UWM’s Women Leaders Conference has always focused on empowering women.
This year, the organization, based in the School of Continuing Education, is continuing that theme virtually with two presenters who symbolize women’s activism and leadership. The event will also announce a new partnership, starting in January, to provide an online community for women to connect, learn and grow year-round.
The conversation at the virtual event presented by Boswell Book Company on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. will be led by two female activists and leaders:
- Erin Brockovich is an environmental activist made famous in the movie of the same name and the author of a new book on water issues, “Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can do About It.”
- Mary Burke is a businesswoman, activist, 2014 candidate for Wisconsin governor and founder of the nonprofit digital platform Building Brave.
The program, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences, Boswell Books, the School of Continuing Education and Building Brave. To register and learn more, visit the Boswell Books upcoming events page. The first 100 registrants will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of Brockovich’s book.
Brockovich and Burke have previously been presenters at the Women Leaders Conference, and both typify the idea of building women’s empowerment and leadership, according to Anne O’Meara, conference director.
At the event, the Women Leaders Conference will announce a new partnership with Building Brave, starting in January 2021.
“Our conference has always been about education, inspiration and connection,” said O’Meara. When the organization wanted to find a way to reach out to women year-round, the leaders and advisory committee reached out to Burke to help them build an ongoing, online community.
“One of the great things about the Women Leaders Conference is the opportunity to do some of the informal networking that happens between the sessions and is formalized at the end of the day,” said Kim Huettl, conference associate director. “That’s a perfect tie-in with Building Brave.”
“We think it’s a great complement to in-person events,” said Burke. The in-person Women Leaders Conference is scheduled to continue in March 2022.
The online forum will give women a unique opportunity to share insights and questions on themes like leadership, life balance, diversity and inclusion, career management, innovation and change, said O’Meara. Being able to do that online on their own time is a good option right now for women who are balancing working at home, managing children’s homework and other pandemic challenges, she added.
Brockovich was a good choice to lead off the virtual approach, O’Meara said. “She’s a great example of a woman leader and what happens when you bring a community together to make change.”
Burke founded Building Brave after she ran for governor, inspired by a book called “The
Confidence Code.” Women are less likely than men to have confidence in themselves, which is where the support of a community comes in, she said.
“I think I’m a fairly confident person, but my experience in running for governor was that it was other people who saw the potential in me,” Burke said. “I had an enormous community to help encourage and inspire me. Every woman should have this type of community.”
The Women Leaders Conference is the 10th organization to become part of Building Brave’s digital platform. Northwestern Mutual, CUNA Mutual, Quad/Graphics and other businesses and women’s professional organizations are part of Building Brave. Women are welcome to join in their organization’s private platform as well as the broader digital community, Burke said.
“Working with the Women Leaders Conference is perfect because you already have an audience. You have great ideas and content,” she said.
“In her book’s introduction, Brockovich writes about stick-to-itiveness, not waiting for permission and depending on the support of others to reach your goals,” said O’Meara. “These values coincide with the themes of the Women Leaders Conference and our new online community.”