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Learning to Lead Olivet College Kick-Starts Women Leadership

From running a business to staying motivated to keeping your budget in check, every woman needs a suite of skills to be successful in the modern world. An Olivet College program brought women leaders together to teach those skills this past March.

“Cultivating Women Leaders: Embracing Our Strength” welcomed financial expert Deb Davis of Southern Michigan Bank and Trust in Battle Creek, journalist “Eunice” Adeola Faeyhun and others to talk about issues like non-verbal communication, working in a male-dominated industry and resume building.

“I believe the best way to create a better future for our young women is to present them with meaningful opportunities to learn and grow in a way that encourages them to self-advocate,” said Olivet College Presidential Spouse Traci Corey, Chair of the presentation, in a press release. More than 250 people attended the event, mostly faculty, staff and current students. About 70 girls who listened to the speakers were high schoolers, invited because they were considering attending Olivet after graduation. The day after the event, students emailed Corey to say they found it informative and inspiring. “It was aimed at students, to give them the tools to be successful,” she said. “I hope it gives them a leg up. Women substantially fall behind men in leadership positions.”

Building Skills and Confidence
Topics like resume writing and basic financial skills — like how to apply for a loan, and what a 401(k) is — attracted a big audience, especially among
current students about to move into the adult world. The two most popular sessions, however, were “Effective Communication Skills” and “Recognizing the Dynamic Leader Within.” “In the communication session, women learned about face-to-face interaction, a trait they’ll need to work in male-dominated fields”, Corey said. They were taught the basics of non-verbal communication and how to speak confidently in front of groups and critics. It’s not something that can be learned on a social media site, where computers keep people apart. “They need to gain confidence in getting their message out”, she said.

The “Dynamic Leader” presentation re-emphasized confidence, encouraging women to build self-esteem, face up to bullies, and be advocates for themselves and others. It was also a time to discuss motivation and leadership qualities.

First of Many
The event was focused on women, specifically to encourage female enrollment at Olivet, now less than half the current student population, and to echo the college’s history of women graduates. This year was the first “Cultivating Women Leaders” event, but Corey said another is already scheduled for March 2018. Organizers are surveying attendees on the sessions they’d like to see next year. “The students had a voice in choosing topics that would be most helpful for them,” she said. “It definitely took a village to put this together.”

Corey said the ultimate goal is to use the event as a launching pad for more sessions, building up to a year-round women’s leadership program. It would bring mentorship and inspirational messages to middle school and high school girls, and continue into the professional world. “We need to create a network for women, to show them if you work hard and improve yourself, you can be successful,” she said.

For more information about Olivet College’s Cultivating Women Leaders program, email cwl@olivetcollege.edu or visit olivetcollege.edu/cwl2017.

You can see more of Andrew Domino’s writing at www.dominowriting.com

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