Raising Our Voices for Change

USF Symposium brings together women leaders, executives, and philanthropists

By Ashleigh Hollowell, Office of Development Communications Posted Wed, 03/20/2019 - 15:15

Nearly 400 women from across the United States came together for USF’s sixth annual Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Spring Symposium to discuss how to innovate, influence, and inspire social change for the common and greater good.

Some of the Bay Area’s most powerful women spoke about social innovation, overcoming obstacles, and celebrating the accomplishments of all women in the keynote sessions and breakout panels. Attendees interacted in discussion circles hosted by the Lean In organization, and discussed their goals and journeys personally and professionally. The symposium also hosted a live taping of NPR’s Tech Nation with host Moira Gunn, USF alumna and professor, in conversation with Ann Mei Chang, author of LEAN IMPACT: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good.

“Events like this are where I draw power and strength,” said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation and the symposium’s luncheon keynote speaker. “I immediately felt love and empowerment when I walked in the room.”

Garcel’s message to women was to lead with love and power, and she urged them not to be cautious about it.

“Step into yourself, whoever you are, because you have been called for a purpose at such a time as this,” she said. “Don’t shy away from it. Talk about love and lead with it. Come unapologetically from a place of love and be armed with data and vision to back it up.”

The Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Spring Symposium has grown from its first year, when 90 attendees joined for a simple luncheon program. It has expanded to include community partnerships with nonprofit organizations, speakers, breakout sessions, and a host committee that includes USF alumnae and other female leaders. The symposium was recognized in December 2018 for its unique programming by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).  

“Seeing the growth of this event is amazing,” said Leslie Wetzel, director of Women in Leadership & Philanthropy and an associate vice president of development at USF. “The room and the day were filled with such an inspiring energy. It tells me that we are facilitating the kind of conversation and connection that women are craving. We want to think about who we are in the world and the kind of impact we want to have. We don’t shy away from difficult conversations and challenging ourselves.”

Drawing Inspiration from Experience

Symposium speakers shared their individual journeys, as well as advice on embracing leadership and navigating influence.

“Something I wish I knew about leadership, looking back, is that being right is not enough. There is so much weight around alliances and soft skills and compromise that matters. Take measure of battles you really want to go to the mat on,” said Judy Miner LMA ’73, LMA MA ’77, EdD ’82. She is chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

“No matter what you do, you will get criticized,” said Miner, “so follow your compass and know that you are worthy.

Raising the Visibility of Social Innovation  

Change was a topic that resounded throughout the symposium, and author Ann Mei Chang shared tactical ways to approach social change and innovation.

Chang compared social innovation to developing a new vaccine — it would be irresponsible not to test ideas about social innovation, she noted. Therefore, we must begin small at first, to notice the effects of social innovation and adjust for maximum impact. She reminded attendees that “scaling social impact can look different than scaling a company,” and she urged them to have patience but to think bigger than they might first be inclined to think.

Kimberly Tengler, who was attending the Spring Symposium for the first time, was moved by what she heard.

“All of these women came from their backgrounds and raised themselves up. It’s beyond inspiring,” said Tengler. “What I’m taking away most from this event is the feeling of empowerment and knowing I can go out and start making change myself.”

Tengler’s daughter, a USF student, attended the symposium last year and recommended her mother attend.

“She told me this would be just what I needed,” she said. “And, it was.”

Learn more about Women in Leadership and Philanthropy >>