For the past 23 years, MBA students at Rice Business have been organizing and delivering an annual Women in Leadership Conference (WILC), which has become a beacon of inspiration in Houston. The full-day event brings together present and future female leaders and male allies to exchange ideas and best practices on empowering women to claim leadership roles in organizations and accomplish their career aspirations. I attended my first WILC four years ago as a working professional. I left the conference feeling inspired and motivated after listening to the speakers and panelists who achieved career success despite the unique challenges they faced as women in the workforce. The next year, I submitted my MBA application to Rice Business with the goal, if admitted, to participate in organizing WILC to inspire the next generation of female leaders. My dream came true. This year I was part of the executive board for WILC 2023 serving as a marketing committee member. It was such a rewarding experience to organize panels and workshops, and to collaborate with a strong team of fellow student leaders. Our conference theme of “Every Woman, Every Voice” highlighted the importance of sponsorship, mentorship and allyship as critical components for equality and equity in leadership. WILC 2023 sold out and achieved record attendance, with over 500 in-person attendees. As I was preparing my MBA application, I learned about Forté Foundation and its mission of helping women build successful careers by providing resources for business education and professional development. They also provide access to a community of female leaders who offer career support and mentorship to help women achieve leadership positions in the workforce. After completing Forte’s MBALaunch program, I was admitted to Rice Business as a Forté fellow, and later became a Forté Ambassador with a commitment to advancing women in business. So, having Forté CEO Elissa Sangster as the morning keynote speaker for WILC 2023 was extra special to me. In her speech, Elissa emphasized the work that remains to close the pay gap and reduce gender disparity at executive levels. What resonated with me the most was her call to action about being a vocal ally, mentor, or sponsor. It is important for both male and female leaders to advocate for women within the organization to create a culture of inclusion and equality. WILC 2023 also presented a diverse set of panelists and interactive workshops. Topics included: strategies for making an impact as a woman in the workplace; leading with purpose; building a personal brand and influencing people; battling burnout; and pivoting when necessary. Two-part workshops on “men as allies” and “speed networking” were especially well-received. The conference was beautifully summarized by our afternoon keynote speaker, Chief People Officer of Rent the Runway, Andrea Alexander, who encouraged women to define the next stage of their life for themselves by setting their own rules. She shared three key principles for setting professional career goals: be clear about your expectations and priorities; prioritize network building; and lastly, lead with authenticity. WILC 2023 ended with the Outstanding Owl Award, which recognizes a female MBA who exhibits a leadership in the Rice Business community by supporting and uplifting women. Society has made progress in promoting diversity and bringing women to leadership positions. However, women are significantly underrepresented in executive levels due to the lack of advancement opportunities and the “broken rung” obstacle at the first step up to management. Women bring unique perspectives to the workplace and contribute to better decision making, which drives innovation and growth. Equal gender representation in leadership roles is critical for organizations to be competitive in the business world. Being part of the planning committee for a conference of this scale has been a highlight of my MBA experience at Rice Business. I am confident that WILC 2023 provided a valuable opportunity for attendees to connect with each other, build relationships, learn new skills, and strategize competencies to succeed in leadership roles. Most importantly, WILC 2023 was an empowering event, motivating participants to aspire to greater heights in their careers. Interested in participating in one of our upcoming events? Let's connect.