We all get consumed with the demands of our professional lives. Intense board meetings. Conference calls on video. Searches for just the right talent. Who has time to break away for reflection and connection?

At the second annual retreat of the Women Corporate Directors’ Chicago Chapter (WCD Chicago) in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, twenty high-achieving women decided to give themselves that gift.

The agenda was designed to deliver value in two ways. First, by identifying opportunities to expand and leverage the contributions of women board directors. And second, by launching a collaboration between WCD Chicago and the future Women’s Leadership Center at Williams Bay, a Jeanne Gang-designed gathering place rising on the shores of Geneva Lake. Scheduled to open late 2025, it will be a unique destination where women will convene to unleash solutions that will improve our world.

Ann Drake, Founder of the Women’s Leadership Center, shared insights into her professional path and inspiration for creating the Center. Her journey took her from English teacher to an interior design business principal to CEO of a major supply chain company. These unique experiences developed a desire to continually learn, connect, and innovate, inspiring her vision to create a future in which women are at the forefront of advancing and improving the world we live in.

The frontier of space has been a laboratory for featured speaker and Northwestern Professor Leslie DeChurch. Drawing on her consulting experience with NASA, Prof. DeChurch led the retreat participants through a fascinating, fast-paced exercise on selecting a location to land a Mars mission. Attendees learned the importance of communication within and across teams, and that the seeds of failure are often sown through faulty communication and even a lack of articulation of goals between teams. Let’s just say, some teams may not have survived their mission!

Day two extended the group’s cosmic learnings at an ideal setting: the Yerkes Observatory, located adjacent to the future Women’s Leadership Center in Williams Bay. The tour of the restored historic building enthralled members of WCD Chicago who were treated to a demonstration of the rotating floor, dome, and telescope where women scientists contributed their knowledge more than 100 years ago.

The melding of science, art, and history fueled additional dialogue about ways that the Women’s Leadership Center can be a resource for members of WCD Chicago in their roles as corporate directors — and vice versa. This room of women leaders represented deep knowledge of leadership, governance, and innovation, and of emerging hot topics like artificial intelligence.

This convening had its own special magic, foreshadowing ideas the two organizations can accomplish together in the future.