On Oct. 2, more than 300 virtual attendees tuned in to the second annual Soirée Women’s Leadership Symposium, a mix of livestreamed and pre-recorded sessions planned amid COVID-19 precautions.

"Rescheduling the April event was no simple task," says Mandy Richardson, Little Rock Soirée publisher and symposium founder, "but going virtual was a bit of a blessing in disguise. We saw people join the event from outside our central Arkansas footprint, women who were able to learn and grow with us because they didn't have to travel."

The half-day event kicked off with panelists Kristi Crum, COO of Rock Dental Brands; Jean Block, CLO of Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority; and Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, moderated by Lori L. Burrows, vice president and general counsel of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, discussing everything from negotiating salaries to imposter syndrome.

“I think we all have [imposter syndrome]. I think women, inherently, judge their performance worse than it actually is objectively,” Landreaux said. “But, when I think about what it does for us, my advice to everyone is to embrace it. Embrace that feeling because, if you run with it, think about where it can take you. It makes us over prepare. It makes us ask more questions. It makes us dig deeper into an issue than what we would otherwise just see on the surface. And, as a result of that, we perform better. We learn to handle stress better.”

Attendees then joined breakout sessions on topics like entrepreneurship, financial literacy, gender equity and social justice before tuning in to keynote speaker Rebecca Minkoff, world-renowned fashion designer and co-founder of the Rebecca Minkoff brand.

Among other topics, Minkoff discussed the balance between leadership styles, particularly as a millenial observing older females model their behavior after men steamrolling their way through corporate America.

"I think we lost an incredibly talented generation of women who thought that they had to wield an iron fist," Minkoff said. "You're seeing millennials and Gen Z see that we are our best when we lead as women. We can be empathetic, we can be caring, we can be kind. It doesn't mean you're not tough, it doesn't mean you don't have expectations, it doesn't mean you don't share disappointments, but you don't have to put your head into this chest-out mentality."

Richardson points to the event planning team and production partners who made a complex program into a seamless and safe virtual experience.

"While I'm hopeful to see everyone in person next year, I know we can bring quality content to our audience through a virtual platform in an effective and meaningful way."