The Osinski's

Ellen and Steven Osinski have been the primary sponsors of the Women in Leadership events at SDSU.

Watch Where You Step - Fowler’s Women in Leadership Conference Showcases Women Who’ve Shattered the Glass Ceiling

The Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University’s 5th Annual Women in Leadership Conference featured conversations with trailblazing women who have broken through the glass ceiling in the traditionally male-dominated industries of digital technology, entrepreneurship, professional sports, media and entertainment. Two-thousand-seven-hundred-forty-seven attendees, including educators and students from SDSU and other California State Universities, local universities and high schools throughout the Southern California region, attended the virtual conference which took place Wednesday, March 10 – Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Women in Leadership was established by SDSU marketing lecturer, Steven Osinski, in 2017 in response to the “rampant sexism in the marketing community” he observed shortly after he founded his first company, the Atlanta-based SMART Group in the mid-1980s. The Osinski family is the primary sponsor of the Women in Leadership Conference and Osinski serves on the event’s planning committee. 

Ally at Conference

Ally Love was the first keynote speaker at the 5th Annual Women in Leadership conference.

This year’s first featured keynote speaker was Ally Love, who discussed “The Basics of Bossing Up.” Love, CEO/founder founder of Love Squad, the in-arena host at all Brooklyn Nets games, Peloton instructor, motivational speaker, adidas global ambassador and model, offered tips and tools to help women elevate their personal and professional lives.

Love shared with the audience that she was severely injured after being struck by a car at the age of nine. After spending a year rehabilitating and recuperating from the accident, she began taking dance lessons. “I fell in love with dance and with movement as a language, as a communication, and as a form of exercise and fitness,” said Love, who earned a scholarship through the Alvin Ailey Dance Program at Fordham University in New York City. 

As a student, she found that she had a talent for public speaking and that she could earn money from that skillset. “Finding the ability to lean into people’s opinions or informative ideas around what I was good at helped to shape my career and how I decided to go down that path,” said Love, who has made a point of discussing her involvement in the “slash generation” (defined as a Millennial who has multiple jobs) through her various media outlets. “I wake up every day invigorated around the fact that my day doesn’t always look the same,” she said. “Some days, I’m teaching at Peloton; tomorrow night, I’m hosting a game with the Brooklyn Nets; and Monday, I’m back teaching. I just had a team meeting with Love Squad where we’re setting up our virtual events. I get to kind of pick what I want from this buffet called a career and really find joy, peace and happiness.”  

Ally Love

Ally Love is the CEO/founder of Love Squad, the in-arena host at all Brooklyn Nets games, Peloton instructor, motivational speaker, adidas global ambassador and model.

In response to a question from the audience, Love said that three words that define her are inclusive, approachable, and hard working.

In her role as a motivational speaker, Love talks about the “Basics of Bossing Up” which helps individuals to determine their personal brand. To share her insight on the two steps to Bossing Up, Love first told members of the audience to “write down three words that you want someone to say about you when you leave the room” and she advised them to use those words to talk about yourself. “No one knows what you want unless you communicate and let them know what you want,” she said. “When I walk out of that room, those are the words they hear over and over when I describe myself. I’ve given them the tools on how to talk about me when I’m not there. Whatever those three words are, they can change as your career changes, but stick to those few words and use them today.” 

As she wrapped up her keynote session, Love shared these words of advice with the audience: “We all want more. But please, identify your metric for success and realize you’re on a journey and that you’re already good enough.” For the second step, Love asked the audience to draw two intersecting circles to form a Venn diagram. “In one of the circles, I want you to write what you’re good at,” she said. “The second circle is for what you love to do. And then — you know where this is going — look for where there is overlap. If you’re good at cooking and you love to cook, it goes in the middle.” She then asked the audience to see what words were in the intersection of the diagram and to determine what career or careers include some or all of these words. “So, to recap, use the three words to start talking about yourself. It might feel weird and uncomfortable, but practice and it will change and evolve,” said Love. “The second part is that Venn diagram: What are you good at, what do you love to do and where do they intersect. Mull it over — you don’t have to have an answer right away.” 

 

Jess DeBolt: Senior Client Partner-Entertainment at Twitter
Nidhi Ghai: Global Head of Ad Sales at Amazon
Amelia Lukiman: Global Communications at TikTok (’06, Journalism and Media Studies)
Jackie Truong: Partnerships Lead, Brand Marketing at Google (’11, Marketing)

Immediately following Ally Love’s keynote speech, four women with leadership roles in well-known tech organizations discussed their roles as leaders in the industry, how they landed their positions at their respective companies and how they chose their career paths. They also discussed how, as young women, they make their voices heard in a traditionally male-dominated space. Jackie Truong, partnerships leader, brand marketing at Google, said that sitting at the conference table and speaking up gave her more confidence during meetings. During virtual meetings, she takes herself off mute “so that we can have a dynamic conversation versus a transactional one.” Truong added that “physically figuring out something that makes yourself comfortable and a little bit more engaged can help.” 

