Booth Women Connect Conference

On Friday, I attended the Booth Women Connect Chicago conference. Our CEO asked all the women in the leadership position in our company, whether they want to attend. All of us said – yes! Ten of us for the 60-employee company – I think it’s very impressive!

There were opening remarks and a keynote, which we all attended. Also, there were four sessions when we could select one out of eight different workshops to attend. Choosing was extremely difficult!  

I liked the keynote by Ann Curry. As for the sessions, the first one I’ve attended was a panel, “The Future of Work.” It sounded fascinating, the abstract said:

The transformations facing the future of work will feel like tidal waves disrupting all industries and, subsequently, all career paths. These transformations will span organizations and most of their roles, and all types of business models will be disintermediated. In this panel, we aim to raise awareness of what is happening, why, and how to empower us to be proactive with learning transformations.

So, let’s together redefine “work”! A one-size-fits-all workday is a thing of the past. Automation, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies are bringing a world of new products, methods, and experiences to our doorsteps that are far more efficient, but unpredictably disruptive in their impact.

How do individuals empower themselves in the face of all of this change at work? How can we turn this period of technological and human change into an occasion to create more rewarding jobs and build better learning systems and career pathways? How might companies embrace flexibility in a structured way?

Join us for a lively discussion around how technological disruptions have transformed global labor markets, impacted gender parity in the workplace, and created opportunities to redefine what work is. We will share cutting-edge research and discuss how organizations whose employees are empowered to be a part of this citizen-led automation will be the winners of tomorrow. We’ll aim to have you return to your organization better equipped to make your workplace work for you, your colleagues, and your clients.

So I went. And it started as I expected, with the statement about how people are afraid that 40% will become unemployed due to automation of everything. But then the discussion was quickly reduced to “bring your whole self to work.” Several excellent points were made, including the fact that the workplace can be anything, that flexibility at the workplace should expand in many different directions. But the issue that interested me most was still not on the agenda. So when it was time for questions, I asked. Or rather delivered my usual speech:

We live in Chicago. One hundred ten years ago, the workers of Chicago had a rally for the 8-hour workday. And they got it. Is it that productivity didn’t become better since then? More automation should mean less labor, not fewer people employed. Why is nobody talking about the shorter workweek and shorter hours? 

Sure, I got a reply that “that’s deeply in our culture,” but I am not going to buy it one more time.

The workshop “Intersectionality in the Workplace” by Trish Foster was amazing – the best ever diversity training I was a part of. One of the topics we discussed was microaggressions. We got into pairs, and each pair had to tell each other what microaggressions they experienced. And then an interesting thing happened. I started: in my case, it’s the fact that English is not my first language… and my partner interrupted me:

– Oh, what is your first language?

-No, that’s exactly what I feel like microaggression: you should never ask it to somebody whom you just met…

-Why, I really want to know what’s your first language…

-You do not understand…

They did not! And when I shared this conversation with my co-workers, they immediately started to contribute their stories of similar situations. 

The other two workshops were fine but less relevant to that conference.

Now – some pictures!

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