I’m not much of a girly-girl and to be honest I’m a bit of a take-charge, do-it-myself sort of person. Women-oriented events hadn’t appealed to me much over the years. I found them to either be too pampering or too cheerleading without enough meat to make them worth my time.
When I observed Dr. Katrina Skinner in January at the Practice Management conference in Miami, I could see she was different. She and Dr. Katie Schafer put together a launch event for the Women in Pediatrics group that was terrific. Not only was it fun and well organized but it openly embraced men too. I was so happy to see that. Strong women don’t need to exclude men to be successful and support each other. We have life experiences and world views that are innately different than men do, but we don’t need to be cloistered. By including men both in the planning, speaking roles, and execution of the inaugural event, Katrina Skinner showed that Women in Pediatrics really can have the best of all worlds.
I jumped when registration opened for the October WIP conference. I have been in practice for 27 years and am ready for something new. I hoped to find a group of strong, business-minded women whom I could connect with in the Pediatric world. Even with a virtual set up I suspected Katrina would provide opportunities for us to connect. As the agenda and conference program crystallized, I was not disappointed. Several talks focused on practice related topics I could use immediately. The advocacy session led by Dr. Melinda Williams-Willingham (which also covered advocating for yourself when it comes to salary!) focused on taking a step out of the exam room and going beyond complaining about inequities and taking the initial steps to making change. I feel like I can take that first step now.
When the speaker for ‘Ace Your Media Game’ came on screen I thought to myself this woman is older than I am! What can she tell me about the media skills I need for social media nowadays?? I am a seasoned media interviewee and let me tell you, Pat Clark was AMAZING. Pat has prepped people for 60 Minutes, The Oprah Show, and more! She spent the first part of her time talking through the ins and out of lighting, make up and sound for virtual interviews. She showed videos of good and bad virtual interviews and then spent the second half of her time doing mock interviews with us. It was sooo good!
Jennifer Jenkins gave a deep dive talk about ‘Promoting your Brand’. Discussing everything from logo design and style book tools to personal branding and the importance of consistency across all media platforms. The workbook section for this session was particularly great. It was so much more in depth than I have seen at other conferences. Nice!
The aspect of the Women in Pediatrics conference that made it really special for me was that personal/professional development talks were interspersed throughout the conference as well. That was different and awesome. These sessions built on each other throughout the two-day meeting culminating in the final session. The talks focused on how to examine yourself to be happier and healthier at work and home and make changes.
The first of these sessions focused on how you view yourself and how that relates to how you talk about yourself with others (‘How to Talk About Yourself without being Annoying’ with Dr. Nola Ernest). Practicing how to introduce yourself was surprisingly hard and incredibly useful.
‘What are You Tolerating in Your Life’ with Shelli Warren challenged us to face things we are avoiding or tolerating at home and work. Tolerating or avoiding things leads to stress and frustration. She challenged us to write about those things and then through the group workbook exercises determine what we can change. For example: Can you let some things go? Do you really need to be in control of everything? Not leaving it there, we worked through the first steps we can take to change our behaviors to take action.
‘Does This Make My Badass Look Big’ was refreshingly given by Chip Hart. He talked about how women can give feedback and how to empower each other. Reminding us that we are all superheroes.
Dr. Amy Holliman talked about the importance of burnout and mental health management in her talk ‘You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup’. She encouraged us to examine ourselves to see where we can make things automatic (cleaning service, meal prep or Hello Fresh, pack lunch, etc.), see what brings us joy and what we are grateful for and find ways to integrate more of those things in our lives every day.
All of these talks led to the final talk of the weekend, given by Katrina Skinner. It could have been a cliché had the weekend not been leading to this talk. In ‘Reveal Your Undercover CEO’ Katrina asked us to list what we are grateful for and what our perfect life would look like. While we all wrote madly in our workbooks, the DJ played some tunes and, for me at least, I was able to envision what had eluded me for a while. I have been unfulfilled at work for some time and struggling to see what I need to change to find joy. The process of reflection throughout the weekend allowed me to truly let myself go, unhindered, to a place of freedom and imagine a ‘perfect life’. I hurriedly wrote, like a floodgate had opened, and when we were called back to the session, I felt alive.
I had a plan. A vision. That wasn’t the end though. Like all the other great speakers this weekend Katrina asked us to take the next step. She asked us to write down what our first step would be toward this goal. Don’t make the step too big of course or we will trip and fall but rather a tiny step in the direction of our vision of a perfect life. I wrote down my baby step and each day I have kept that promise to myself. My vision is getting clearer every day and with the group of Women in Pediatrics here to support and teach and learn with each other I think it will be easier to achieve.
Next year I’m sure the conference will be even better. With the wellness, fitness, and networking sessions this year that all worked to bring energy, connection, and self-discovery to a meeting that was also filled with practical work related content I can’t wait to see what is next!