Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium turns passion into purpose

WWLS speakers posing together Photo credit: Sydney Billings

This past Friday, students came together for the 10th annual Patricia A. Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium to celebrate and encourage women to live out their purpose through empowerment, wellness and leadership.

The symposium, which was organized by WWLS Committee Members and held by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, brought together over 50 students to attend workshops and hold discussions on topics related to career development.

This year’s theme, Era of Empowerment, brought to the stage keynote speaker Latesha Byrd, a Certified Career Coach and talent developer who works with individuals to help them reach their fullest potential.

“With our theme Era of Empowerment, we aim to inspire participants to analyze the past or the present and build towards the future,” Byrd said.

At the symposium, Byrd shared her career journey from working as a woman in the accounting industry to becoming the CEO of Perfeqta, an Talent Development Agency that works with organizations to foster an inclusive workplace and maximize employee development and engagement.

“What we do at Perfeqta is helping our client partners really transform their culture so that people that look like me, people that look like us, people that look like everyone in this room can show up and feel motivated,” Byrd said. “We do not have a lack of motivation. We don’t have a lack of talent. But what we do have sometimes is a lack of resources, support, and mentorship.”

Byrd also spoke about the importance of incorporating focus groups into the workplace, which are designed to empower historically underrepresented employees through better understanding their needs in terms of leadership development and management support.

Following Byrd’s keynote address, participants had the opportunity to network with one another and talk about the importance of peer support throughout the career development process.

The symposium also gave students the opportunity to participate in keynote conversation workshops led by Byrd and other distinguished speakers.

The first workshop, “How to Find and Keep A Great Mentor,” was hosted by Dr. Susan Amat, the Director for Entrepreneurial Initiatives at the University of Miami Hebert School of Business.

During the workshop, Amat talked with students about the characteristics of a good mentor and the key pillars of maintaining a good relationship with your mentor. The session focused on the importance of setting expectations with your mentor to foster a productive and empowering relationship.

The second workshop, Converting Your Passion to Purpose, was hosted by Dr. Marni Lennon, the Assistant Dean for Public Interest and a Lecturer of Law at the University of Miami.

Lennon held a highly interactive workshop that focused on the power of incorporating unique attributes and interests into purpose, designing a career path that will lead to lifelong fulfillment and success.

Sydney Stropes, a senior double majoring in Nursing and Religion and Healthcare, attended Lennon’s workshop at the symposium.

“She told us everything that you’re traditionally not taught. She told us it’s okay to not like the classes that you’re in, but to like the end goal of what your classes are going to bring about, and to make sure that throughout the time that you are finding your passions, you are finding your fuel to get you to the end game,” Stropes said.

Lennon encouraged students to reach out and meet with her one-on-one to discuss future career paths and opportunities for career enhancement.

The third and final workshop, Defining and Refining your Personal Brand, was hosted by Byrd herself and focused on the importance of sticking to your values in the corporate setting and developing a personal image centered around these values.

The symposium concluded with a dinner where WWLS Committee members raffled off both quarterly and year-long Career Coaching packages to two participants of the symposium.

Students can look forward to next year’s symposium, which will be held towards the end of Women’s History Month.