5 Lessons Learned from Inspiring Women Night with the Indiana Fever

The IWL team attended Inspiring Women Night with the Indiana Fever last Tuesday night, which is an annual event that all WNBA teams put on to highlight, recognize, and celebrate key women. For this year’s event we had the pleasure of hearing from four of The Great Eight as well as from Karen Hough. The Great Eight are eight African-American women who finished their doctorates in education at the same time this year at Indiana University-making history in the process. Together, they supported each other during their educational journey. Karen Hough is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, and has been using improvisation as an engaging learning tool for over 12 years. She’s also a huge supporter of the IWL mission and frequent IWL keynote speaker.

It was an incredible line up of speakers and each shared insights I personally found very valuable. I’ve shared below the lessons I learned from attending this amazing event.

1) Never stop reaching.

Even if very few people believe or support you it is possible to overcome those obstacles by never stopping and continuing to reach for the top. One of The Great Eight described her difficult path to her doctorate. She grew up a foster child and she explained that the numbers of success stories for foster children are very low. Foster children move from home to home and rarely have a stable family that supports them; it is very difficult when no one is constantly on your side. She not only had to overcome being a minority and woman of color, but also the challenges of growing up in an unstable household. Her advice was to never stop reaching for the top in your field of study. You have a lot more creditability if you continue your education and more people will listen and believe in what you have to say.

2) Find a Strong Support Group.

The Great Eight joined a sister circle, which was a group of campus wide African American women, through which they were able to support one another and vent shared frustrations. They not only shared issues related to papers and schoolwork but also gave each other advice on family and other real-life struggles they encountered. Support groups are so helpful, especially for women, because we can encourage each other to reach our full potential and reiterate that what our peers are doing is important. Make sure to find those people who you can trust to help you make important decisions and stand b you so that you are not alone.

3) Work-life balance can be hard to manage at times.

Many of the members of The Great Eight started having families during their schooling. This often created a dilemma for them because they were torn between studying and spending time with their children. They felt guilty when they were focused on one and not the other. One of The Great Eight spent a lot of time commuting from Chicago to Indianapolis to see her son and it took a toll on her at times. Another chimed in that didn’t see her family much because of the amount of time a doctoral degree demands. In the end, each panelist shared how important it is to make sure you allocate time for family and friends to relax and unwind. It is a good idea to get away from your work for some “me” time.

4) Use the phrase “Yes, and!”

From Karen Hough we learned that if you can respond to a person “Yes!” you open up a more powerful conversation. According to Karen, the words “yes, and” are the key to why improvisation works. Taking it one step further, this concept can work in a networking setting as well; it’s a great way to carry a conversation and learn more about someone. After all, people love talking about themselves and their businesses! This is a way to find common ground and build on it. Find a way to use this simple phrase when meeting new people and you may find that you avoid those awkward networking silences!

5) Push Forward.

The members of The Great Eight and Karen Hough all mentioned that several times in your career you might need to get up, dust yourself off and get back at it by trying again. This could mean that you are doing this for yourself, so you need to find the inner strength to persevere. But oftentimes it takes somebody else to pick up the pieces for you, pull you up and kick you forward-there are your supporters; they have faith in you and your idea. Just because you have a bad day or are going through a rough patch (and it happens to us all!) doesn’t mean you should easily give up on your dreams. Take it from these incredible leaders-keep pushing.

It was truly inspirational to hear from such an impressive group of successful women. I look forward to implementing the lessons I have learned from Inspiring Women Night into my own life and hope this blog helps you do the same.