This women’s history month, some of our female staff attended the 25th annual Women’s Business Conference “Spark” hosted by the Dallas Regional Chamber. This event generally falls on or near International Women’s Day and includes a robust agenda honoring local female leaders who share their voices and experiences in the workplace with attendees. The 2023 Women’s Business Conference was held at Gilley’s in Dallas and featured several local leaders.
The first speaker was Deryl McKissack, president and CEO of McKissack and McKissack, a woman-owned architectural and engineering firm. McKissack was interviewed by Hattie Hill, president and CEO of the T.D. Jakes Foundation. McKissack, who holds a professional engineer (PE) designation and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Howard University, shared about her journey as a Black woman starting her firm in a career field traditionally dominated by men. McKissack has led such notable architectural and engineering projects such as the Museum of African American History and Culture, the Obama Presidential Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. McKissack’s firm has more than 150 employees across seven different U.S. offices, including one in Dallas, with main offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The next speaker was Megha Tolia, president and COO of Shondaland. Shondaland is a creative entertainment company responsible for television series like Bridgerton and Grey’s Anatomy, both involving Shondaland founder Shonda Rhimes as creator, writer or producer. Interviewed by April Allen, president and COO of Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, Tolia shared about transitioning from leading more consumer brand businesses with consumable products to a purely creative operation. Tolia lived in San Francisco, Italy, and now calls North Texas home.
The keynote speaker of the day was Jen Hatmaker, a New York Times Bestselling author and podcaster. Hatmaker shared with the female audience about being a working mother of five and growing through life’s adversity with the friendship and community of other women. One notable part of her presentation was when she connected the audience by asking women to volunteer and shout out an area of adversity in their individual life. If the audience heard something they had also experienced, Hatmaker asked the audience to simply shout out “same.”
The number of times “same” was mentioned was uncountable, proving everyone in the room shared some type of adversity – this can connect us and help us through tough life seasons.
As women, we can sometimes feel isolated, even in our careers. This is why connecting with a mentor and/or finding community with others in the same seasons of professional lives can be tremendously helpful. Each of the speakers at DRC’s Spark Women’s Business Conference shared their unique perspectives and journeys to where they are today. Additionally, the Spark conference included a new event feature: a marketplace promoting several different woman-owned entrepreneurs and other woman-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Buckner is made up of a 79% female workforce. It’s important for female staff to hear from other community female leaders, but also for Buckner leaders who serve female clients experiencing a Buckner ministry.
By knowing the challenges women face in the workforce today, our staff can better empathize and strategize how to best equip, empower and engage with female clients who may need to start a small business to contribute to their family’s finances, or to help a single mother who is the sole income earner for her and her children.
The women at Buckner serve in a variety of capacities. We have mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters, aunts, wives, ministers, Ph.D. earners and more. Each individual helps make our organization great and unique. Buckner International celebrates its female staff during women’s history month and all year long.