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Breaking Through in Silicon Valley: Lessons from Watermark Conference for Women

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This February, I experienced something incredibly rare in Silicon Valley – I attended my first tech conference where 98% of all attendees were women.

The Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley – created to promote, communicate, and amplify the influence of women in the workplace – brings together thousands of eager minds to share knowledge, network, and seek real solutions to issues in the tech world like pay gaps, gender discrimination, and parity in leadership and corporate board roles.

Amal Clooney took the stage in the morning to share her experiences as a refugee and her journey to becoming an impactful human rights lawyer. Later, actress Reese Witherspoon discussed her role as a woman producer in a male-dominated world, and offered words of advice to ambitious women everywhere.

“If you know what you want to do, be assertive and never give up. Keep pushing for it,” Reese conveyed. Simple words, but incredibly impactful.

The conference delved further into the topic of what is possible. The session “Innovation Quotient: Making your Mighty Idea a Reality,” for example, discussed how to build a vision and find similar-minded people to help you achieve it. My main takeaway – failure is, most of the time, the pivot point for innovation.

While the theme of pushing and breaking boundaries rang throughout the sessions and keynotes, I was more interested in how – how to be heard, how to get ahead, and how to feel comfortable promoting myself. Some of these questions were answered in the session “The Secret to Getting Ahead” with simple tips to practice in the workplace daily. For example, accept the fact that you can do it all – just not in one day. Share your successes, learn to humble brag, mentor others, and understand how your work contributes to the business’s overall goals.

Of the S&P 500 companies, only 26 of those are led by women CEOs. The last session I attended – “Language of Leadership” – offered insights and tips to hone your leadership skills, and promote confidence to encourage more women leaders in the workplace. Like understanding the three types of executive presence: role presence (being able to clearly see someone’s strengths), relationship presence (understanding and promoting one another), and communication presence (showing clear confidence and communication skills).

Overall, the conference delved deep into the underlying gender issues that plague Silicon Valley, and rather than harp on things that cannot be changed and ponder the “unfairness,” Watermark instead offered tangible insights and advice on how to better one’s self and prepare for leadership in a world mostly dominated by men. From booths with LinkedIn workshops to inspiring speakers offering collective wisdom and lessons learned, the Watermark Conference is all about supporting one another, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

In the words of Reese Witherspoon: “keep pushing.”

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