The Women’s Leadership Conference grew out of conversations between women in our community with a common goal—to see more women represented in leadership roles. What barriers existed? What could be done to remove them?
A coffee date between Jeanne Stallman and Karen Blair kicked off the idea.
A Medford, OR native, Karen was elected to the City Council in November 2010. Jeanne wanted to know what is was like, being the only woman on City Council and the vehemence of her reaction was surprising. Clearly frustrated by the lack of representation by women in elected office locally, Karen wondered why there had only ever been one woman on the City Council at a time.
Around this same time Pauline Brady, then a Medford School Board director, hosted a non-partisan lunch to tackle the very same issue. She cited a study showing that men needed little urging to run for office, while women on average had to be asked seven times before they would even begin to consider the possibility.
Months later at a University Club lunch, Jeanne recounted these conversations and made an off-the-cuff comment that perhaps we needed some kind of an event or conference to encourage more women to step forward as community leaders. Retired Southern Oregon University president Elisabeth Zinser, standing nearby, turned sharply and said with vehemence, “Yes! That is exactly what we need!” Clearly, there were some very strong feelings.
And so on June 4, 2012, Jeanne Stallman invited a small group of community leaders at the Higher Education Center to explore the idea of a Women’s Leadership Conference. The idea was cemented when Patsy Smullin, owner of California-Oregon Broadcasting, whipped out her checkbook and offered to write a check right then and there to get the ball rolling. The Women’s Leadership Conference was off and running!
From the very beginning, it was determined that this event would focus on practical application, not a theory of leadership. The founders sought to inspire more women to step into leadership roles in business and community locally. Although the focus was women supporting women, the committee elected to define the mission more broadly:
To foster leadership in business, government, and non-profit organizations,
that more fully reflects our community.
The Women’s Leadership Conference strives not only to encourage women to lead; it aims to encourage women to use their voices to ensure leadership opportunities for all.