Here’s something a little off-topic for today.
Last year I attended the morning session of Vermont’s 17th Annual Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference, which is presented by Senator Patrick Leahy. Note that I said the “morning session”, and not the entire conference.
Because the entire thing came across as patronizing, condescending, and a waste of time. It came across that women were automatically at a disadvantage in business (because they’re women, duh), but beyond that, that we all need hand-holding and coddling to protect our delicate feminine sensibilities in the mean old world of business ownership.
There was little to no practical information that wasn’t easily accessible with an internet connection (seriously, do they not think we know how to use Google?). The content seemed geared more toward a 1950s housewife who was looking for advice on how to start a little business on the side between her homemaking and childrearing duties, rather than any kind of serious business owner. Where was the information on things like financing, hiring employees, time management, remote work, or anything else applicable to a business being run this decade?
This year’s agenda doesn’t look any better. With workshop titles like “Money Habitudes” (seriously? we need “cutesy” titles like this? oh, right, because we’re female and we can’t handle serious business topics), “Strategies to Transform Peer Aggression in Girls” (how about addressing the peer aggression among their mothers first?), “Skills of Effective Work Conversations”, and “Feeling Like a Guppy in a Sea of Sharks?” (why would I not be surprised if all the “sharks” they discuss are your male bosses/coworkers/etc.?), I’m honestly disgusted with the way this conference is presented. Don’t even get me started on the “Lean In for the Rest of Us” workshop…
The keynote speaker is another point of contention for me. Burton has taken the vast majority of their business and employees out of Vermont. Why on earth would I want to hear from their president? Why not hear from someone who has built a true Vermont-based business, one that keeps jobs here in Vermont and helps create a better state to live in?
My final gripe about last year’s conference was the fact that the opening speeches basically felt like a campaign rally for Leahy. I’m not a fan, and I’m not crazy about having to sit through a half hour of him talking to what seemed to amount to a room full of fangirls (screams and cheers at the end of every sentence gave me a headache). I almost walked out half way through, which in hindsight would have been a much better use of my time). And it didn’t go unnoticed that his wife, who was supposedly co-presenting the conference, barely spoke at all. I noticed that this year she’s not even on the agenda.
The one thing I can say about this whole conference, though, is that it does motivate me to explore the possibility of starting a conference that would actually be useful to the current generation of savvy female business owners in Vermont. There’s obviously a need for it (or this wouldn’t be in its 18th year), and there’s obviously a real lack of anything useful in this space.