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Greenville Business Magazine

Converse College Plans Upstate Women in Leadership Conference

May 04, 2018 02:46PM ● By Kathleen Maris

Aiming to promote women in leadership at the early and middle career stages, the Upstate Women in Leadership Conference is a first-time event that will be held Thursday and Friday, June 21-22, 2018, at Converse College. The two days of workshops are sponsored by several local businesses and community leaders, and will provide opportunities for professional women to learn practical strategies for enhancing leadership effectiveness both at the workplace and within the community.

“There are not very many professional development opportunities specifically geared to women's issues in the Upstate area, and those that do exist are usually half-day events.  We are offering women an opportunity to go deeper into issues of women's leadership,” said Melissa Walker, president of Heyday Coaching and a former Converse professor who is co-leading the conference.

Breakout sessions will focus on building practical skills such as communications and executive presence. The goal of the conference is for participants to take away strategies for building their leadership skills, to be inspired and motivated by hearing from fellow professional women, and to gain valuable additions to their professional networks.

Speakers include Jennie M. Johnson, founding executive director of Liberty Fellowship; Kathleen Brady, executive director of the Institute for Metropolitan Studies at USC Upstate; Crystal Pace, director of sales for Marriott Hotels; Adrienne Z. Ables, co-owner of YOGAlicious Yoga Studio and assistant dean for faculty development at VCOM; Eme Crawford, director of communications and learning for Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (SC WREN); and Stinson Woodward Ferguson, director of the SC Bar Pro Bono Program and of organizational development for the J.W. Woodward Funeral Home.

A “Women Supporting Women” panel discussion will be led by Betsy Neely Sikma, vice president of talent and economic inclusion for the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce. Breakout sessions will be led by conference directors and other women in professional coaching and career development fields.

“We hope strong women leaders from across the community will come together for this opportunity to grow personally and professionally, and benefit from networking and focusing on how we can impact the advancement of all women,” said Tori McLean, conference co-chair and director of leadership development for Converse College.

As a women’s college focused on building greater connections with the Upstate business community, Converse is a natural fit for hosting the conference, McLean said. The college is also enabling its students to attend free of charge.

Cynthia Sisk, a Converse alumna and president of Nara Coaching and Consulting, is also co-chairing the conference. “As an alumna, I see Converse as the natural leader for any initiative related to leadership development and women in the Upstate. Our target audience spans from women at the start of their career to women mid-career and even those seeking transitions to entrepreneurship later in life. We hope this conference will become an annual gathering with more collaboration in the community as it grows,” she said.

To register, visit