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Jane Talks Women-talk from the Forum

One of the reasons we were so thrilled to be invited to the Fortune Innovation Forum was because there were - heavens to Besty! - several women speakers. Recently Jane received an invitation to the World Innovation Forum...where the likes of Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Tom Kelley, and Clayton Christensen are scheduled to present. Cost: $2400, although if one registers before December 16th, one can get in for $1690.

Jane was intrigued by this invitation, which came almost at the same time as our invitation to the Fortune Innovation Forum. We did our due diligence and...discovered that the World Innovation Forum was devoid, empty, totally missing - women speakers.

Oh, please! Don't throw platitudes our way..."we couldn't find any" So untrue! "the women we asked weren't available" So what? Find others. "the women we asked said no." So, ask others! Or call Jane, we have dozens we can recommend.

There is, of course, NO EXCUSE for such a thing. There are DOZENS of women speakers - both professionals and new, exciting business owners, available to speak at events such as this. The worst part of discovering that HSM, the group organizing this forum, did not have any women speakers scheduled - was seeing our friend Tom Peters scheduled to speak. Tom, who is a big supporter of women, should be INSISTING HMS find women to speak. AND...what about Seth Godin, the guru of innovation marketing? Why isn't he demanding they find some women speakers? Does he not find women innovative????

Jane heaved a collective sign of disappointment and promptly deposited the WFI in the pile of unread magazines threatening to take over our desk. More's the pity that one of our favorite magazines, Businessweek, is sponsoring that event. Making us take a long hard look at whether or not to re-up our subscription.

Back to the Innovation Forum...where we were delighted to find a number of women listed to speak. Women in varying executive positions - at companies that reward creativity and thinking beyond the bottom line. Let's talk about them...[notice we do not include any links to their talks - somehow, no one is talking about them; we are mystified]

First up: Wednesday afternoon, with no other introduction than a voice off-stage saying, "Here's Brenda Way," this artistic woman, founder and artistic director of ODC in San Francisco, strutted on stage with a smile and a handful of papers. She spoke quickly, reading from her papers now and then - no doubt trying to fit her background speech into the short amount of time provided. She talked of long-ago times, the 1960s, when life was complicated for women, fraught with new freedoms bursting out from old-fashioned cultural challenges.

After her monologue (touching and a bit funny, for those of us in the audience who could 'relate' to her years as a 60s rebel), she introduced a dance duo - two professionals, male and female, who showed us the value of bringing new concepts to old ideas. The dancers performed modern dance to two different sound tracks, one was Mozart one was country-western.

Intriquing. Innovative. Fun. A nice break from the lectures and panels. But, not nearly long enough. Not nearly as well-presented as it could have been. The Forum moderators might have allowed Barbara more than 10 minutes to accomplish her creative live art. Or not. It was delightful, and we enjoyed it. Take away: when Brenda said, "Creativity begins in the dark; you think if you show up and work hard, the dawn will come," we nodded heartily in agreement.

The Senior Vice President of Enteprise on Demand from IBM, came up next. Linda S. Sanford made us sit up and take notice. Here was a woman who was comfortable on shared footing with the men. Linda spoke eagerly, without hesitation, in a voice that reached well to the back of the room (yes, we know she was wearing a mic - but, she did not hold her voice down, in deference to the men around her, as we have often heard women do before). Take-away: Linda said, "It's all about innovation that matters, that solves real business problems." She urged companies to be more open and multi-disciplined. We, the U.S., she noted, needs a sense of urgency  in order to compete on a global scale.Woman_holding_globe

IBM is doing what it can to lead the way. We like what we heard. We like strong women who step up to the plate and hit a homerun. Women like Linda Sanford.

Next up was Barbara Block, Marine Scientist and Professor, Biological Sciences, Stanford University. Jane is sorry to say we missed her presentation.

That's enough for now. Watch for more on the women speakers at the Innovation Forum. And, more on the forum in general. So much to share...so much to - question.


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Evelyn Rodriguez

Thanks Yvonne for calling attention to the "World" Innovation Forum...that 50% of the population isn't represented is appalling in light of the fact that much innovation is missed in the early "fuzzing front end" phase of customer insight because we tend to only talk and glean insight from people just like ourselves.

One thing that really struck me about the Fortune Innovation Forum - great blog - is that it was chock full of diverse voices. They did a fabulous job with the blog IMHO.

It may not be obvious to readers but these are two DISTINCT events. And judging by appearances and Fortune's voice online, the Fortune conference looks like a winner. Thanks so much for reporting on your take on the Fortune conf and the women speakers there.

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