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The 2020 Duke I&E annual women’s conference, Lessons From Entrepreneurial Women, saw more than 90 Duke undergraduate and graduate students gather at the Bullpen to learn and network.

The themes of this year’s conference were leading with emotional intelligence, advocating for oneself, challenging imposter syndrome as a leader, and decision making with confidence.

“At the most basic level, our goal is to provide the women of Duke with tools they can implement immediately in their personal and professional lives,” said Anna Jacobs, I&E Senior Program Coordinator and organizer of the conference. “This year I think we achieved that goal and then some; I watched these women form authentic connections with the speakers and with one another, discovering a community they may not known have exists at Duke.”

Four speakers shared insights with students in sessions throughout the day. Students shared some of their favorite quotes:

“Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel.”

Julia Wuench, founder of The Authenticity Guide, an executive and career coaching firm, and co-owner of Durham’s Eastcut Sandwich Bar

“If you are unable to sit at the table, sometimes you need to build your own so you can send your own invitations.”

Dr. Mary Hemphill, K-12 educator and administrator; North Carolina’s first state director of Computer Science & Technology Education; CEO of The Limitless Lady, LLC; and founder of The Limitless Leader, a company that helps individuals ignite their leadership potential

“Between late nights and spreadsheets, I demystified being an entrepreneur.”

Jada McLean, cofounder and CEO of Hurry Home, the platform enabling home ownership of houses valued at $80K or less through shared ownership

Paula Alexander, right, speaks with students

“It’s important that you’re marrying your purpose with what you choose to do in life.”

Paula Alexander, Director, Sustainable Business & Innovation for Burt’s Bees

The speakers also shared practical recommendations that had worked well in their own careers.

Julia Wuench, in a session about combating imposter syndrome, suggested documenting three failures a month as if it’s homework, but also suggested keeping a “self-esteem file” of accomplishments and others’ positive feedback to refer to in times of self-doubt. Jada McLean also encouraged attendees to write as a tool for growth, sharing how when attempting a new project, she writes a pre-mortem—which helps makes failure less frightening and supports prioritizing.

Mary Hemphill speaks to attendees

For students, hearing authentic firsthand accounts of working toward success can provide inspiration, motivation, and community.

“I had a fantastic time at the Women’s Conference,” said Olivia Reneau ’22. “As a woman of color, I felt represented and seen by the choice in the speakers and learned some real, tangible strategies to apply to the way I think about myself, problems, and entrepreneurship.”

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