opportunities for the underprivileged women who live among us, but are often invisible.

They all agreed that social media and the web can help by connecting people and allowing women to participate in each other’s stories around the globe. Social media brings democracy to the conversation.

Jane Edison Stevenson: The vice-chairman and CEO of Korn/Ferry International and author of Breaking Away: How great Leaders Create Innovation That Drives Sustainable Growth spoke about how our society is becoming more fear-based; the way to counter that, she said, is through innovation.

Nancy Duarte: The CEO of Duarte Design spoke passionately about how women are hard wired to both nurture and conquer, and folded that theme into a personal anecdote about climbing Half Dome in Yosemite with co-workers.

Guy Kawasaki: The former Apple fellow, author and highly animated motivational speaker got the most laughs of the entire conference with his ten step overview explaining how to “enchant” others in a business setting. His latest book is Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.

It was interesting to see how much credence and emphasis most speakers gave to the importance of social media as a tool to help empower business women around the globe. The Invent Your Future audience was highly engaged by the topic as well. A workshop session called “Celebrate Your Brand Using Social Media," hosted by SM consultants Beverly Macy and Teri Thompson was very well attended. It generated a discussion around their contention that “reviews are the new advertising and conversation is currency”.

I had a chance to interview one attendee (Nadine Lezada, IT Business Manager for Marketing and Customer Service; Lifescan Division of Johnson & Johnson) regarding her thoughts about the conference. In her own words,

"After attending this year's Invent Your Future Conference for Women, I walked away feeling motivated to envision new ideas, empowered with renewed confidence and energized to take bold steps in directions I didn't think about before.”

Corporate partners for Invent Your Future included HP, Oracle, American Airlines and eBay. Keynote sessions were hosted by Bay Area Vista (NBC) producer Janice Edwards, as well as award-winning journalist and former KPIX (CBS) news anchor Sydnie Kohara.

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