By Caleigh Carlson
“Empowered women empower women” — this popular statement holds much truth in society, while also summarizing the purpose behind the College’s first annual Women’s Student Leadership Summit, held on April 17 in the Education Building Room 212.
The event, led by TCNJ Women in Business President Elizabeth Kelly, featured guest speaker Casey De Stefano, a performance coach who joined the stage with a clear purpose of motivating the room.
Written in its mission, The Women in Business club empowers fellow women and leads a supportive network at the College. It aims to prepare students by engaging in leadership strategies that enrich their professional and personal lives, focusing on the strength and grace it takes to be a powerful female in the workplace.
As a mother and author of “Women with Balls in the Air,” Casey De Stefano works to help women achieve a successful work-life balance and had endless insight to offer on the subject. She also spoke of her 20-year experience in the television and film industry and how she managed to succeed in a male-dominated profession.
The key to her success was building interpersonal skills, no matter what environment she found herself in.
“If you leave with nothing else today, it must be the importance of building relationships,” De Stefano said. “Becoming a master of building relationships will do wonders in both your personal and professional careers.”
Much of the discussion that followed centered around the idea of the power that strong relationships can have in one’s life. When the room opened for questions, many of the attendees asked about working with male mentors in the field and avoiding getting stuck in a belittling environment.
“You set the standards at the beginning of any job,” De Stefano said. “Start trusting your instincts if you haven’t already. And remember that asking the right questions can make all the difference.”
The next topic that surfaced, was one regarding this generation and its tendency to be allotted a more flexible work space and hours. De Stefano reaffirmed for the young women that such flexibility is nothing to be ashamed of, and actually crucial to one’s well being. She added that as a result, employees actually have more energy and motivation in the office.
“You always want to walk in with a solution,” De Stefano said when questioned how to approach your boss in such situations. “It’s important to remember that your goal is to provide value, adding to the lives of both mentors and colleagues.”
At the conclusion of the talk, the group of female students were encouraged to share of their experiences with their fellow attendees. The next speaker to take the mic, was the President of WIB herself.
Liz Kelly, a junior economics major, talked about how she has attained such success being an empowered female.
“It started out physical for me, because there was a time when I was weak and unhappy, and I just wanted to be strong,” she said. “But then, it was more than that. I started strengthening my mind. Then something was missing, and I started strengthening my spirit. And then I felt that there was so much goodness in me, I was overflowing, and I felt I had a purpose to give that goodness out.”
Kelly discussed what it means to be confident in one’s self and others, and how to live that out each day. She attributed her current success and positivity to another essential element in her life — her faith in God.
“It’s everything,” she said. “Jesus is the center of my life. Specifically for this event the scripture that I’ve based everything off of is Proverbs 31:25-26. The first verse is all about having dignity and confidence in the future, and the second half is all about leading others with kindness.”
Kelly went on to add how being grateful also helps her achieve inner fulfillment. She explained how she often writes down things for which she is grateful, and that this morning she was grateful she had spilled an entire cup of coffee on herself.
“I needed to be reminded to be mindful today and be present, and to stop going 10 steps ahead of myself,” she said.
Driven by her faith and personal experiences regarding health and wellness, Liz successfully works to remain optimistic while also inspiring those around her.
A prime example of what such a mindset can do, De Stefano also left the young women with much to consider at the conference’s conclusion. Perhaps one of the most important of these elements, was the power of versatility.
“There is going to be a time in your life when you change your career,” De Stefano said. “But everything you do will help your next step. I promise you.” As a woman who has worked an extensive career in a number of professional fields, she has certainly demonstrated the truth in that statement.