Nidhi Ghai, global head of ad sales at Amazon, said that when she’s found herself in similar situations, she does extra research and preparation, while Jess DeBolt, senior client partner-entertainment at Twitter, found that writing down questions and having something valuable to say helps her to “break the ice” with colleagues. Amelia Lukiman, global communications at TikTok, noted that building confidence takes time, but the willingness to be an ally or a sponsor for younger female coworkers could play an important role in creating self-assurance. 

The panel shared that while female leadership had increased in American tech giants, there was still much more progress to be made. “I think more exposure to resources like unconscious bias training or conversations about why women feel a certain way in particular roles and situations, really help men understand why we feel the way that we do in certain positions,” said Truong. 

 

Anahi Abe-Brower: Founder of Worthy Picks
Meri Birhane: CEO of Meri Consulting Services (’15, MBA)
Jasmine L. Sadler: Founder of The STEAM Collaborative

The first day of the conference wrapped up with two workshops, one of which featured three San Diego-based female entrepreneurs discussing some of the lessons they learned during their business launch experience that they wished they’d learned while in college. 

Anahi Abe-Brower, founder of Worthy Picks, kicked off the workshop by telling future entrepreneurs in the audience that while they are in college, they must get familiar with their personal goals and values so that they can bring those goals and values into any business they launch. She later told the audience that she “was not the corporate type” and was inspired to start her own business after the birth of her children so that she would have the freedom to raise her kids and “pursue her dreams.”

Meri Birhane, CEO of Meri Consulting Services (’15, MBA), gave a different point of view saying that she wishes that she “would have known to focus on generating revenue,” and that budding entrepreneurs should give themselves 30-day, 60-day and 90-day revenue goals. Birhane also talked about how her two business partners in her first venture “ended up taking the domain of my website” and then asked her to give them more equity in the business. With that in mind, she advised the audience to choose their business partners carefully and to be sure to pay for your website domain using “your own credit card.” 

The fact that she could even start her own company was not something Jasmine L. Sadler, founder of The STEAM Collaborative, even considered while she was working toward her degree. But after working at a job that she didn’t enjoy for 10 years, she decided to monetize something she did enjoy, which was tutoring math. “To the students that I tutor, I’m also an inspiration, I’m a mentor and when I follow up with them, I’m also an encouragement,” she said. “Especially, being a Black woman, when I’m tutoring young Black girls, there’s value in that as well. So, there’s a lot of different experiences that I have that are valuable.” For these reasons, and because she wanted to make more of an impact on the lives of these students, Sadler formed her own company to accomplish those objectives. 

When asked what motivational quotes they lived by as they wrapped up the workshop, Abe-Brower said “life is 10% what happens and 90% how to react to it” while Birhane noted that the phrase “don’t share your million-dollar dreams with dollar thinkers” reminded her to avoid naysayers who wanted to limit her dreams.

Kristy Ryan: Cause Marketing and Community Impact Specialist at Pura Vida Bracelets

At the second of the two workshops held on the first day of the event, Kristy Ryan, cause marketing and community impact specialist at Pura Vida Bracelets, discussed the meaning of “purpose” in a business context and its importance. “Purpose-driven companies organize their business process and employees around impacting the greater good,” she said. “That purpose guides the brand’s mission, the marketing, the virtual storytelling and all the decisions that are made.” Ryan mentioned Patagonia, TOMS, Bombas and Ben and Jerry’s as purpose-driven brands. 

Ryan also explained that purpose-driven companies measure their success in terms of profits and the impact that the organization has made to its stated cause. “It builds brand loyalty and trust, especially if your purpose and values align with your target audience and employees,” she said shortly before she shared a video that showcased the company’s product line which is manufactured by approximately 800 artisans in Costa Rica, El Salvador, India and other developing nations. Pura Vita Bracelets was started by two alumni of the Fowler College of Business in 2010 and their company’s mission is to support these artisans and to donate a share of their profits to charitable causes through the sale of their jewelry. 

Ryan wrapped up the workshop by providing insight on partnering and how product and branding decisions are made within Pura Vida to entrepreneurial-minded students who are interested in establishing purpose-driven businesses. 

