RALEIGH – The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce is hosting a women’s leadership conference on Tuesday, featuring keynote speaker Rebecca Ryan. And she’s coming to the capital city ready to talk the future and women’s roles in it. 

Ryan is one of a few hundred people in the world who holds the APF designation, a designation from the Association of Professional Futurists. In an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire, Ryan shared that her talk will discuss “why the future is women”. 

“As a futurist, I’ve got some long-range perspective,” said Ryan. “I’m going to really wear my futurist hat, and I want to talk about the signals of the future that I’m seeing and why the long bet is on women in the future,” said Ryan. 

It’s exciting’ time for women to lead in Triangle, says Greater Raleigh Chamber’s female CEO

Ryan also said that the talk will be designed for both men and women leaders because gender diversity affects all companies. 

“Basically, everyone gets a pay increase when there are more women,” said Ryan. “And so, if you had to have a canary in the coal mine, this is one to watch and one to take care of and nurture. Because as go your women in the workplace, so will go your workplace.” 

As a futurist, Ryan helps companies and organizations apply long-range thinking to challenges and opportunities.

“We are living between two worlds: the familiar pre-COVID world and the unfamiliar, still-emerging post-COVID world,” wrote Ryan in a recent blog post. “This can be unsettling for folks who prefer stability. Which is all of us.”

Ryan is the author of The Next Big Things: The Future of Local Government (2015) and ReGENERATION: A
Manifesto for America’s Future Leaders (2013).

Ryan has been named on Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People list and she earned the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Adrienne Cole, CEO and President of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce,  called Ryan personally to ask if she would speak at the conference. “And when she was like, ‘Adrianne, I would love it.’ I mean, I literally squealed,” said Cole. “And I don’t squeal often.”

Not just a “nice to have”

Cole stressed  that gender diversity is something leaders should consider in parallel with their business goals. 

“You still want to get the work done. You still want a commitment to excellence. You’ve still got goals and metrics to meet, and you want to be successful,” said Cole. “I think what leaders have discovered is that it’s not an either-or proposition. You can provide a workplace that is supportive of gender diversity—and diversity more broadly—and that actually leads to more successful outcomes for your company.”

Cole also spoke about what’s needed in our region. She called out two specific issues: pay equity and a culture of flexibility. 

Pay equity

“We have to continue to stay focused on pay equity,” said Cole. “We have to pay women the same as men for the same jobs with the same qualifications.”

Cole referenced Wake Invests in Women, a collaboration between Wake County, Wake Tech, and business partners, as one local organization dedicated to addressing the gender income gap. 


“Flexibility matters. Creating that culture of flexibility, of trust, of transparency,” said Cole. “And then creating an environment where you do have a nursing room where a woman can pump in privacy, right? And not feel like she’s somehow shirking another responsibility.” 

Cole said that a culture of flexibility can help women do their best work. 

“I’ve had really great bosses and I’ve had really lousy bosses. And I will tell you that I worked so much harder for the great bosses who enabled me to work really hard but also be a great mom and kind of mash it all together,” said Cole.

She also said that flexibility culture benefits everyone.

“It isn’t just for women who are moms, right? It’s for all employees, obviously,” said Cole. 

Women in Leadership 2022 Conference

The Chamber will host the 2022 Women’s Leadership Conference on Tuesday, May 24th, at the Raleigh Convention Center.

“I’m a fan of all the things happening in Raleigh and Raleigh-Durham,” said Ryan. “So I really do want to bring my A-game.”