If you’ve been searching around on the internet for a great business leadership conference for women to attend, you may have noticed some exciting things happening in Milwaukee. The School of Continuing Education at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) has been bringing in speakers like Anita Hill, Beth Pritchard, and even Gloria Steinam.
And it should come as no surprise to you that an Emory & Henry woman is behind all the excitement.
Jan Allen, a 1976 E&H graduate, had an idea to “go big.” She’s the Director of the Business and Management Programs at the School of Continuing Education at UWM, and her little brain child has turned into a much-sought-after event that routinely brings in 500 people for a conference on women’s leadership. The event celebrates women who have made names in their fields of work, and the speakers have an opportunity to share their stories, warn of pitfalls, and encourage new leadership.
Jan is not one to shy away from a challenge, so she came out swinging the very first year by securing Pat Nazemetz as the first keynote speaker. Ms. Nazemetz was the chief human resources officer at Xerox Corporation, and was the person in charge as Xerox hired back-to-back female CEO’s, including the country’s first African American woman to head up a Fortune 500 company.
Feedback from the first event was so good that participants clamored for the event to be a full day instead of half. Now the event has two major speakers each year plus a host of concurrent sessions that consist of panel discussions and small group interaction.
Other speakers have included UWM alumna Beth Pritchard, who left SE Johnson Company to become the CEO of Bath and Body Works, and Doris Christopher, the founder of Pampered Chef.
It only took until year three to land the biggest fish of all: Gloria Steinam. Jan is no stranger to interacting with powerful people, but even she sounds a little awestruck when talking about this event: “Just to be in the presence of a living legend….it was amazing. She had a certain calmness about her as if she knows we’re not at the finish line, but she sees that things are beginning to turn in the right direction for women.”
Jan is not only the brains behind this great event but she also is a fundraiser who secures big name sponsorships that allow them to bring in exceptional leaders in business who happen to be women.
Jan is already hard at work for the 2014 event, but as of today she doesn’t know who the keynote speaker will be. Perhaps she should ask herself.