Coming to you live from The Women's Conference 2009 where an unprecedented 25,000 are gathering for two days of inspiration and transformation.
Money. Jobs. The Economy. These are the words that had women buzzing throughout the conference these last two days. Whether it was networking at The Night at The Village for jobs or attending sessions on how to manage money, women are sharing similar stories.
These stories are about themselves, their husbands, boyfriends or friends who have lost their jobs and are facing financial challenges.
Many of them say they have been hit hard by the global recession and are facing the fact pointed out by USA Today earlier this year: that men are losing their jobs at a faster rate than women.
This buzz was also generated a week ago with The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, which explored the reality that, for the first time in our history, half of all U.S. workers are women and that women are the primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families.
“Women are at a point where they need to step up to plate right now,” said Carol Saucillo who attended the How To Manage Your Money in Uncertain Times session this afternoon.
Saucillo said although she has not been directly affected by the recession, her best friend and sister like thousands of women in the country right now are rapidly become the sole breadwinners. Both her friend and sister’s husbands are out of a job.
Saucillo said she is planning on taking the information and tips on how to stay optimistic and manage money better during this financial turmoil back to both of them.
For Renee Janosch of San Jose, California, the conference is a great way to interact with other women and learn strategies for saving.
The goal is also to stay upbeat in order to take the optimism back home.
“I have been trying to get my husband motivated. I have a lot of friends in the same situation,” said Janosch.
The conference offers opportunities for women to think about ways to reinvent themselves, build strength during trying times and become smarter about their finances.
It also offers a place for women to share their feelings and frustrations and learn from one another. Pauline Morgan of Rowland Heights, California, who has been unemployed since 2007, says she will use the conference to touch base with numerous nonprofit organizations to find volunteer opportunities. “When I am here, I am on high. It’s definitely been an emotional boost for me,” said Morgan.
First-time attendee Diana Rodriguez, 24, a recent college graduate who has not been able to find a job, says the conference gives her the motivation to see past her present hurdle and plan for the future.
Rodriguez says it is a relief to hear about others who are facing the same struggle and know there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is really refreshing to be in a place where you can escape all the negative news about the economy and hear how to overcome problems and be a success,” said Rodriguez.
It is courage many women at the conference walked away with to face their shared reality.
When Jacqui Viale flew her mother Gayle Joseph from Philadelphia to Long Beach for The Women’s Conference 2009, she had one goal in mind: to show her first-hand the progress her own generation had made when it comes to women empowerment.
“Her generation was pushed down, there were not the same opportunities available for women back then,” said Viale, 44 of Long Beach. “I wanted her to hear all of these inspiring stories and have the same enthusiasm I have for the conference.”
The two are amongst the many faces of mothers and daughters here today sharing a special bond as they experience the conference together. Dozens of mothers and daughters are turning the extraordinary two-day event into quality time. They can be seen excitedly roaming the booths at The Night at The Village and during rousing standing ovations at many of the sessions.
Inside of the massive bookstore at the Village, Jacqui and Gayle browsed books together and were planning on their next session. The two admitted they were both blown away by playwright Eve Ensler and were embracing the energy and spirit in the Arena.
Gayle Joseph, 67, said she and her daughter have shared the same political and philosophical ideas for years. She knew the conference was the ideal place for them to reconnect and spark up new dialogue about each of their generations.
“I always tell her how my generation backed down a lot because we were intimidated, “said Gayle. “We started pushing out and now here we are. It has been great to see so many strong women gathered together.”
Today, Gayle and Jackie, two generations of Architects of Change, used the conference to link the past to the present. Like so many mothers and daughters here today, it’s an experience of a lifetime.
Dora Medrano came to The Women’s Conference 2009 with a mission – to complete the circle that began earlier this year when she was going through what she calls one of the “most horrific ordeals” of her life – getting diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer.
She attended a seminar in April one month after being diagnosed led by today’s Day of Transformation speaker Dr. Martha Beck, life coach and author of “Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny.”
“At the time, she helped me to plug into my own power and energy when I needed it the most,” said Medrano, a commercial producer from Malibu.
Medrano said it was the need for more connections with other women along with Beck’s name on the line-up of speakers that moved her to buy her first Women’s Conference ticket.
“There seems to be a resurgence of the female consciousness in our country right now, so I needed to be here,” Medrano said.
Today, Medrano’s cancer experience came full circle when she took in Beck’s advice during “So You Want to be an Architect of Change? What You’ll Need to Know About Your Journey Along the Way.”
Sitting in the packed Grand Ballroom, Medrano said she learned she had moved on from what Beck calls the “death and rebirth” square and was now six months later in square two of the personal transformation stage “dreaming and scheming” about the next step in life following the dramatic “meltdown” of her old self.
“Cancer can lead to social isolation and for a long time I wanted to write my own story so I did it and now I want to go on and help people get to a lot of the resources not readily available that I found out about,” said Medrano who started up a blog a few months ago.
Being in the presence of thousands of women today, helped Medrano make a number of connections with other women and gave her the ultimate reassurance she needed to carry on with her mission of taking her blog further and begin research on how to build a fundraiser for cancer.
“I found out today, I am alright. I am on the right path,” she said.
Medrano said the she believes she will get through the cancer not only because her doctor told her she has “astronomically high percentage” of no reoccurrence but because she was reminded today how to stay in tune with herself and her needs by interacting with thousands of others.
At her first Women’s Conference Medrano saw the bigger picture.
A year ago, I set foot at The Women’s Conference as a reporter in search of a good story. In my quest, what I found was not just one, but hundreds of inspirational stories flourishing beyond the podium of riveting high-profile speakers. They were from women from all walks of life who trickled into the Long Beach Convention Center looking to make meaningful connections.
These women were both hungry for words of wisdom from the gamut of special guests ranging from visionaries and business leaders to authors, artists and pop culture icons. And these women were eager to build bridges with others by finding common ground. The conference offered them this and much, much more.
I watched the instant camaraderie; the hope and positive energy flow throughout the conference. There was laughter; there were also tears. Within every corner the opportunity to become a true “Architect of Change” was within everyone’s reach - at the book signings, at the panels and the breakout sessions and online. There were countless ways to indulge in tips for self-improvement, health, money and life balance.
At the end of every session women said they were refreshed with a clear vision that enabled them to walk a bit taller and smile with a bit more confidence. Women seemed to be more self-aware of the next big step they would be taking in their life and this time around they were going for it after being given the tools needed to get there. The best part was hearing women talk about how they were going to take what they gathered and put it into action in their communities, in their family life and within their own long-term goals.
This year, the conference will continue to be the catalyst for change and create new inspirational stories that will continue to thrive throughout the year within this online community where information, dialogue and inspiration are abundant. For the first year ever, the conference will be a full two-day event that will welcome 24,000 attendees.
The live webcast on October 27th ( 8 am – 7pm PDT) will make the highly anticipated lineup of speakers available to millions of women who cannot be present in Long Beach. It is the perfect opportunity to capture the true spirit of the conference with friends, family and colleagues at home or in your office. Today, you’ll be able to check out the latest conference highlights -- videos, photos, interviews and blogs accessible -- from Day One of the conference: A Day of Transformation, and Night at The Village.
I’ll be blogging from the conference for the next two amazing days about the women here and their transformative experiences. Expect lots of moving anecdotes.
These conversations and more will continue 365 days a year – right here online. So join us. Tell us your story. You will feel a sense of renewal in the air, just as I did a year ago.
Brenda Duran is an award-winning writer who has reported on education, immigration and health. She has written for The El Paso Times, The Denver Post, The North County Times and The Long Beach Press-Telegram. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.