Nineteen years ago, five African American women in Southern California invited about 35 of their colleagues to come to a conference at Compton College that was supposed to focus on helping one another learn the ins and outs of ascending the ladder to leadership.
When the day of the conference actually arrived, 134 black women, one Hispanic woman and one black man showed up. Amazed, the organizers quickly made the necessary adjustments to accommodate everyone, and from that day to this, they have continued with the work of the Black Women’s Leadership Conference.
While the conference began as a way to help women in academia, it has expanded to give ladies in all arenas the skills and talents needed to improve, explained Stanley Benson Viltz, one of the five co-founders.
Viltz said there are workshops held at each conference where participants learn techniques through projects, testing and other activities.
“At one time, we did the Meyers-Briggs (leadership personality assessment) and had it scored by a professionally qualified individual. Then we’ve done other testing that has come out of UCLA to help people understand their temperament and what kind of people they work best with; how they can couch instructions, directions and in delegating in a manner that will be successful for them.”
Viltz added that at some of the conferences, women had the opportunity to learn etiquette, as well as money management skills such as how to ask for a raise and how to show employers that they are worth what it is they are asking.
“This year because it is an election year, we wanted to do something on politics,” said Viltz. “We’re doing workshops on empowerment–knowing and understanding what you bring to the table; and how to speak up and negotiate for what it is you want. It may not necessarily be money, but could be a title.”
The 2008 Black Women’s Leadership conference will also include women who are or want to be business owners, and will feature workshops on how to position yourself appropriately to do business in today’s climate considering that race and gender can still be an issue, added Viltz.
“We have one workshop on education, but it’s not only about adults but also educating children,” Viltz explained. “Parents need to take responsibility for what is going on at school that impacts their children’s ability to be successful. They also have to learn that to become a leader, you have to start early. And we’re going to show parents how to get involved in schools and follow through on things that happen there ranging from whether their child is assigned to a particular teacher, to lack of homework, to lack of sufficient books and materials.”
Six themes in total will be addressed in workshops–empowerment, business owners, community activism, education, politics and managing employees–and all of these items are key to being leaders, noted Viltz.
There will also be a segment for young women ages 14 to 18, and there is a scholarship program.
The conference will be held Aug. 15 at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, and will feature Barbara Young as the keynote speaker.
Young is an author, motivational speaker and a 30-year veteran of the higher education system. She worked her way up from secretary to college president.