search button
newscenter logo
Saturday, November 27, 2021

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

Katie Sowers Katie Sowers

Women in Leadership Conference Transcends the Glass Ceiling

From professional football to math tutoring, speakers offered personal examples of attaining satisfying, top careers in business.
By SDSU News Team

Be an ally and a mentor. Set goals and have purpose. Make yourself an example. Speak up.

San Diego State University’s fifth annual Women in Leadership Conference featured innovative women forging careers through the traditionally male-dominated industries of digital technology, entrepreneurship, sports, media and entertainment. Some 2,747 attendees, including educators and students from SDSU, local universities and Southern California high schools, attended portions of the Mar. 10-11 conference, held via Zoom.

Keynote speakers Katie Sowers, the second woman and the first openly gay person to hold a full-time coaching job in the NFL, and Ally Love, CEO/founder of Love Squad, spoke of how their own professional lives developed, and workshops featured leaders in other fields.

RELATED: Women in Business Mean Business

Sowers’ love for football started in her childhood and she said she always knew she “wanted to be a coach, a teacher or a counselor.”  

“Football is one sport that needs so many different types of people to be successful,” said Sower, a coach for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. “You need bigger people, you need smaller people, you need some people that are extremely smart, you need some people who are more athletic, and together they make the success of a team. I think that's a pretty good representation of life and business.”

Sowers made headlines as the first openly gay coach in the NFL, but said, “I had been out for a very long time and I didn’t even think anything of it.” she said. Then, however, “I started to get these messages from people who haven’t yet had the courage to come out, but heard my story and felt like they were no longer alone.”

Love said she never worried “about being a vertical career woman, but I’m actually a versatile career woman.”

“Finding the ability to lean into people’s opinions or informative ideas around what I was good at helped to shape my career and how I decided to go down that path,” said Love, Peloton instructor, motivational speaker, adidas global ambassador and model whose Love Squad is the in-arena host at all Brooklyn Nets games.

“We all want more,” Love said. “But please, identify your metric for success and realize you’re on a journey and that you’re already good enough.” 

Panels and Workshops

Workshop panelists with leadership roles in technology offered additional perspectives over the two-day conference. Among the highlights: 
  • Jackie Truong, partnerships leader, brand marketing at Google, said speaking up gave her more confidence at the conference table. During virtual meetings, she takes herself off mute “so that we can have a dynamic conversation versus a transactional one.” 
  • Nidhi Ghai, global head of ad sales at Amazon, said extra research and preparation also helps in group settings, while Amelia Lukiman, global communications at TikTok, said the willingness to be an ally or a sponsor for younger female coworkers could play an important role in creating self-assurance. 
  • An internship helped Nicole Gervais (’12), global franchise development and marketing at Disney Park Experiences and Products, realize she loved event management and followed that path after graduation. "What I’ve found to be a game changer in my career and my personal life is to align myself with other powerful women,” said Gervais. “It helps to gut check questions or career moves that I’ve found to be important.” 
  • Anahi Abe-Brower, founder of Worthy Picks, told future entrepreneurs that college is the time to get familiar with their personal goals and values that they can bring into any business they launch. 
  • After 10 years in a job she didn’t enjoy, Jasmine Sadler, founder of The STEAM Collaborative, decided to tutoring math – and serving as inspiration to students – would  be more fulfilling. “Especially, being a Black woman, when I’m tutoring young Black girls, there’s value in that as well.” 
  • In another workshop, Kristy Ryan, cause marketing and community impact specialist at Pura Vida Bracelets, discussed the importance of “purpose” in business and how it builds brand loyalty and trust with customers and employees. “Purpose-driven companies organize their business process and employees around impacting the greater good,” she said. “That purpose guides the brand’s mission, the marketing, the virtual storytelling and all the decisions that are made.”