As Laureen Mgrdichian, professor of marketing, sees it, Christian women in the workplace should have the best of both worlds — they can find encouragement in the stories of successful female leaders in the marketplace and also find support in their local churches for their role in the workplace.
But it often doesn’t work out that way, according to Mgrdichian, who teaches at Biola University’s Crowell School of Business.
“In a class I teach called Women in Leadership, we watch videos of women giving presentations at Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley,” Mgrdichian said. “These women were all CEOs of companies and amazing speakers, but they attributed their success either to luck, hard work or being in the right place at the right time, and not at all to seeing God's hand and God’s role in placing them where they were.”
Mgrdichian believes the church can also address this area better.
“Women are in the workplace. No matter what your views and expectations are of women’s roles in church, being in the workplace is different,” Mgrdichian said.“Many women believe that God has placed them in the workplace, but they aren’t being encouraged by the church in their vocations outside of the home; they aren’t being encouraged to excel, and aren’t being encouraged to see the workplace as a form of worship to the Lord. How can we help them thrive?”
Out of that dilemma Woven was created, an annual conference for women in the workplace to share their stories and how God has guided them through their careers.
“Six years ago,” says Mgrdichian. “A couple of students and I were talking after class, ‘Wouldn't it be great to hear from women who could tell their story, but also weave God's hand into it? To hear His providence and guidance, and how they used their strengths and stewarded their gifts?’ Right then, we decided to do our own conference!”
Hosted by Crowell School of Business faculty and students, and with financial support from Biola SGA, the sixth annual Woven Conference was held in February.
“Woven is intended to encourage women in the workplace and in their walk with the Lord,” said Mgrdichian. “Our intended audience includes both students and invited guests — alumni, friends of alumni and anyone in the community who wants to grow, especially working women.”
Attendance increased this year to 100 participants. The conference is free for Biola students as an opportunity for students to connect with women in the workforce.
“I love hearing about the connections, networking, support and encouragement they give and receive, and the confidence that it builds! That is what I enjoy the most,” Mgrdichian said.
This year, the following women spoke at Woven:
- Holly Moore, president of Hollis Strategies
- Carolyn McCulley, producer-director-editor at Citygate Films
- Sarah Dubbeldam, the founder of Darling magazine
- Lyndsay Horky (‘12), a Biola alumna and HR operations manager at BDS Marketing,
- Hannah Ellenwood (‘15), another Biola alumna and communications and content director at Rooted Network
“I like the speakers to freely share their own stories and what they believe women need to hear, instead of sticking to a theme,” said Mgrdichian. “But it's amazing how every year things seamlessly connect, one speaker to the next — that's just God's hand in it. These speakers have not talked to one another, maybe never even met, until the night before. I love seeing how everything weaves together. That’s not a pun on our name Woven — it really is amazing.”
This year was the highest attendance of non-business major students at the event.
“Woven is for women across all disciplines here at Biola,” said Mgrdichian.
Mgrdichian is already on the search for speakers for 2021, women who are in the workplace, who have risen through the ranks, and who can share stories of their journey and God's work in their lives.
“It's not your traditional women's event,” said Mgrdichian. “It's kind of unique. I think it’s important to show Christian women that they have many different choices. That's why it's so fun to bring in different speakers. They’re the proof that there’s not just one prescribed way.”
To learn more about programs in the Crowell School of Business that will support your leadership journey, visit biola.edu/crowell. If you would like to recommend a speaker for the Woven conference, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.