Four women are seated on chairs on a stage. The screen overhead reads: Welcome and Kick-Off Session, Shift Happens: Navigating Change, Women's Leadership Conference 2023. The sign on the podium reads: Adelphi University.
President Christine M. Riordan (left) moderated the kickoff panel discussion “Shift Happens: Navigating Change."

The 2023 Women's Leadership Conference, Themed “Defining Leadership for Our Lives, Our Careers and Our Communities," Broke Attendance Records While Aiming to Break Glass Ceilings and Preconceived Ideas

While the 28 panelists and speakers at Adelphi’s sixth annual Women’s Leadership Conference on March 25 contributed their own important and unique perspectives, they all agreed on one certainty: Change is inevitable and the workforce of the future must be prepared to adapt.

Adapting is something the conference has been doing as well. While still following its mission to empower and inspire women in their careers, this year it expanded to discuss the importance of work-life balance. Even the event’s format has shifted, from in person to virtual in 2020, then to a hybrid approach over the past two years. Attendance has continued to rise, from just over 100 in 2017 to 360 in 2023.

This year’s conference featured seven panels and breakout sessions on topics including self-advocacy, brand building, leadership styles, ethics, parenting and accessibility. Attendees networked, took professional headshots and made use of the TypeFocus assessment tool to pinpoint areas of strength and personal values.

Additionally, more than $100,000 was raised for Adelphi’s annual and endowed funds for women’s leadership to support the expansion of the conference, offer robust programming and underwrite the cost of attendance for Adelphi students.

Embrace change; as much as we think change is a disrupter, it’s actually good for you and will make you better.

Humera Qazi '93 managing director at Morgan Stanley, and Adelphi University Board of Trustees member

Essential Skill Sets

Adelphi’s first woman president, Christine M. Riordan, PhD, jump-started the day’s theme with her initial comments as she moderated the kickoff panel discussion “Shift Happens: Navigating Change.”

“Change is an inevitable part of our personal lives as well as our professional lives. And the world is changing so rapidly around us that I suggest the ability to adapt is going to be the number-one skill needed as we move forward, both personally and professionally,” said Dr. Riordan, who is authoring a book on how to thrive in the ever-changing world of work.

Noting that the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) is one indication that Adelphi students may end up working in a job that doesn’t yet exist, Dr. Riordan added, “All of this means that the shelf life of our job knowledge is less than five years, which necessitates the emotional fortitude to make the changes that we need. The prediction for our current graduates is that they’ll have at least 15 different jobs and perhaps two to three different careers in their lifetime.”

She challenged the audience to ask themselves: How adaptable am I and what do I need to develop those skills?

Panelist Lois Schlissel, JD, former managing partner at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C., and Adelphi trustee emerita, encouraged an openness to mentors.

“One of the things that helps people adapt to change is mentorship. As you enter a new career or job and meet many people, it really is important to reach out and establish a mentor for you,” she said. “Also, be a mentor to others.”

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to breakout sessions on ethical leadership; leadership and parenting; finding your leadership style; and increasing opportunities for underrepresented groups who are attaining leadership positions in the corporate world.

As someone who’s interested in English, business and computer science and the STEM fields, seeing how women have worked in all of those fields has been especially fruitful for me to learn about, especially as I’m graduating and about to start my own career … I feel inspired and determined.

Augustina Gentile '23 English major

An Inspiring Keynote

The day ended with a keynote address, moderated by Chotsani Williams West, MA ’07, assistant vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, by Diane Guerrero, an actress who has starred in TV shows such as Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. Guerrero is also an author and immigration activist. She spoke about her career and childhood, emphasizing the importance of “being yourself, purely for yourself and no one else” and how women can make it far in life.

Overall, what I took away from the Women’s Leadership Conference was to not let fear hold me back.

Joanna Reid political science major and creative writing major, news editor for The Delphian
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