The Texas Conference for Women Turns 20 With Expanded Programming
Megan Rapinoe, Tracee Ellis Ross to keynote nonprofit, nonpartisan networking event
By Sarah Marloff, Fri., Oct. 18, 2019
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Texas Conference for Women returns to the Austin Convention Center next week as a more robust and wider reaching event designed to connect and empower women in the workforce across the state.
With an all-star lineup including keynotes from soccer star and equal rights activist Megan Rapinoe as well as actress, producer, and director Tracee Ellis Ross, TCW organizers hope to bridge the current cultural divide by supporting women and bringing people together to hear from speakers with differing perspectives "because that's the best way to have an impact," says Texas Conference for Women founder Laurie Dalton White. "If we only hear from our own little circle, nothing ever changes."
Other speakers include the Skimm co-founders Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, Wall Street mogul and author of Expect to Win Carla Harris, and Eat, Pray, Love memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert. Locals include Mayor Steve Adler and Texas' First Lady Cecilia Abbott. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, White said the conference isn't allowed to take a political stance, but added, "We all have very strong views," and later admitted: "Being from Austin, you wonder if you're having an impact in Texas."
But the numbers don't lie. This year's conference sold out minutes after ticket sales were opened, which is part of the reason why the 20th anniversary event will feature two new experiences for those who aren't able to attend the full-day event on Thursday, Oct. 24. An opening night gathering is scheduled for Wednesday (tickets are still available), and is intended to be a sort of "mini-conference." Packed into four hours, attendees will have access to Gilbert, Zakin, and Weisberg, as well as the exhibit hall; it also allows attendees an opportunity to bring their children to the more condensed experience. Additionally, the conference has created a ticketed livestream option for those interested in hearing the keynote speakers as well as certain breakout sections.
While it's often the keynotes that draw in attendees, White and TCW Board President Carla Piñeyro Sublett insist it's the breakout sessions that "offer the true takeaways." If folks are open to it, White says, TCW can be a life-changing experience. Just last month, White got a letter from a woman who received one of the $5,000 scholarships the conference awarded during its first decade, which allowed her to go back to school and build a career. Now, said White, this same woman is looking to "pay it back" by donating $5,000 for a scholarship. These, says White, are the "stories behind the conference."
And, according to a study published by the Harvard Business Review in 2018, attending the national Conferences for Women – including the one based here – has "demonstrably positive impacts" on women, including more frequent job promotions and increased pay raises. Addressing the study, White explained, "It's not that we made it happen, but we collectively help make you believe you can do it. ... So many women have this imposter syndrome. It's powerful to hear from people at the highest levels [of their careers] that they feel the same, that you are not alone." And with more than 100 speakers scheduled to appear, White and Sublett say, "Whatever it is and wherever you are in your career and life, someone can speak to that."
TCW takes place Thursday, Oct. 24, 7am-5pm. It’s sold out, but livestream tickets are available for purchase ($50) until 5pm on Oct. 22. Opening night programming is Wednesday, Oct. 23, 5-9pm. Tickets ($40) are available online at www.txconferenceforwomen.org.
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