Women Speak Up and Out at Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit
Many things caught my attention last week at Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit, but nothing as strikingly as the women in attendance—both on stage and off. Speakers included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn, business aficionado Carly Fiorina, and International Justice Mission's (IJM) Pranitha Timothy. Christine Caine, co-founder of the anti-trafficking A21 Campaign, also made an appearance to interview entrepreneur Marc Kielburger. Needless to say, as a girl with dreams of someday changing the world, I took it all in from the edge of my seat.
Last week's event was the highest-attended Summit in the conference's history. Over 72,000 church and business leaders united at 200 sites in North America last Thursday and Friday to tune in, as the conference was simulcast live from Willow's South Barrington, Illinois, campus. Individuals from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, the UK, Ireland, Mexico, and Central America were present in house, including leaders from technical companies, consulting firms, churches, businesses, and more. Grammy-nominated "post-liturgical rock" group Gungor was even there to lead worship.
When Rice kicked off the bill of women speakers with a talk addressing the role of compassion in the church and the responsibility that comes with leadership, I jotted down notes like a scribe. "The opportunity to lead carries many responsibilities: The importance is not just having people follow me, but helping people see their own leadership opportunities and potential," noted Rice. "Our example is Christ Jesus, who called ordinary people to lead, to help in his ministry, and ultimately establish a church."
After hearing a first-person account of her literal standoff with Vladmir Putin and coordination of "big personalities" in D.C., I smiled—Rice's gender had little to nothing to do with her professional political success, and actually, high heels worked in her favor more than once, for example, boosting her over the heads of high-powered world leaders, including Putin, a 5'8" to Rice's 5'11".
Later that day, WuDunn talked about Half the Sky, the best-selling book she wrote with her husband, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. The collaboration is an astonishing feat: I can only imagine what it would be like to carry out the mission of investigating some of the world's most cruel injustices alongside my spouse.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, came to the stage as a guest at the end of the first day to share her story of coming to faith in the midst of battling cancer, losing her daughter to suicide, and serving for years as a high-powered business executive. According to Fiorina, Bill Hybels's persistence kept her pondering the complexities of faith, and after praying with him on stage at the summit a couple years ago, then praying to God on her own for a sign, she began seeing little miracles. At the end of her talk, Fiorina stated that now she lives "unburdened by fear," because she sees life as "not measured in time—it's measured in love and contribution and moments of grace."
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