Human Resources

Where the boys are

Conference looks to empower women in the workplace.

October 4, 2013
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Where the Boys are
Darlene Lee has enlisted the help of four male executives to lead a panel discussion about disadvantages women face in the workplace. Courtesy Darling Communications

Much has been written about the differences experienced by women and men trying to get ahead in the workplace, often showing how women get the short end of the stick.

Darlene Lee has organized a conference that will look at four topics where women often seem to have a disadvantage in the workplace. Those topics are: negotiating, networking, communication and self-promotion. Lee has invited four male panelists to present those topics.

“The conference is important now because there are so many books out about women in business,” Lee said. “Sheryl Sandberg’s book just recently came out — “Lean In” — (and) books like “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman,” “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” — so a slew of women conferences and books (are) coming out talking about how women can do business better.”

The conference is Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Goei Center beginning at 6 p.m.

Lee noted that the conference topics were selected based on scholarly research. For example, Lee said research has indicated women don’t negotiate for higher salaries.

“Women have a more challenging time talking about themselves, even in the negotiating process,” Lee said. “Men go into those situations knowing their self-worth. They are making the case with their experience and skills up front, whereas women tend to believe they have to prove themselves first before they negotiate for a higher salary.”

Lee selected the male panelists based on their professional success and is asking them to open their “playbooks” for the evening.

Panelists include:

  • Doug Small, president and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids, discussing “how to self-promote.”
  • Bing Goei, CEO of Eastern Floral, who will present on “negotiating with power.”
  • Adriel Hilton, Ph.D., assistant vice president of inclusion initiatives at Grand Valley State University, who will discuss “proven networking techniques.”
  • Carlos Sanchez, director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State University, who will talk about “communicating with a competitive edge.”

WGVU morning show host Shelley Irwin will moderate the panel.

Lee said that while there are women who have succeeded and have great advice to share, she thought getting the men’s perspective would add to the conversation.

“I think men sharing their experiences just adds value,” she said. “You can take it from both directions — you get women who have indicated how they’ve risen to the top, and now you have men who are going to tell you how they’ve made it to the top. To me, more information gives you an added edge.”

She also wants to see more partnerships forged between women and men, and hopes the conference might open up the doors for that.

“A lot of times when we read articles about men in business and women in business, they are sort of contrasting or sort of negative in nature,” she explained. “To me, this is an opportunity for some positivity to come out of this.

“All of the men involved in this conference are very excited about the conference. They thought it was important. … Each of these men are advocates for the success of women.”

She added, “I want to emphasize that it is an important and timely event. We are talking about the roles that women are playing in leadership, and there are studies that show if you have a woman on your team, that your business is more profitable, as well. We have all these different news articles and scholarly research coming out indicating that having women on your team (is profitable) and indicating how women can do business better — indicating barriers in which they can be more effective.”

The conference is the first of what Lee hopes will become a yearly series focused on a variety of topics.

“I am hoping to do four of these kinds of thought-provoking conferences a year,” she said.

Lee is a returning Grand Rapids resident. She grew up in Grand Rapids and attended Union High School. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Grand Valley State University before heading east to attend Wayne State University, where she received a Ph.D. in communication studies.

She said she has hosted several workshops and seminars in the past on self- and professional-improvement and discovered it is a passion of hers. Her business is called Darling Communications.

For more information about Darling Communications or to register for the conference, visit darlingcommunications.com.

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