Women’s Leadership Conference aims to empower and engage

Women’s Leadership Conference aims to empower and engage

I n 2021, Kamala Harris took office as the first woman Vice President of the United States. Jane Frasier became CEO of Citibank and the first woman to lead a major bank in the United States. Sarah Thomas was the first woman to referee a Super Bowl game. 

Women serve as CEOs of multi-million dollar companies including YouTube, Lockheed Martin and General Motors. 

Jennifer Graham speaks at last year's conference.
Jennifer Graham speaks at last year's conference.
Although they continue to make an impact in the business world, women still hold less than a third of senior management roles worldwide, according to Catalyst, a global nonprofit working to help build workplaces that work for women. The organization notes that is the highest it’s ever been. 

Georgia College recognized the need for more women leaders and developed a conference that focuses on giving women the opportunity to explore their passions for leadership.

“We saw that many events and conferences highlight opportunities to be a leader and ideas geared towards leadership, but historically, those are from a pretty masculine perspective,” said Jennifer Graham, director of the Women’s Center. “Many resources and conferences don't really look at the unique ways that women face leadership challenges.”

A panel discussion from the 2020 conference, which took place pre-COVID.
A panel discussion from the 2020 conference, which took place pre-COVID.

From that idea, the Women’s Leadership Conference at Georgia College was born with the goal to highlight issues and empower young women leaders.

“We’ve covered a variety of topics. For instance, what does it mean to be a caretaker and a leader, or how do you lead when you're experiencing harassment?” said Graham.  “We saw the need to have a day where we could focus on topics important to women and prepare students for some issues that we knew that they might experience.”

The Women’s Leadership Conference harkens back to Georgia College’s roots as a women’s college to educate and provide opportunities in the late 1800s. The conference started small in 2019 as a partnership between the Women’s Center and Leadership Programs and continues to grow each year. 

“Last year, we brought on the College of Business and the Alumni Association,” said Ashley Copeland, assistant director of leadership programs. “This is truly a collaborative endeavor, and it really speaks to the beauty and nature of what the conference is about—helping others collaborate, build networks and show that we are stronger when we work together.”

Now in its third year, the conference has had to adapt, like most things, due to the ongoing pandemic. The conference will take place virtually with the same valuable information, but this time available to a larger audience. 

Ashley Copeland introduces a speaker at the 2020 event.
Ashley Copeland introduces a speaker at the 2020 event.

“The virtual platform really allows us to reach a broader audience,” said Copeland. “We really try to keep an eye out for how to expand, and COVID really opened up this opportunity for us.”

“In the past presenters have been leaders in education, health care, nonprofit organizations, businesses, folks who are leading grassroots advocates—it’s really been all across the board,” said Copeland. 

Each presenter brings their experience and expertise in a specific area, yet they’re all asked to follow the Social Change Model of Leadership.

“Many resources and conferences don't really look at the unique ways that women face leadership challenges.”
– Jennifer Graham, director of the Women’s Center

“The Social Change Model of Leadership focuses on three layers of leadership—leadership of self, leadership of groups and the leadership of your community or the world,” said Copeland. “We’ve asked presenters to focus their presentation on ways our attendees can develop in those areas.”

This year’s theme of “Leading Change: Passion for Action” speaks to the need for changemakers in our world. Presenters will discuss social justice, education, philanthropy, discovering and exploring your passion, citizenship and the impacts of the pandemic.

The keynote speaker is Atlanta area Attorney Helen Kim Ho, who specializes in civil rights, employment and business law.

With the virtual format, the conference is open to anyone. Registration is $5 until March 5 and $10 from March 6- 10. Register for the conference here

If you are a student that would like to attend but cannot pay the registration fee, please reach out to Jennifer Graham at Jennifer.Graham@gcsu.edu. Limited need-based scholarships are available.