On March 16, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be holding its annual Women’s Leadership Conference. The conference consists of keynote speakers, breakout sessions and an awards presentation.  

Cheryl Bryant, administrative assistant for the Office for Campus Diversity, said, “This is our 16th annual Women’s Leadership conference, and it was started to honor Women’s History Month. We wanted to build where women would gain something from attending the conferences, something to make them better than when they first came.”

The conference is a way for women to be heard, listen to similar experiences they might have gone through and be in a supportive and uplifting environment. 

Kiwana McClung, UL Lafayette’s chief diversity officer, said, “We want women to have a platform where they can discuss, talk about things that they have done in leadership, the challenges that they are having, and what they would like to see in order to make sure that more women feel supported and go into leadership roles, and we just want to sort out those issues that people make face that make leadership difficult for them.” 

She continued, “So any issue, whether it be for mental health and/or wellness, or issues dealing with inadequacy. We had a lot of talks in the past about imposter syndrome.”

This year’s keynote speakers are Ali Landry and First Lady Donna Edwards. Landry will also be promoting her new book titled “Reshape Your Life.”

“This year our keynote speaker is Landry. Landry attended UL and became Miss USA. She is now an author and she is promoting her book here,” Bryant said. “We have a theme this year of our conference, it is celebrating women who are telling our stories. So her having a book catered to women and reshaping their lives was a bonus and a great fit.”

McClung shared that Edwards will be giving the introductory message of the conference.

“She will be talking about women and the path that we blaze. She will do an opening message for the conference attendees before we start our first session of the day.”

There will be three awards given out: Sarah Brabant Trailblazer Award, Rising Leader Award and the Emerging Leader Award. 

“We also want to celebrate winning, which is where the awards come in. It’s saying why we have keynotes throughout the day who are always talking about their successes and their strategies for navigating the world and navigating leadership,” McClung said. “But we want to honor women who have done it successfully.”

“We have three awards that do that and honor them not only later in life, but those who are showing great compromise in their career and in their mid-career,” McClung continued.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the Women’s Leadership Conference.

Check-in will be at 7:30 a.m., welcome and morning keynote will be at 8:15 a.m., break-out sessions one and two will be at 9:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., keynote and award lunch will be at 11:30 a.m., break-out sessions three and four will be at 1:00 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. and closing will be at 3:30 p.m.

“We call it a Women’s Leadership Conference or call it a Women’s Conference during Women’s History month but men are welcome because they’re our allies,” Bryant said. “They’re our supporters. They can learn how to work with this just as much as we can learn from them. So we invited them to come.”

“I would tell students that if they have not ever engaged with the Women’s Leadership Conference that they should just come and engage with it,” McClung said. “No one ever regrets it. We really think that it is a venue where you can get, you know, a lot of insight from people who are out there serving their communities, doing great work, succeeding, and if that’s what you want, that is the kind of people you put yourself around.”

“Even if some of the topics are not exactly what you would be interested in, just to be in that vicinity, see those women talk and talk to some of those women, and get the chance to start a fellowship with them, would put them in a position where they would learn a lot that can serve them in their future lives and careers,” McClung concluded.