If you’ve got some free time today, you might swing by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Conference – that’s in Duncan, Oklahoma.
Or if that’s not quite in your neighborhood, you could stop by the United Steelworkers National Women’s Conference in Vancouver. Or the Sister’s Keeper conference in McDonough, Georgia. Or the SUCCESS Women’s Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Seriously, the point is that at any given time there’s a women’s empowerment conference taking place somewhere in America, probably not far from you. And if you’re traveling abroad this weekend, no worries – there’s an Arise Women Conference today at the City of David Sanctuary in Lagos, Nigeria.
These confabs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small-scale, others slickly organized, with big time corporate sponsors. There are conferences sponsored by the likes of Forbes and Fortune, Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, Tina Brown’s Live Media, and so on.
Some draw female star power like Gloria Steinem, Arianna Huffington, Queen Rania of Jordan, Christine Lagarde, and the Silverman sisters (Sarah and Susan). Others attract more ordinary folks.
They’re organized around just about anything you can imagine – networking, nutrition, fearlessness, mindfulness, and of course, business success. Some focus on gender-based violence, others on crystal healing. Some just bring women together.
“You could honestly spend your life going to these things,” Asie Mohtarez told the New York Times in an article last year about the phenomenon.
Of course women’s conferences are not new (think Seneca Falls), but they’ve been on the rise for some time now, and experts say the industry will balloon in the next few years.
Every year corporate visibility firm Catchpole publishes a study of the leading women executive forums. President and CEO Amy Scarlino says women’s executive conferences have become so popular because, despite the cracks in the glass ceiling, “there are still a number of challenges that professional women face.”
In addition to the networking, the information, the inspiration, and the gift bags – there’s are other important reasons to go. By securing a speaking slot, you can show off your knowledge and expertise, build your reputation, gain clients, put yourself in the spotlight, and raise your visibility.
So plan ahead, contact the organizers, step up and speak up. If you’re not ready to deliver a keynote, offer to moderate a panel or lead a breakout session. Host an early morning breakfast or a cocktail hour.
Just don’t stop there. Women’s confabs are great. But they’re not the only – or even the main – game. You should also be speaking out at all the places where the fellas hang out – where women have been excluded or underrepresented for so long.
And the fact remains: most of the conferences in the world are still run by men, for men.
Next weekend, reality star Nicole Richie will host her very first women’s empowerment conference in LA. She’ll be joined on the stage by actress and GOOP founder Gwyneth Paltrow.
“We’re going to be talking about everything – conscious living, science, building your business, friendship, how to deal with fear,” Richie says. “We’re covering all aspects of life.”
Can’t make it? What about the 2015 Dairy Women’s Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota next weekend?
Organizer Laura Daniels, who runs her own dairy farm, wants attendees “to feel that common bond with women who are walking on a common path.”
Dairy women need their moment in the sun. So do you.
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