Gen W: Not a Women’s Leadership Conference – It’s a Leadership Conference. Period.

By Candace Moody



10005727_608682205876950_1154112814_nIn a previous blog post, I wrote about a young man who chose to attend Gen W at the suggestion of Dr. Richard Lapchick, his professor in the DeVos Sports Management program at University of Central Florida. I’m following up with a conversation with another young man from UCF, John Patrick (J.P.) Haney.

When J.P. got Dr. Lapchick’s invitation to attend Generation W, his first thought was to decline; what could he expect to get from a woman’s conference? Then he looked at the lineup of speakers.  National business leaders, best-selling authors, and men and women who have taken action on their vision to change the world. J.P. decided it would be worth the trip.

We spoke for a while about the fact that men hesitate to attend women’s events, whereas women attend men’s events and join men’s organizations all the time (or try to; ask the Augusta National Golf Club).  J.P. attends a program at UCF that has diversity and inclusion as part of its value system, so he’s given the idea some thought.

“I think that for decades, women were seldom in management positions over men,” he says, “So men wouldn’t aspire to ‘achieve’ what women had achieved. But that’s changed now, and women are in leadership positions that anyone would aspire to; we have a lot to learn from accomplished women.”

He goes on to say that his mentor is a woman; they work on career issues and questions he has about what success means. “She’s much more accomplished than I am, obviously,” he says. “I’m lucky to have found a successful business woman who will take the time to mentor a student.”

When J.P. arrived at the conference, he was surprised to see just a handful of men in the audience. “As a student,” he says, “I am always eager to attend anything that will help me learn and become a better person.” In his mind, that’s what the audience had in common; being open to inspiration and challenge.

In fact, what most impressed him was watching the speakers’ seating area. He expected speakers to finish their presentation and zone out at their seats or check in on mobile devices. But they didn’t; they actually paid close attention to the other presentations.  Even people as accomplished as these, he thought, are open to learning from other people’s experiences.

J.P. always knew that sports would be a big part of his life and career. When he saw a video of Dr. Lapchick presenting on stage a few years ago, he immediately decided that he wanted to meet this man and learn from him. One of the best moments of the conference for J.P. was experiencing Dr. Lapchick in the midst of an audience who didn’t know him well. “I’ve heard a variation of that presentation maybe five times over the past few years,” J.P. says. “But hearing it with people who were hearing it for the first time was amazing. They gave him a standing ovation. I got to think, ‘I know this man; I have the privilege of studying under him.’ It was very cool.”

J.P says that there may be more students attending Generation W next year; he and his small cohort spent the day tweeting and posting about the speakers in real time.  “The guys who didn’t think they wanted to attend a women’s conference were changing their mind,” he says. “We told them – it’s not a women’s conference – it’s a leadership conference that just happens to have a lot of smart women in the audience.”


candace1-150x150About the Author
Candace Moody is a writer and workforce professional based in Jacksonville, Florida. Her background includes over 15 years of experience in Human Resources, training, recruiting, and assessment, and she is frequently quoted in the Jacksonville media on labor market issues. She was awarded an M.B.A. from Jacksonville University in 2001. Her column and features have appeared in the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and 904 Magazine.