Saturday, November 19, 2016

Texas Conference for Women

I think I would have enjoyed this conference more had I not been to the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) just weeks before. However, despite that, I really did enjoy the Texas Conference for Women (TCW).

There were a number of obvious differences.  GHC was for Women in Technology. TCW as for Women. All Women, no matter what walk of life. GHC was attended by 15,000 people in an over 853,000-square-foot convention center in Houston TX. TCW was attended by 7,000 in a convention center that is 246,092-square-foot in Austin TX. The exhibition hall at GHC was all big, tech companies busy trying to recruit; the exhibition hall at TCW was mainly small companies selling jewelry, clothing or other female trinkets.

However, one of the attractions TCW had that GHC did not, was the authors' corner. There was an area selling books written by the various speakers at the conference, and between each session, a number of the speakers were available to sign their books.  Unfortunately, the time allotted to this process was way too short. There was a long line waiting to purchase books, and even longer lines for each of the authors.

The TCW conference was just a one-day event. I had no intention of driving downtown and fighting to find parking, not to mention the even more unpleasant drive back home, so I decided to take the commuter train - such a novelty to have public transport that was actually going from and to somewhere convenient for me.  The commuter train line runs from Leander, where I live, to directly outside the convention center where the conference was being held. I had never used the train before so was very excited to give it a try. And for $7 day ticket, well worth it. Parking would have been more than that.

I had been invited to a 'learning breakfast' at 7.15 a.m. by Accenture, a tech company. I wasn't sure why they invited me, but guessed it was something to do with the fact that I worked in the tech field. But I liked the idea and as I was planning to be downtown ahead of the crowds, it meant I had something to do while waiting for the conference to start. I caught a train at 5.55 a.m. and was at the conference center by 7 a.m.

Breakfast session
The breakfast was good and the speaker was impressive. Grace Killelea. She had worked for Comcast and was their first female VP. she is also the author of a book called The Confidence Factor. After hearing her speak I bought the book and later in the morning, lined up to have her sign it. Apart from her book, what I took away from her talk was "if you can't hide it, decorate it!" - a reference to not just accepting yourself as you are, but be proud of it.

Grace Killelea signing my book
Following the breakfast was the opening keynote session. The speakers were introduced by Terri Gruca a local Austin TV anchor and reporter. The first speaker was Nina Tassler, who had been president and chairwoman of CBS Entertainment, followed by Annie E. Clark, co-founder and executive director of End Rape On Campus and Abby Wambach, a retired forward of the 2015 Women's World Cup Champion US Soccer Team. All of the speakers were very powerful, but I was most impressed by Abby Wambach.

I also bought Nina Tasslerr's book, and had her sign it for me, well, for my daughter actually. It is called "What I Told My Daughter"; a compilation of wisdom from a wide variety of famous and powerful women. I am hoping that she applies some of that wisdom to her own daughter.

The huge hall where the Keynote was held

Nina Tassler

Abby Wambach
Terri Gruca

Annie E. Clark
Nina Tassler signing my book

After the keynote session, I took a quick look around the exhibition hall and established where the author signing was. Unfortunately, I was too late to get Abby's book as there was already a huge line and I needed to get to my first breakout session which was 'Redefining Leadership' a panel discussion which was extremely interesting. The panel was made up of 6 women from a variety of professions and industries, including Nina Tassler. Following this, I did manage to purchase Nina's book and got it signed. At the same time, I bought Grace's book as I knew that she would be signing after the next session. I was at the head of the line to get that one signed.

Diane von Furstenburg
Lunch was in the huge hall for the second Keynote session - this was what I had come for. The keynote speakers were: Diane von Furstenberg, a fashion designer I am sure everyone has heard of. Linda Cliatt-Wayman, a school principal from Philadelphia who has been featured in a number of TV shows as a result of the extraordinary success she has had, Carroll Bogert, president of The Marshall Project and of course, the speaker I came to hear, Amal Clooney, human rights lawyer and visiting professor at Columbia Law School.

Linda Cliatt-Wayman

Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Lunch was not great, but I didn't come to this conference to eat. Diane von Furstenburg was very impressive and a first class speaker. Linda Cliatt-Wayman is incredibly passionate and it was obvious how she managed to achieve so much in a low-income, high crime school. Here is a link to her TED talk.

Amal Clooney

But Amal Clooney was incredible. What an intelligent, elegant, articulate and unbelievably brave woman. She spoke about her fight to bring ISIS before the United Nations for International Human Rights Crimes. Following her talk, she was interviewed by Carroll Bogert, president of the Marshall Project.

Amal Clooney and Carroll Bogert

Lisa Nichols

With lunch and the Keynote session over, I could happily have headed home, but I decided to attend one more session. 'Transform Your Norm, Success lies outside your comfort zone'. I probably should have read the description more closely. Lisa is a motivational speaker. Definitely not on my most favorite list; I consider myself to be sufficient motivated. If anything I need to learn to relax and stop pushing myself. However I did enjoy her delivery.

Following this session, I headed for the train, foolishly thinking that a 4.19 p.m. train would not be too full. It was packed, there was no space to move, and only barely enough to breath, before it left the station. By the first stop, all of us standing were chatting like old friends. Well, when you are sandwiched up against people, it is hard to stay strangers.

What I took from this conference was lot of food for thought and a few memorable quotes, mentioned before:
 "if you can't hide it, decorate it!"
"Don't just say NO.  Say HELL NO!"
"There is no limit to what you can achieve if you don't care who gets the credit"

And this comment from a young lady in the train leaving the conference center:

"Amal Clooney is amazing! How was George Clooney lucky enough to get her!"