Photo by Tyler Brown
Martha Mertz, author and founder of ATHENA International, was the keynote speaker for Women Empowered. The conference was held in the Shepherd Union Building.

Weber State University hosted Women Empowered, a leadership conference, on Tuesday in the Shepherd Union Building. According to Sandra Martinson, the chair of Women Empowered, 175 women attended the ninth annual event.

Shelly Hanson, a leadership development teacher at Hill Air Force Base, attended the event and said the conference was very inspiring. She said she hadn’t attended the women’s leadership conference before and received her ticket as a birthday present from Cindy George, one of the breakout session speakers. George spoke on recognizing opportunities and refreshing attitudes toward motivation.

“I forget about the power that we really do have as women and we can do not singly, but together as a group,” said Hanson, speaking about her first experience at the conference. “We compare ourselves to what we have been taught that leaders should be instead of embracing our own strengths as leaders. It may not look like what is in a textbook.”

Hanson also said that, after attending the conference, she wanted to become more involved with advocating group Women’s Empowerment. She said the conference reminded her that synergy and dynamics happen at a group level.

Martinson said that at least 10 WSU students were involved this year, and one of the Fierce Advocate sponsors for the conference was WSU’s Goddard School of Business and Economics.  Martinson also sits on a committee with 10-15 other people who are involved with Women in Business and helped put on the event.

“It’s also an event where women can come together and network and learn leadership skills,” Martinson said, “just learn various things to be successful in their careers and in life.”

Martinson touched on the purposes of Women Empowered. She said the conference was one of the basic fundraisers for the ATHENA leadership program. The ATHENA Leadership Award is presented to female nominees who demonstrate the ability to inspire, educate, motivate and empower other women.

Cathleen Sparrow, CEO of Girl Scouts of Utah, said she was nominated for the ATHENA Leadership Award a few years ago. Sparrow said the award goes to women who are impressive leaders.

“You just look at them and say, ‘Wow, I want to be like her’ — just being able to see them and pulling it into yourself,” Sparrow said.

A banquet will be held on Jan. 22, 2013 to honor the ATHENA Leadership Award recipient, nominees and women leaders in the community. The Women in Business committee is accepting nominees for the award until Oct. 31.

Sparrow was also a speaker for one of the breakout sessions of the event. Her topic was focused on the importance of mentors and girl leadership. She also spoke about women helping women and provided statistics on how girls and women feel about leadership.

“When I see women together, it reminds me that leading by example is so incredibly powerful; really walking the walk is the only way to create girl leaders,” Sparrow said.

She also spoke about a common motto in Girl Scouts. “Help girls to reach their fullest potential. If we’re not doing that with girls, then we’re not helping women.”

According to Girl Scout Research Institute, 61 percent of girls are either ambivalent about leadership or say it’s not important to them. Sparrow said she hopes to change that through mentor programs like Girl Scouts.

“It’s really who you surround yourself with that makes you successful,” she said.

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