Women’s Leadership Conference aims to educate and empower local women

This year, the Women’s Leadership Conference focuses on “YOUnity,” a term created to embrace solidarity between all women.


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With Women’s History Month in progress, students, staff and local businesswomen are preparing for the Women’s Leadership Conference, an annual event held by MU to educate and empower women. This year, the conference is also celebrating 150 years since the first woman was admitted to the school.

Jennifer Fowler, the conference’s executive director and a junior at MU, said the conference is built around four pillars: networking, education, diversity and empowerment.

“So basically what we do is we come together and look to past years and what was important in past years,” Fowler said. “We paid attention to big issues and movements going around right now, like the ‘me too.’ and ‘TIME’S UP’ movements. We look at what’s important in women’s empowerment right now because we think that’s the best thing that will stick with and inspire the women who come.”

This year, the conference will focus on the “YOUnity” motto.

“Aside from just being a play on words, what ‘YOUnity’ means to us is we want to be a conference that represents all forms of women and representations of women, and even if they go against what is traditionally viewed as a woman, there is so much more to that and there’s a bigger picture,” said Clare Gannon, a marketing chair for the conference. “We wanted ‘YOUnity’ to be whatever your version of a woman is — if you are a woman, then this is for you.”

At the Women’s Leadership Conference, attendees will start off by sharing breakfast and then going into two breakout sessions. Once they return, they will eat lunch and listen to a keynote speaker, attend another breakout session and then come back for another speaker and a networking reception.

The two keynote speakers at this year’s conference are Lauren Ash and Nadya Okamoto. Ash is a wellness guru and podcaster who created Black Girl In Om, a website and podcast built around black women’s beauty and health. Okamoto is a sophomore at Harvard University who founded the Period Movement, which aims to educate women about their menstrual cycles and provides sanitary menstrual products to women in need.

“We kind of based [the keynote speakers] on the focus of the conference, and we all submitted five women who we thought would be good keynote speakers and representations of women as a whole,” Gannon said. “From there, we narrowed it down and voted as a team for who was going to be the best for the conference.”

The conference’s executive board hopes the conference will help unite women on campus and within the community.

“I’m a senior, and what made me want to get involved during my last year is kind of letting people know that we have this amazing event,” Gannon said. “I really wanted all women to know that they have this opportunity, too. Hopefully I was able to reach other corners of campus that didn’t know we had this event as well.”

The Women’s Leadership Conference will be held at the Tiger Hotel on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are available through March 14 at the MSA/GPC Box Office.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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