ICAN: Leading Boldly: Speaker Line-up Empowers, Inspires Bold Conversations

It wouldn’t be the ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference without memorable, engaging, inspiring and high-quality keynote speakers. 

In this milestone year, keynote speakers and breakout session presenters are coalescing around the theme of “Leading Bold Conversations.”

When taking a look back at past conference themes, it’s easy to find a common theme: ICAN plays an important role in providing a platform to talk about the most pertinent issues facing women in their leadership journeys.

“We aimed our research at all the issues and conversations in the zeitgeist today for women – conversations that are being discussed in and around our workplaces, and also some conversations that are not widely discussed – and may, in fact, be a bit uncomfortable or “scratchy” – but that are topics ICAN would like to shine a spotlight on,” said Lisa Kaplan, conference development. 

Those topics include: pay equity and audits, women as negotiators, male allyship, quotas for women and ethnic minorities on boards, child care and parental leave and workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

“We also looked at other conversations that are newly popping up around the world for women – like gender parity in women’s health care and wellness, discrimination and stigmas women face around their menstrual cycles (and the impact on the workplace), and women leading sustainability efforts in all areas of commerce and industry,” Kaplan added.

Largely, she indicated offerings should transcend merely being interesting, relevant and timely – information gleaned should naturally be integrated into respective workplaces; for instance, the Methodist panel discussion on women’s health will equip women with tips on how to overcome discrimination and stigmas around women’s health, and to promote change on this front in the workplace.

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“We are eager to present a breakout session on the dangers of fast fashion,” Kaplan said, as a nod to trendy, inexpensive mass-produced apparel. “Facilitated by activist and fashion entrepreneur, April Perrin, our audience will learn of the dangers it poses to the world, and how the power of women retailers – who control over 80% of US consumer spending – can impact the lives of women on the other end of this manufacturing supply chain.”

Information can also resonate with men, as gender strategist and author, Jeffery Tobias Halter, will provide tools for attendees who wish to become greater allies for women in the workplace. 

“For inspiration, we have two personal stories highlighted on the main stage that are examples of women whose bold conversations led them to advocacy, which not only transformed their own lives, but the lives of others,” Kaplan noted, while referencing the likes of Nike athlete, Peloton superstar instructor and best-selling author, Tunde Oyeneyin, and Frances Haugen, data engineer, scientist and social media transparency advocate.

Bold Leaders

The conference day will open with Lara Abrash, incoming board chair of Deloitte US, who will share findings from Deloitte’s 2022 “Women at Work” report, discuss the bold conversations on women in the workplace today, and share her advice for women leaders in creating a bold vision for themselves and those they lead.

“Women in leadership have endless possibilities. Women are creative, innovative, and brilliant,” Abrash said. 

She reinforces three principles for women: harnessing the power of relationships, differentiating oneself and always continue learning, and be bold. 

Senior Manager of External Affairs and Sustainability at Unilever Stefani Grant will present one of the morning keynotes, titled: “Mothers of Nature.” 

“For my keynote, I plan to share the work I do on regenerative agriculture and sustainability and how women can position themselves to drive sustainability in their careers,” she said.

As noted by ICAN, a reported 66% and 75% of general consumers and millennial consumers respectively consider sustainability when making purchases – driving industries to change, irrespective of market or sector.

“Prior to being asked to speak, I was not familiar with ICAN and their women’s leadership conference,” Grant said. “I am looking forward to not only speaking, but attending this year. What a great agenda.”

Fellow keynote speaker, Selena Rezvani, is poised to explore “Negotiate as a Boss” as part of the afternoon programming. Rezvani is the best-selling author of Pushback and is a popular “culture disruptor.”

“Negotiations are some of the most financially significant conversations we have at work and, therefore, they matter,” she stated. “I’m excited to share with attendees how they can prepare for any negotiation, whether for a flexible work arrangement, better pay or more headcount for their team.

 “We’ll go over how to prepare and do your homework, including standing in the other person’s shoes and gathering credible evidence. We’ll also dive into considerations for navigating the actual conversation.”

As an example, Rezvani referenced dealing with other people’s resistance and how to overcome objections.

“Last, we’ll experiment with how to guide the conversation to a conclusion or the ‘yes answer’ you need,” she said. “These are practical tips that you can start using right away.”

A breakout session presenter, LinkedIn’s Deanna Hizon will be delving into “Taking Bold Conversations to the Next Level: The Use of Social Media to Amplify Conversations, Make Connections and Increase Outcomes Around a Cause.”

“Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, capable of changing the world,” Hizon said. “There is this underlying (mis)perception that social media is nothing more than an unconscious and endless stream of overshares, brags and highlight reels. But what if we shifted that perspective and, instead, focused on it being an effective tool capable of connecting people, building communities, and driving meaningful change and lasting impact?”

Without giving away too much, Hizon noted that the session will explore cause-driven initiatives, highlighting effective strategies and techniques to create awareness around them.

“We’ll explore the incredible power of social media and examine some of the most notable campaigns of our time — campaigns that have had an outlasting impact on society and acted as a force for good in the world,” she said.

A Lasting Impact 

True to their mission, ICAN’s Kaplan said the organization hopes bold conversations, aided by a roster of renowned speakers, will reach beyond the conference stage, into workplaces, pushing the needle on solutions to issues to improve conditions for the next generation of women leaders.

“Beyond that, we hope that our attendees will be inspired to use their own voices to initiate bold conversations to transform their own careers, and help to amplify conversations of other women,” she summed up.

When asked about take-aways, “Negotiate Like a Boss” speaker Rezvani highlighted how women are wonderful negotiators and advocate “for things all day, every day.” 

“For example, managing client and customer deadlines, advocating for the people
on their teams, and negotiating through urgent problems and crises,” she said. “My hope is that women that [are in the audience] will give themselves some credit for the many ways they already use the skill, and they’ll start using it even more often and even more strategically.”

Breakout session leader Hizon said she hopes attendees will leave feeling empowered to use their voices and platforms, amplifying their messages, connecting with their communities, and creating “meaningful impact in the world.”

“‘Leading Bold Conversations’ lights a fire in me and speaks to a larger movement of women who are breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes and refusing to be silenced or sidelined,” she said. “It’s about women owning their voices, their stories, their experiences and using them as a foundation upon which to create positive change in the world.”

The full speaker roster and session descriptions for May 17 are available on