Years ago, when Michelle Madl-Soehren first envisioned an event devoted to supporting women in business, she couldn’t have predicted the watershed moment women’s issues would experience in 2017.
Madl-Soehren, coordinator of the Small Business Initiative at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, had long dreamed of holding a women’s business summit. After years of effort, her vision is coming to fruition with the first-ever N.E.W. Women’s Business Summit, slated for March 8 — International Women’s Day — at the NWTC Corporate Conference Center in Green Bay.
“Little did I know with all that’s happening in the news … what a great year for us to run this,” Madl-Soehren says.
Designed to be a day for women by women, the event will be the first of its kind for Northeast Wisconsin, Madl-Soehren says. The day will provide women support, knowledge, skills and friendship. It includes a lunch, speaker panel and breakout sessions on professional development, personal enrichment, and small business and entrepreneurial development.
Women face unique challenges in the workplace, Madl-Soehren says. For example, one panelist scheduled to speak owns a business, and her husband helps her run it. People routinely assume her husband is the leader. We need to challenge those assumptions, she says.
“We are no longer in the day of ‘talk to my gal,’” Madl-Soehren says. “Those are some of the barriers we have to break down.”
The day will kick off with keynote speaker Allison Liddle, a Wausau-based executive coach, leadership trainer and founder of financial planning firm Prosper Wealth Management. Liddle’s book, “Life Under Construction,” chronicles her experience building a business amid personal struggles. Each attendee will receive a copy.
Liddle, a John Maxwell Team-certified keynote speaker, worked with her husband to launch Prosper Wealth Management, and during that time, she faced her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, two health scares of her own and the preterm birth of her child. She wants to share her experiences to help other women facing challenges in their personal or professional lives.
“The No. 1 thing I want each and every one of them to do is really feel confident and recognize how uniquely awesome they are,” Liddle says.
Women often sell themselves short, Liddle says. When opportunities arise for leadership positions, a typical woman may hold herself back if she doesn’t meet all the qualifications for the role, whereas a man often will pursue it even if he only meets a few. We need to get more women into high-level leadership positions, she says.
Liddle does see positive change happening around the nation and Wisconsin. Last fall, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin declared Nov. 19 Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in Madison, and Gov. Scott Walker declared Nov. 14 to Nov. 19 Women’s Entrepreneurship Week.
Madl-Soehren says something special happens when women come together, and she hopes attendees will walk away from the event with greater confidence, new friendships through networking and a feeling of empowerment to pursue whatever they want to go after.
She wants them to come away with a sense of, “I can do this, and there’s a network of women right in my own backyard there to support me and encourage me in doing this.”