Is Going to Women’s Initiatives Events Worth It?

shutterstock_137354831Last week, I attended an event at Bryan Cave’s San Francisco Office as part of its Women’s Initiative Power Project leadership training series. (I was the guest of a friend of mine who is one of the organizers at the firm.) I have gone to “Women’s Initiative” events hosted by other law firms, law schools, or bar associations and this presentation was one of the better I attended.

Two speakers were brought in to discuss “Your Personal Brand—Establish Yourself and Your Career as a Brand.” The speakers were not attorneys; instead they were corporate leadership coaches from Suite Track in Atlanta, Georgia. There were a few things I really liked about this event.

1. I thought that bringing in non-lawyers to lead the discussion was powerful.

Let’s be honest, we all need to work on our personal brand and sometimes lawyers are not the best at teaching other lawyers about this stuff! Bringing in outside professionals made the dialogue at this event a bit different from the dialogue at other similar events.

2. About one-third of the room were guests of the firm and some weren’t even attorneys.

The committee had gone out of its way to have Bryan Cave attorneys invite other businesswomen (attorneys or not) to the event. This changed the dynamic of the event since the attendees were not all firm lawyers or even lawyers at all. It turned the event into a networking occasion for attorneys and businesswomen alike. Great idea.

3. The chat had more of a coaching slant than just a typical lecture.

Often these lectures can feel a bit like someone telling you to just “figure out your brand—it is important.” Instead, the presenters actually came with exercises to facilitate the discussion and help each attendee work through issues around personal branding individually. These exercises were actual takeaways attendees could continue to work on outside the event.

4. Even when talking about something most women hate hearing about (how to dress at the office), some new points were brought up.

The presenters talked about your physical image at work and how that relates to your brand. Many folks are tired of this conversation, but an interesting point was raised. The presenters focused on when you decide to change your physical image, not just what that image is. They talked about studies on how men especially (sorry guys) are distracted and confused when a woman suddenly changes her physical appearance. If you do this before a big presentation or an important client meeting, this can turn into a distraction and actually detract from the important work you are doing. It was an interesting point that I am not sure I have heard before.

However, from personal experience, I know this is true. When I was 22, I accidentally dyed my hair a horrid shade of orange. Needless to say, prior to that day my hair was not orange. I went into work the following day and my boss after quite a long meeting with me commented that he felt like something was different but he couldn’t place it. He had literally been thinking about this during our meeting! Of course, to me it was obvious (yesterday my hair wasn’t orange, today it was) and clearly it had been a distraction. Something definitely to file away and consider when you decide to get a new haircut or totally change up your wardrobe!

5. The talk was more about finding the right brand for you rather than what your brand should be.

Oftentimes, these discussions focus more on what your brand should be instead of what brand is the right fit for you. Each of us is different, has different aspirations and career paths, and therefore will have a different personal brand. That doesn’t mean one person’s brand is better than another. It just means that you want to decide what your brand is and capitalize on it.

I appreciated the workshop and commend Bryan Cave for putting together what I found to be a thought-provoking and empowering program. I know there is a debate about whether or not Women’s Initiatives work in law firms, but I think programming like this can definitely be effective.

Have you attended a Women’s Initiative at your firm? Did you find it worthwhile and informative?

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