After a hiatus of several years, I decided to again attend The Texas Conference for Women. I felt the need to reflect on the past year, get re-motivated about my job, and take a continuing education day. Plus the event was nearby at the Austin Convention Center.
Attendees gathered at 8:30 AM in the main hall for the opening session. Seats were not reserved, so I sat at a table near the front. Speakers for the TCW opening session were:
- Sally Hernandez: Anchor for local TV station KXAN and emcee for the conference
- Debbie Dunnam: Senior Vice President at Cisco and TCW board member
- Tory Johnson: Journalist-turned-enterpreneur and author of The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life
- Vernā Myers: Diversity expert / author – “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
- Bob Beaudine: His sport analogies seemed out of place at a women’s conference, but later I read that he is head of a sports and entertainment executive search firm.
- Esmeralda Santiago: Born in Puerto Rico and moved to Brooklyn when she was 13. Always knew that she wanted to “create her own life” and is now a widely-published author.
- Jenny Lawson (pictured above): Local blogger who read a very funny chapter from her book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.
For the first break-out session, I decided to attend “Life at a Crossroads: Finding the Courage to Choose a Different Path.” The speaker was Delia Ephron, sister of the late Nora Ephron. She has a new book called Sister Mother Husband Dog. Her life story was interesting, but it was hard to pay attention due to the two screens behind her that were displaying tweets from conference attendees. Conference organizers probably thought this would make the attendees feel more connected or something, but the constant tweets about other speakers left me wondering if I had chosen the wrong session.
My second session choice was “Winning from Within: Practical Wisdom for Leading Wisely and Living Well.” Erica Ariel Fox explained how to recognize and nurture our internal voices—dreamer, thinker, lover, and warrior. Since she used a PowerPoint presentation, there were no annoying tweets on the screens.
The morning went by quickly, and soon it was time for the lunch back in the main hall. Tables were preassigned for the 5,000+ attendees, so I was further away from the stage than before. Lunch was a Mediterranean salad with chicken on the side. I was the only one at my table who liked the meal. The other women were expecting something more substantial.
- Sallie Krawcheck (pictured above): This former Wall Street executive talked about how she was fired twice and what she has learned from these experiences.
- Johnita Jones: ExxonMobile Pipeline Company manager and TCW board member
- Leymah Gbowee: Peace and women’s rights advocate who was honored as the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
Rachael Ray signed hundreds of copies of her latest cookbook for over an hour and then came on stage for an interview with Addie Broyles, food editor for the Austin American-Statesman. Rachael raved about Austin—“utopia” and “I feel inspired here”—and talked about her South by Southwest Feedback parties. She was asked to describe her typical day: waking up at 5 AM to exercise, preparing for and taping three episodes of her Rachael show, selling her cookware for an hour on QVC, going out for pizza with friends, and finally getting to sleep around midnight. She added that she comes from a hard-working family…can’t argue with that!
The conference started winding down after Rachael’s interview. I wondered while walking the five blocks back to our apartment: would I go again next year? Initially I didn’t think so, but now as I reflect back on the day, I see that I really did enjoy the conference. So perhaps…