Women inspired to be bold, brave at annual leadership summit

May 30, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

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Be bold. Brave. Fierce. Courageous. Those are words attendees heard several times throughout the day at the fifth annual Leadership Summit on Women in Academic Medicine and Healthcare.

“This summit gets better and better every year because of the amazing women and men who come to engage with us,” said Whitney Williams, M.S.W., a senior project manager in Faculty Development and a co-lead of the event planning team. “This year was incredibly successful and we cannot thank everyone who attended enough.”

More than 400 attendees — both women and men  — gathered at the event held earlier this month, which is sponsored by the U-M Medical School, Michigan Medicine, the U-M School of Public Health and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

The goal was to help attendees gain valuable leadership skills and experiences and ultimately, advance in their career.

A motivating morning

The morning kicked off with a networking activity in which attendees shared stories about a time when they felt bold, brave, fierce or courageous.

“We wanted attendees to have an opportunity to meet each other on a more personal level and share a story that made them feel empowered,” said Williams. “This activity really set the tone for the day and put everyone in the mood to connect with our speakers and each other.”

Following the networking activity, Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer for U-M, set the stage by sharing data of the current state of women in leadership roles within academic medicine and health care. She also highlighted the necessity for organizations to create inclusive cultures and climates to assist in the advancement of women leaders.

The first keynote speaker, Susan Mackenty Brady, then took the stage for a presentation on mastering your inner critic. Using stories from her own personal experiences, Brady connected with the audience and shared tips on how to return to a “compassionate center” in order to have more meaningful conversations, both in the office and at home.

An inspiring afternoon

The afternoon kicked off with the presentation of the Rudi Ansbacher Leadership Award for Support of Women in Healthcare. This year’s recipient was Dee Fenner, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Michigan Medicine.

Her award was named for Ansbacher, a beloved former U-M faculty member who touched a number of lives during his 38-year career in Ann Arbor. Ansbacher, who passed away in January 2018, sponsored the Advancing Women in Academic Medicine Leadership Scholars Program, which has assisted more than 60 people since its inception in 2014.

Accepting the award, Fenner told the audience that she tossed out her prepared speech and used the occasion as an opportunity to advocate for women’s rights to health care.

“We are at a crisis in terms of our reproductive rights — reproductive rights that are human rights,” said Fenner in her speech. “I don’t think many of us would be sitting in these positions and in this room today if we did not have choices about our reproductive health.”

Giving an impassioned speech, Fenner used personal and professional stories to highlight the importance of reproductive rights and discuss how the issue can affect the presence of women in leadership roles for years to come.

“I hope today that you are not only excited about everything you learned about improving yourself; about taking responsibilities and how we can be the leaders of tomorrow,” said Fenner. “I want you to think about all your daughters, your nieces. All of those young women. We owe it to them to fight for this. We have to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.

“So I accept this award today, but honestly it’s not about what I’ve done. It’s about what I’m going to do. And I’m going to keep on fighting.”

Click here to watch Fenner’s full speech.

Following a series of breakout sessions — touching on topics such as leading through trust, recognizing one’s influence beyond their title, crafting your leadership story and more — the afternoon closed out with another dynamic keynote presentation by Luvvie Ajayi.

Ajayi is an award-winning author, speaker and digital strategist, who tackled a range of topics including speaking up in meetings and supporting one another in questioning decisions. Ajayi also shared a personal story of taking a risk to expose the gender pay gap in public speaking while encouraging women to take risks and speak up.

“The two keynote speakers were very motivating, but I also enjoyed getting to know current colleagues a little better and making new connections with other inspiring women,” said Carrie Miller, a project manager in the Quality Department. “This was my first year attending the summit and I am so glad I did. I hope to be back next year!”

Click through the photo gallery above for a look back at this year’s summit.