Rebecca Minkoff and others to inspire women to ‘THRIVE’ at Women in Leadership Conference
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It takes talent, effort and guts to be a woman in leadership. But, one of these qualities stands out among the rest.
“Guts. You have to sell yourself harder than anyone else will and you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else ever will,” said Rebecca Minkoff, global fashion designer and the keynote speaker at this year’s Women in Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City.
“You have to sell your own success. There are people with less talent and a lot of guts who are very successful because they take risks,” she said.
Minkoff will be the headliner at the Ninth Annual Women in Leadership Conference presented by the Meinders School of Business, Oklahoma City University and the Chickasaw Nation which will be held on April 12. Tickets are still available at www.okcwomeninleadership.com.
“It’s a day of active learning and open dialogue on current leadership trends with innovative solutions to pressing questions on the topics of Thriving in Adversity; Thinking Visually; Gender Differences in Decision Making; Men as Champions; an epic discussion on respect and equality in the workplace and a conversation on Women in STEM, Technology and Women as a Brand with a desire for real change and resounding impact,” said conference co-founder and producer, Melissa Cory, director of Executive and Professional Education at Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business.
Under the theme “Thrive,” speakers from across the country will examine what it means for women to thrive in business.
“It’s important for women to thrive—for individuals, for families, for organizations and for our communities,” Cory said. “We asked, what does it mean to thrive? How do organizations and individuals help us thrive through culture, policies and procedures?”
Minkoff is a notable example of what this embodies, and she will lead a conversation around the topic at the conference.
“Thrive to me means to go against all odds, to succeed in the space of adversity and to let nothing shock you,” Minkoff said. “Now more than ever, people encounter a hurdle, and it makes you think ‘entrepreneurship is hard, I’m going to give up.’ There is no such thing as ‘Amazon Priming’ your way to success.”
And Minkoff should know. She built a major brand in fashion in accessible luxury handbags, accessories, footwear and apparel. Her designs are worn around the world by average women and celebrities alike.
While Oklahoma City’s Women in Leadership Conference has been around for several years, it feels more relevant than ever.
“I think we’ve always been representing 50 percent of the population, but in the last few years there has been a storm of people feeling silenced and not represented,” Minkoff said. “Being able to help each other network is important. When I moved to New York, I had a person who helped me network and go to fashion events–there is a lot to be gained from women helping women network and help each other out in that space.”
Minkoff herself has acted as a mentor in her own business, or more publicly as an investor on Project Runway: Fashion Start Up, and has been a mentor on Project Runway All Stars.
“I think that mentorship is really important in business, but I think there has been this idea of mentorship that people depend on one person to be their hero and pave the way for them,” she said. My mentors were women who didn’t give me anything, but they showed me hard work and determination and how to work hard.”
She wants to show people that a mentor doesn’t have to be the president of a Fortune 500 company-your mentor could be the person sitting next to you (also something the conference is all about).
“Anyone who can teach you how to teach yourself can be a mentor,” Minkoff said. “I want to show women that your mentor doesn’t have to be someone with the career you’ve always wanted or your Fairy Godmother, but someone who simply pushes you to be better and work harder.”
Minkoff’s journey to success started in 2001. She designed a version of the “I Love New York” t-shirt as part of a five-piece capsule collection, which appeared on The Tonight Show and became an overnight sensation. In 2005, Rebecca designed her first handbag, which she soon dubbed the “Morning After Bag,” a.k.a. the “M.A.B.” The iconic bag ignited her career as a handbag designer and made her name a household name in fashion.
In the ever-changing world of fashion, she has managed to keep her brand relevant. She has also grown her family simultaneously. She is married to actor and director Gavin Bellour and they reside in New York City with their three children.
She will share stories during her conference address about women in STEM, technology, women as a brand, and about what it takes for women to constantly balance their universe to be able to make room for career and family. In Minkoff’s case, she also balances her responsibilities as the creative force in her brand with the responsibilities as the business leader.
“I don’t want to choose one or the other,” she said. “When I spend too much time as a ‘maker,’ I feel like I need more to do, but I love being with my family. On the other hand, being far away from my family for several days for work doesn’t work either. I like a happy middle. I have to think about what my comfort zones and limits are and I try to stick to that. I have spent time exploring my boundaries, and I know them well. Personal work/life boundaries are for each woman to explore, and just because something works for one doesn’t mean it works for someone else.”
She manages to be a working mother, wife and entrepreneur with grace. However, supporting working mothers no matter where they are in a business’ hierarchy is something employers should do more of.
“The workplace was developed mostly by men, and the things that women with families’ need are vastly different,” she said. “In my ideal world, you are at work from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. so you are actually able to take your kids to school and cook them dinner while still having a career and making money. I’m hoping in the next five to ten years that we can get that figured out as more women have higher roles within companies.”
Minkoff will discuss this and other topics at the conference alongside others such as Valerie Naifeh of Naifeh Fine Jewelry; Therese Huston, founding director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Seattle University; Dana Hertneky, anchor at News 9; and other local executives including Thayla Bohn of American Fidelity; Tonya Hayes of Dell; Deanna Farmer of Enable Midstream Partners, as well as Casey Ross of Oklahoma City University; and Rhonda Sutton of Chickasaw Nation Industries.
Jeffery Tobias Halter, president of Y Women, is also a featured speaker. Cory said it is vital that men in leadership support advancing women.
The conference aims to inspire local women to thrive. Meanwhile, it has also been thriving.
“It has grown from a smaller boutique-type event to a full day of rich content from thought leaders that are relevant across industries,” Cory said. “It has research-based content with career-changing takeaways. This is not just a conference. It is an experience with valuable connections.
Cory added the conference’s success is based on providing audiences something they want.
“It’s a day of active learning and open dialogue on current trends and topics relevant to all leaders,” she said. “We present a day of leading-edge content from global business leaders on topics designed to strengthen our personal leadership profile. There’s added focus on the detail and content—both of which matter.”
It also reflects the mission and values of the Meinders School of Business.
“We strive for engagement, innovation and impact in all that we do,” Cory said.
For more information or to register, visit www.okcwomeninleadership.com.
Michaela Marx Wheatley is an award-winning writer and journalist who has written for newspapers and magazines in both the U.S. and Germany. These days she is a copywriter at BigWing Interactive and the editor of BrandInsight, The Oklahoman’s and... Read more ›
The Meinders School of Business prepares graduate and undergraduate students to be socially responsible leaders in a global economy through teaching excellence and faculty scholarship in business practice and disciplines. Faculty and students engage with the business community, local government, and regulatory agencies as part of the teaching-learning process. Read more ›