PPB September 2022

WLC’s In-PersonReturnAMuch-NeededSuccess A unique event within the promotional products industry, PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) was one of themost missed traditions over the last two years, as the pandemic forced the event to be cancelled in 2020 andmoved online in 2021. On June 26-28, Charlotte, North Carolina, played host to the event’s return, described by the roughly 120 leading industry women in attendance as amuchneeded triumph. After an evening celebration and dinner in recognition of PPAI Woman of Achievement Award recipient—Kim Bakalyar, CAS, the chief compliance officer at Los Angeles-based distributor PromoShop—keynotes, presentations and panels kicked off the following morning under the theme of transformational leadership. WLCWorkgroup chair Roni Wright, MAS, of The Book Company, says she envisioned the overall concept behind the event’s programming as a nod to the promotional products industry emerging from the pandemic and into a changedworld. “Now, leadership is different. The world is different,”Wright says. “As leaders, we need to step back, learn about ourselves, and then learn about the people on our teamor our customers.” A people-centered approachwas built intoWLC 2022. Opportunities tomeet andmix with peers were engineered throughout the event, not only in free range networking breaks, but also in arranged seating designed to introduce attendees to newpeople, roundtable discussions that ease the way for introverts, and a dine-around experiencemeant to forge new relationships. The networking and community of WLC is always hailed as a singular part of the experience, but the professional development content is equally vital. Keynotes by renowned speakers from outside the industry tackled subjects such as innovation, overcoming imposter syndrome and career strategy, while several promo pros took the stage to bring these ideas and more home with their own perspectives and experiences. “It was better than I could have ever imagined this year. I needed it so much,” says nine-time attendee Jenny Straub, CAS. The director of strategic partnerships at supplier Outdoor Cap, Straub had been on the road for shows for four weeks, withWLC representing the finish line. “Theminute I got here, all of the camaraderie, it just put me in the best space. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” During her session at WLC, Jill Yavorsky, PhD, assistant professor of sociology and organizational science at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and an expert on gender equality, explained to attendees howold biases continue to affect working women. Speaking anecdotally, Yavorsky said that womenwhomanage to overcome these challenges often have built a strong network of other female colleagues. In a first for PPAI, the event was carbon neutral thanks to a sponsorship from alphabroder, also a gold sponsor. Bronze sponsors included Liqui-Mark Corporation, Botanical PaperWorks andHalls &Company. | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 89 CONNECT