Record Attendance and Practical Education at Annual Gathering

Attendees of the 2019 WBA Women in Banking Conference learned how to break through barriers in their lives and careers while also shattering the previous year's attendance record. Nearly 230 professional women from Wisconsin's banking industry—representing 64 different banks—gathered on April 23 in Wisconsin Dells to invest in their futures. The previous attendance record was set by the 2018 conference, which hosted 161 attendees from 48 banks. 

Speaker, researcher, and executive coach Sarah Noll Wilson kicked off the conference with a powerful session that challenged all attendees to stretch outside of their comfort zones in order to become a champion for others. After a large-scale rock-paper-scissors tournament—during which attendees experienced and practiced championing and cheering for others—Noll Wilson outlined the three key steps to becoming a champion: know and own your biases, draw power from within, and seek and speak strengths. 

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Pictured above: Kicking things off with a 225-person Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament!

Next, WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels moderated a panel discussion with topics ranging from the biggest trends in banking to how to bring new ideas forward at your institution. Kathy Strasser of River Valley Bank, Wausau, Suzanne Johnson of Park Bank, Madison, and Ami Myrland of Capitol Bank, Madison all shared their insights with their fellow attendees. They also discussed tips for career development and shared what excites them about the future. 

The next session, led by Kristin Sundin Brandt, centered around work-life balance (or the lack thereof) and resonated with every woman in the room. Sundin Brandt told attendees there is no such thing as work-life balance. Instead, the goal should be to find the work-life fit that works for you. She stressed the importance of not trying to do it alone and how critical it is to learn to say "no" sometimes and reminded everyone that what they see on social media is the curated, "shiny-happy selves" of our friends and family... Not the grit of real life. Sundin Brandt ended her session by assuring attendees that "current state does not equal future state"—or in the famous words of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, "you can have it all, just not all at once."

Finally, Arkansas native Natalie Bartholomew wrapped up the conference with a lively conversation about how and why she started her now-famous "The Girl Banker" blog and her quest to empower other women bankers and encourage more girls to consider banking as a career. She assigned "homework" to all attendees designed to challenge them to build up women in banking: 

  1. Support the Girls
  2. Brand Yourself
  3. Network, Network, Network
  4. Mentor and Be Mentored 
  5. Advocate: reach out and encourage the next generation of women bankers.

Missed the conference or want to relive it? Check out WBA's Facebook album!

Thank you to our sponsors, who made this tremendous conference possible!

Bankers' Bank 
Bell Bank 
Boardman & Clark Law Firm 
FARIN 
Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago 
FIPCO 
FIS 
Graduate School of Banking at UW-Madison 
WBA Insurance Services 
Wipfli LLP