The second afternoon of the Women in Leadership Conference kicked off with a presentation from former NFL offensive assistant coach, Katie Sowers. Sowers was the second woman and the first openly gay person to hold a full-time coaching job in the NFL. She was also the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl when the San Francisco 49ers played in Super Bowl LIV in February 2020. 

Katie at Conference

Katie Sowers was the second keynote speaker at the 5th Annual Women in Leadership conference.

 

“Football is one sport that needs so many different types of people to be successful. You need bigger people, you need smaller people, you need some people that are extremely smart, you need some people who are more athletic, and together they make the success of a team. I think that's a pretty good representation of life and business.”

-Katie Sowers, Former NFL Football Coach

Sowers, whose love for football started as a child, said she always knew that she “wanted to be a coach, a teacher or a counselor.” As a member of her college’s women’s basketball team, Sowers was considering a career as a basketball coach. She was volunteering her time to assist the coaching squad after her eligibility as a player had ended when she was told by the head coach that her help was no longer needed because of her sexual orientation. “I’ve had so much time to look back at that door slamming in my face, but that led me to where I am today,” she said. “It was hurtful and painful, but without that, I would probably be coaching my second favorite sport. Because of that, it put me on a path that was meant for me.” 

After college, Sowers played, coached and served as a general manager for several different women’s tackle football organizations and she eventually came to Kansas City where she met Scott Pioli. At the time, Pioli was the general manager for the Kansas City Chiefs, but when he took a position with the Atlanta Falcons, he contacted Sowers about a coaching internship with the team in 2016. Kyle Shanahan was coaching in Atlanta when Sowers arrived, but when he left to take the head coaching position with the San Francisco 49ers the following year, she contacted him. “When he got the head coaching job with the ‘Niners, I decided to reach out to him to say ‘hey, do you want to bring me along?’” she said. “He already knew the work I had put in at Atlanta and he was happy to get me on board.”  

Katie Sowers

Katie Sowers is the first openly gay and the second woman to be a full-time coach in the NFL.

When Sowers accepted the position with the 49ers, she made headlines as the first openly gay coach in the NFL. “I had been out for a very long time and I didn’t even think anything of it,” she said. “I started to get these messages from people who haven’t yet had the courage to come out, but heard my story and felt like they were no longer alone. For me, that whole story, as big as it blew up to be, helped so many people and if it just at least helps one, then I think it was all worth it.”

“Society assumes that a woman doesn’t know something until she proves that she does.”

-Katie Sowers, Former NFL Football Coach

Being openly gay wasn’t the only thing that made Sowers standout as an NFL coach: The fact that she was only the second woman to hold a position as a full-time NFL coach also raised eyebrows. “Football is a male sport and I get questions constantly about ‘How do the men listen to you?’ and ‘How is it — leading a group of men?’” she said. “It just shows how far we still have yet to go in changing that social dynamic and creating a better place for women in the workforce.”

At the end of her keynote session, Sowers responded to a question about a woman who inspires her by naming U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris as “a huge inspiration” because “she’s opened doors and will continue to open doors not only for women, but for anyone who has ever felt like a part of a marginalized group.” “There’s now young girls who can look at her and say ‘there’s someone like her who can be a vice president’ or ‘someone like her can be a president,’’ said Sowers. “And that gives so many more opportunities to other things — she is a huge inspiration to me.”  

 

“Be careful about what you’re posting and saying in your social media spaces. Think about that because employers like myself and others on this panel are looking at your social media pages as we are determining whether to hire you or not.”

Terri Hines, Executive Vice President of Communications, Fox Sports 

Panel 2 screenshotNaz Arandi: Global Creative Director at Apple TV
Shavone: Musician, Model, Director at VSCO and Founder of Magic in Her Melanin
Nicole Gervais: Global Franchise Development and Marketing at Disney Park Experiences and Products (’12 Hospitality and Tourism Management)
Terri Hines: Executive Vice President of Communications at FOX Sports
Jennie Wilkes: Director of Global Creative Marketing at Netflix

The second panel session at this year’s conference featured five women in management and executive positions in the media and entertainment industries where they discussed how internships shaped their career goals, challenges they have faced as women in their industries, and how their interests and passions helped to guide their careers. 

The session began by discussing the panelists’ career goals during their college years and how internships helped them to define their objectives. Nicole Gervais (’12, Hospitality and Tourism Management), global franchise development and marketing at Disney Park Experiences and Products, discussed how an internship led to her realization that she loved event management and how she followed that path after graduation, where Terri Hines, executive vice president of communications at FOX Sports, said that her internships made her realize that she did not want to work for any of the companies where she interned. This prompted Jennie Wilkes, director of global creative marketing at Netflix, to explain that her internships helped her to “not only learn what I liked, but also what I didn’t like.” 

