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InfluenceHer Knoxville 2024
Weekend edition March 01, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

InfluenceHer event empowers Knoxville’s female leaders

The annual InfluenceHer event, hosted by First Horizon Bank aims to motivate female leaders to be strong, bold, and valuable contributors in the Knoxville community.

Hundreds of women who work in the Knoxville area spent Thursday morning surrounded by other women. First Horizon Bank organized the annual “InfluenceHer” event, and this year was the biggest on record. It was the first time the company decided to make it a half-day event and the turnout did not disappoint.

Leslie Beale, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Profusion Strategies, kicked off the morning with a motivational lesson. She spoke to a room full of women about the importance of taking a seat at the table (and contributing once you get there).

“Every single woman in this room has a role to play in their workplace and our community. Every. Single. One.” Beale said.

There are a few strategies that Beale shared to help empower women in the workforce to speak their mind and embrace leadership opportunities.

“You have to believe that your voice has value,” she said. “You have to know who you are to value who you are and what you say.”

One of the biggest hiccups preventing women from sharing their value in the workplace, Beale said, is being worried about pleasing everyone. Regardless of role (entry or C-suite), she said most people struggle with imposter syndrome at some point. Imposter Syndrome is defined as the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s efforts or skills.

“You have to get skilled at canceling and tuning out all the voices in your head trying to undercut you,” she said.

InfluenceHer Knoxville
Leslie Beale, CEO and Founder, Profusion Strategies

The biggest shift needed to overcome imposter syndrome is channeling courage, Beale said.

“You can’t gain true confidence without having experience. So, be courageous and go out there and get experience in things that make you uncomfortable,” she said.

Connecting the Mind and Body

Paige Keisler-Collins, the Founder and CEO of Mind Body Knox, took the stage for an unconventional mind and body intervention. It’s not common to have more than a hundred women gathered under one roof reaching their arms in the air to practice breathing exercises together. It was a bonding experience.

“If you can calm the body, you can calm the brain,” Collins said.

Her company has expanded rapidly over the past few years. She has 18 full-time employees who lead patients through a series of mind and body exercises to bring peace and calmness to their lives. Yoga is a big part of the organization’s business- both on the floor and in the air (aerial yoga).

Collins shared that 80 percent of our body’s stress is transferred from the body to the brain; whereas only 20 percent is transferred from the brain to the body. Due to that research, her company focuses on a “bottom-up processing” approach.

Susan Dakak, President, Smart Views LLC
Crowd at InfluenceHer 2024

Supporting Women Globally

Susan Dakak, the President of Smart Views LLC, captivated the audience with a deeply personal story about her journey from Iraq to the United States. When she was a child, Iraq was a completely different place. Women were free, uncovered, and given a voice at the table, she shared.

Dakak shared photos from her albums of her grandparents, parents, and even herself celebrating birthdays, hanging out at the pool, and studying in school in Iraq.

“Life in Iraq, as a woman, used to be amazing,” she said.

Dakak came to the US as a teenager in 1978 with a dream to be an ‘American girl.’ She attended Tennessee Technological University and received her degree from the College of Civil Engineering. As a woman in a primarily male-dominated field, she was able to make a name for herself in the engineering world quickly.

Meanwhile, things in Iraq started to change. During the Gulf War in the 1990s, women’s position in the country started to deteriorate rapidly.

“I believe in my heart that I came to the US for a reason. God showed me how great life could be. Now, I can use that to help women in the country I came from,” Dakak said.

The U.S. helped free Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s rule in 2003 and began helping the country form a new government. Dakak played a large role in advocating for women in Iraq, and eventually, her advocacy paid off when the Iraq Governing Council revoked Resolution 137 in 2004.

“People were so happy, they were hugging me, hugging each other, hugging the walls, and everyone was smiling and screaming and crying with happiness,” she said.

She said Iraq is an example of why women in the US need to stay united and appreciate and leverage their positions in the workforce and in the community.

InfluenceHer Knoxville
Susan Dakak, President, Smart Views LLC.

Other speakers from the InfluenceHer event included Kaki Reynolds with United Way. She spoke about ALICE (see previous article) and how we can lift our struggling community members. The event concluded with a financial panel, sharing advice from First Horizon Bank for how women can tackle their finances!

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