Refuel, reenergize, refresh: Women’s leadership event stresses importance of wellness

“Power UP: A day to refuel, reenergize and refocus” was more than just the theme of the YWCA Northern New Jersey Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, held Wednesday at American Dream.

It was call to wellness for those in attendance.

YWCANNJ CEO Helen Archontou said the 2023 conference theme was a response to the growing sense of burnout among professional women who forget to take a moment for themselves.

About YWCA Northern New Jersey

For over a century, YWCA Northern New Jersey has improved the lives of thousands of women, girls and families, and is on the forefront of the fight against gender and racial discrimination. It works to build more just and inclusive communities through programs for women and girls, antiracism training and policy advocacy. It operates healingSPACE, Bergen County’s only Sexual Violence Resource Center (hotline number: 201-487-2227) and provides year-round child care and senior wellness programs.

“We know that, if women want to thrive, we need time to rest and reassess our lives to feel revitalized,” she said. “It’s time to destigmatize self-care and foster a network of support within our community.

“At YWCANNJ, we recognize the constant barriers and limitations preventing women, especially Black women, and women of color, from achieving their goals.”

The issue is clear.

A 2023 report from Future Forum found workers have been increasingly feeling burnt out by their job, particularly women, who reported higher levels of burnout than their male counterparts. This finding is in line with a 2022 survey from Deloitte that found a similar trend among the professionals it surveyed.

In keeping with YWCANNJ’s mission of empowering women, the conference panels focused on reflection and refocusing and how to maintain your energy while building your future. Conversations covered how to maintain a successful career while finding time for yourself and techniques for setting boundaries and developing habits that inspire more happiness.

A panel at the event.

Conference participants echoed the sentiment. Here are three examples:

  • Ruth Ro, principal at Dattner Architects, when asked about mental bandwidth:

“Working as an LGBTQ woman of color in a male-dominated industry like architecture can be daunting. You think about all the pressure weighing on you emotionally and mentally, forcing you to ask yourself if embodying the mentality of a straight white male will help you achieve success.

“Constantly questioning what you should or shouldn’t be takes a lot of mental energy and keeps you from being present. We need to be authentic and bring our true selves to work to succeed in our disciplines.”

  • Jennifer Tripucka, founder of the Local Girl Media Group, on saying ‘No’:

“When you have that entrepreneurial spirit, you find it harder to disconnect, because you are so invested, excited and passionate,” she said. “I recognize that in myself and have had to learn how to turn it off. I also had to learn to be confident in saying ‘no.’ It can be a struggle to disconnect and set boundaries.

“It is all about understanding what you are focusing on and what you have time for.”

  • Tevra Francis, founder of NJ in Color, on finding time:

“As a wife, new mom and an entrepreneur, it is important for me to tap into periods of reflection and rest to move forward,” she said. “This year’s conference theme comes at a time where, as women, our ideas, our enthusiasms and our drives are integral to the success and uplifting of our homes, communities and the world.

“We are needed now more than ever, but it cannot happen if we do not take the time to heal, replenish and motivate ourselves and each other. The YWCANNJ Women’s Leadership Conference underscores the importance of these values while providing connections and support in a nurturing and celebratory environment.”

Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz speaks at the event.

State Sen. Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) spoke about her journey to becoming the first Latina Majority Leader in New Jersey’s history, and balancing her responsibilities as a legislator, mother and wife.

“Women offer a unique perspective as caregivers and nurturers,” she said. “The more of us there are in spaces making decisions, leading, charging pathways and creating agendas, the better the outcome for the entire Garden State.

“I fundamentally believe that, by putting women together in a room like we’re doing today, we will change the world.”

The 2023 conference was made possible through the financial support of Cross River, Let’s Talk: Women’s Health and Wellness, and Bergen New Bridge Medical Center.