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Annual Blackbaud Executive Women’s Summit offers chance to network, strategize, and empower

We’re honored this year to rank among Forbes’ best employers for women and’s top companies for women technologists – but we also recognize the work ahead to further cultivate that culture within our company and beyond.

Each year our women in leadership positions at Blackbaud convene offsite in Charleston to talk through challenges and foster growth and support. The Blackbaud Executive Women’s Summit offers a chance to pause from the quick pace of our industry and spend valuable time getting to know one another and learning how we can drive outcomes together.

Rachel Hutchisson, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, opened the day with a call to action – for all attendees to invest in the connective tissue needed to build a deeply-rooted women’s leadership community. She asked everyone to learn about one another and from one another. President & CEO Mike Gianoni joined the group for a candid interview, and several colleagues shared personal lessons from their careers and lives.

We asked a few attendees to offer a glimpse into the magic that transpired this year. Here’s what they said:

“If I had to sum it all up in one word, it would be ‘inspired.’ Truth moment: I walked into that room on Wednesday and for minute, really questioned whether or not I belonged in THIS room with THESE women. Hearing stories, experiences, advice from other women, leaders, mothers, wives, made me realize that I’m not so different. Like me, they’ve struggled, but they’ve come out on the other side better for it and have chosen to help others along the way. I don’t think I’ve cried that much at work ever. I love that I was in a safe space where I could laugh, cry, be understood, and supported without being judged for it.”

-Christine Washington, Director, Solutions Engineering, Sales Enablement

“Who are your five closest friends (outside of family)?  Can you picture them?  Do they have anything in common?  How about a lot in common?  Gender, age, color, race, religion, career. We did an exercise to map out our circles of trust, and apparently my best friends are all clones of me! While this isn’t a problem, per se, it does showcase our unconscious bias about people who are most like us. Fast forward and think about who you hire, who you trust to present, who you hand off large projects to … You guessed it! More bias toward people similar to us. It’s time to start branching out!  The next time you delegate something, try asking the person least like you to help take on the challenge. Work harder to get to know people with whom you have less in common. And be on the lookout for other types of bias. Did you stop asking someone for help after that person missed a single deadline? Watch out for the pitfalls of passing judgment — good or bad.”

-Brooke Huling, Director of Product Management

“Getting to know each other can prove quite a challenge because we tend to spend many of our days in meetings with those directly around us. I’ve heard the phrase, ‘Spend 5 minutes with anyone and you’ll find something interesting,’ and I believe this to be true. I’m glad we were given the space to do that. Looking forward to future events and getting to know my colleagues even better.”

-Sherry Jordan, Director, IT

“I wondered how hard it could be to lead a session, but I found that the lead up was hard, and the day of my presentation was even harder. My coach and other leaders were being supportive, but I was nervous. I’m still a newbie and figured that this was my time to make a first impression. I took my paper — just in case — and looked at my coach. She made me feel calm. I made mistakes, but I got there. Whilst I may not have made the first impression I had wanted, I showed vulnerability and offered a unique style. Sometimes that is the most important thing. And my fellow fearless leaders said, “Well done!” at the end. I felt supported, and boy, I cannot wait for the next one!”

-Tasnim Tudor, Director of Human Resources, International Market Groups

“There are periods of time where you lose yourself for a minute — or just explore other options — but always end up coming back to your true self. Knowing yourself and your ‘true north’ seems to be the first step in being able to establish your personal brand.”

-Michelle McCarthy, Director, Marketing Operations