Wilkes also talked about one of the most important attributes a woman can possess during her career is persistence, flexibility and the willingness to listen. Hines expanded on Wilkes’ statement saying that “you should always be in a place of learning because it makes you better and forces you to continue to grow.” She also said that “the moment you use your gender as an excuse for why something happened or why some door wasn’t open for you, you’ve already lost the game.” 

“If you know what you want to help build, just get in there and just don’t be scared.” 

Naz Arandi, Global Creative Director, Apple TV

Continuing along the same thought process, Gervais said “what I’ve found to be a game changer in my career and my personal life is to align myself with other powerful women. It helps to gut check questions or career moves that I’ve found to be important.” Shavone, musician, model, director at VSCO and founder of Magic in Her Melanin, said that one of her most important attributes is what she brought to the company as the youngest Black woman in the organization. “Instead of it being a demarcation or a knock, I actually stepped into it as my superpower,” she said. “I realized that my perspective was one of the most important at the company, so, in positioning myself that way, I leaned into what I love to do.”

Sivan Ayla Richards: Lifestyle Blogger

Sivan Ayal at Conference

Sivan Ayla Richards is a popular Iife style blogger who discussed brand marketing during the conference.

In the final session of the conference, entrepreneur Sivan Ayla Richards discussed her experience in branding herself as a lifestyle blogger. Richards designs and markets swimwear and tanning products, as well as offers tips and advice on fashion, beauty, food and travel. As a wife and mother of two, her mission is to share a realistic approach to everyday luxury through her blog and social media channels.

Richards said that while she never had a “straight career path” she loved fashion and worked in the wholesale fashion industry in Los Angeles selling clothes to retailers. After the designer she was working for went out of business, she did creative consulting for a number of years which allowed her to expand her knowledge on fashion and lifestyle products. 

After creating her blog in 2011, she’s established her name as a brand in order to stay engaged with the market and with her audience. “As a lifestyle influencer, I’ve had to evolve with the times and adapt to new apps and new platforms,” said Richards. “I think a lot of people kind of get stuck in what they’re good at, but I’ve learned that it’s really important to constantly grow and be open-minded to incorporating other types of content and to growing your community.” 

While fashion and luxury are a part of Richards’ brand, she says she feels most connected with her audience when she shares more unglamorous issues in her personal life. “I think I have a tendency to overshare. For instance, just having a second baby and talking about recovery, showing your body and things like breastfeeding — I think, ‘should I really be sharing?’” she said. “But at the end of the day, people really appreciate it. There’s this veil where people just want to show pretty stuff, but once you lift it, I think people really do appreciate that.”

It is that feedback and audience response that Richards says drives what she posts, even though some people don’t like her message. “I have definitely experienced online trolls and the best way to approach it is just to ignore it,” she said. “I think a lot of times, the online trolls are just looking for a fight and you’re giving them satisfaction by engaging, so I just delete and block them.” 

For members of the audience that want to become a lifestyle influencer through a social media presence, Richards offers some words of advice: 

“Obviously, you won’t have a readership overnight, so some of the things I would recommend is signing up for an affiliate program, since that’s a way to monetize your blog using trackable links and analytics so that you know what people are buying.”
“I couldn’t afford a graphic designer when I first launched my blog, so I used a template, but as my blog grew and I had more readership, I took the next big step to invest in my blog to make it more aesthetically pleasing. But test the waters before you go full throttle because it does get really expensive.”
“Do a little bit of trial and error to play with your domain name, your logo and your mood boards in place.”
“Most importantly, figure out what your thing is going to be. Have a clear idea of what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about so you’re not going to get burned out.”
“I only (promote) things that I truly love, brands that I’m only familiar with, or if it’s a new product, I always sample things ahead of time. It’s important you don’t lose the trust of your audience with the mistake a lot of influencers make. You can see right through them when it isn’t genuine, and I just select things that only really apply to my life or that I really love.” 
The most important thing for future lifestyle bloggers to remember, says Richards, is “To make sure you’re sharing your voice with people. I know that sounds cliché, but at the end of the day, no one has your voice and your personality. Just keep it authentic and be yourself.” 

All seven sessions at this year’s conference served to support the mission of Women in Leadership: Learn, Network, and Be Inspired. The 2022 event speakers and details will be shared in the fall of 2021. Stay connected with the conference by following the event’s Instagram page and visiting the Women in Leadership webpage. 

 

All seven sessions at this year’s conference served to support the mission of Women in Leadership: Learn, Network, and Be Inspired. The 2022 event speakers and details will be shared in the fall of 2021. Stay connected with the conference by following the event’s Instagram page and visiting the Women in Leadership webpage.