Conference Aims to Empower Women Professionally and Personally

K. DENISE JENNINGS | Special to The Daily News

Later this month Young Women Philanthropists, an auxiliary of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM), will put on its fourth Modern Day Woman’s Conference to empower, engage and educate women ages 25-45 on how to take the next step in their professional, civic, community and personal journeys.

This year’s conference, which boasts panelists from many different industries, is about creating pathways to ensure success over the next four years. The conference will be March 18 and 19 beginning with a mixer at Joseph’s in Laurelwood from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 18, and continuing on March 19 with speakers and breakout sessions at Baptists Women’s Hospital’s Garret Auditorium. A $50 ticket to the event includes the mixer, all sessions and a professional headshot.

The annual Modern Day Woman’s Conference is designed to be educational and get women in front of other successful women who can mentor them and help empower them professionally and personally.

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Kroger is sponsoring the conference thanks to Teresa Dickerson, WFGM board member and public affairs manager for Kroger Delta Division.

“Kroger is very dedicated to women’s leadership,” says Dickerson.

Pamela Matthews, vice president of operations at Kroger, founded the Kroger Delta Women’s Edge Associate Resource Initiative as a way for women in leadership within Kroger to help the up and coming women in our company, said Dickerson.

“We started that initiative at Kroger around the same time that I joined the Women’s Foundation,” Matthews said. “So when I joined the (Women’s Foundation) board we talked about it and it seemed like a perfect fit for us to sponsor the event this year.”

Panelists at the conference cover a range of industries and topics and bring expertise in many areas of professional and personal development experience, from resume building to personal wealth building to balancing work and life.

Lindsey Roberts, recruiting manager for Vaco and panelist at the conference leading a session called “Connecting the Dots,” is anxious to share her journey toward professional development with other women.

“It’s been really timely my connection with the Women’s Foundation and what I am speaking about because I’ve really been living that,” Roberts said. “I’m excited to help other women do the same thing.”

Roberts, who has a degree in English literature but had been recruiting for Vaco for four years, stepped away from her job to earn an MBA so she could further her career. She came back to Vaco and two months after accepting the invitation to speak at the conference she got a promotion.

“Education was my route, but it’s not always the right step for everyone. Being in recruiting I’ve seen a lot of different routes and success stories that I can share with other women,” Roberts said.

Creating a space for those type of interactions with mentors who already have a blueprint for the next step was the genesis of The Modern Day Woman’s Conference in 2013. It was originally imagined by Lori Spicer, said Tiffany Futch, chair of the Young Women’s Philanthropists initiative of the WFGM and marketing professional at ServiceMaster. Futch got involved with the YWP several years ago when she was searching for ways to take her civic involvement from being a volunteer to being a check writer so she could have a bigger impact.

“We thought, there’s got to be a way to connect women in their industry with other women, but what we realized is that women don’t only want mentors in their own industry,” Futch said. “They might want to see how they can do something else. This conference is about women being proactive and engaging in their future in all areas of life.”

This year’s conference theme Road to 2020 is tied to an initiative by the WFGM called Vision 2020, which is committed to reducing poverty in the city’s poorest ZIP code by 5 percent before 2020, said Shante Avant, deputy director of the WFGM.

“We wanted to think about how we can engage people personally and professionally and philanthropically with the vision of the foundation,” Avant said. “The Road to 2020 can mean lots of different things to different people both personally and professionally, and of any age.”

This year, the Modern Day Woman’s Conference is offering scholarships to high school seniors who want to attend, said Futch. Ruby Bright, executive director and chief administrative officer of WFGM, instituted the high school initiative. Futch believes information shared at the conference will be valuable for high school seniors who want to learn about things like managing finances and building resumes.

Keynote speaker Teresa Younger, CEO of the Ms Foundation for Women, will be speaking on feminism today, its future and making the tent bigger.

“It’s always critical when women get the opportunity to come together in safe places to share and tell their stories,” Younger says. “There is a greater opportunity for mentoring in this generation because we have more women in more places; more people who can share about work and life balance, family and church balance. This generation has a stronger bench of people to go to and rely on to show us how to grow in these areas.”

For information on The Modern Day Woman’s Conference, visit ywpmemphis.com or mdwc2016.eventbrite.com to buy tickets online.