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11 best women’s leadership conferences

Women make up half the global population, yet are a minority compared to men in the workplace. This gender gap applies not just to employment, but also to compensation, career opportunities, and leadership roles. The disproportion is even more severe for non-binary people and women of color.

Awareness is important, but even more so is action. Companies, teams, and peers must continually choose to challenge workplace bias, advocate for inclusion, and ultimately effect lasting change at work.

Women’s leadership conferences play a critical role in driving this change. By creating spaces that elevate, amplify, and empower women and non-binary voices, these events inspire attendees by the thousands, offering hope for a future of true gender equity.

Each year offers plenty of great conferences to consider. Let this blog be a helpful guide in your search.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The value of women’s leadership conferences
  • What to look for in a women’s leadership conference
  • Best leadership conferences for women in 2021

Let’s get to it.

The value of women’s leadership conferences

To understand the value of women’s leadership conferences, it’s important to know what these conferences are and are not.

Women’s leadership conferences are an opportunity to inspire and empower women. They provide a forum to discuss and address the systemic issues facing women today, while upskilling and encouraging female leaders at all levels of work.

These conferences also serve to educate people of all identities and backgrounds. Inclusion is at the forefront of many of these conferences, and diversity of participants is key to achieving stronger allyship and advocacy for women and non-binary people.

So while these events may focus on women’s issues, they are not strictly “women’s conferences.” From executives to individual contributors, we all have a responsibility to acknowledge inequities in our organizations. Creating a workplace that fosters inclusion and psychological safety is a shared initiative.

What to look for in a women’s leadership conference

When looking to attend a women in leadership conference, it’s important to find the right events for your needs. Start by considering the following differentiators:

Keynote lineup

Event speakers tend to be the driving force behind any great conference. After all, it’s enticing to attend events with speakers you recognize and admire. For women’s leadership conferences, then, you’ll want to find lineups featuring well-known women in executive roles and other positions of leadership.

Session list

Great conferences go beyond star-studded casts, providing additional panels and Q&As to go deeper into key concepts. Look for breakout sessions that cover leadership topics that are close to you.

Core values

Given the importance of these issues, make sure to support event organizers that will treat these topics with the respect and candor they deserve.

Sponsors

Equally important are the values and ethics of the companies backing these events. Great sponsorship opportunities add a level of credibility to the best conferences.

Networking

The best leadership conferences offer a wealth of networking opportunities for attendees and presenters. Look for opportunities to further your professional development and take your leadership skills to the next level.

Price

The price is always right. Consider conferences where the value of the experience meets or exceeds the price of entry. A thousand-dollar event means little in comparison to a free one unless you have a clear sense of value for both.

The more of the above boxes you can check off your personal wishlist, the likelier the odds you’ll engage with the material and speakers on offer.

Best leadership conferences for women in 2021

2021 brings a unique approach to conferences on account of the ongoing pandemic. Most organizers are opting for virtual experiences in lieu of in-person events. Even those that do decide to host events in physical locations will likely offer digital alternatives as well.

With that in mind, there’s perhaps no easier time to explore the leadership world than now. Here are our picks for the best 2021 women’s leadership conferences to attend:

2021 National Workplace Summit, May 6, 2021

Hosted by the Conferences for Women network, the Workplace Summit offers a half-day virtual conference packed with leadership insights. Speakers include authors Malcolm Gladwell, Ijeoma Olou, and Thomas Friedman, as well as CNN Analyst Rana Foroohar. 

Women’s Leadership Conference, May 7, 2021

The 2021 Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) is a virtual event centered around the theme of embracing change. The event’s speakers are headlined by comic book and television writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, with session topics ranging from career pathing to leveraging intuition at work.

OPTIMA, May 12, 2021

OPTIMA is the annual talent optimization conference. The event brings together business leaders, consultants, and HR professionals to discuss how to build and lead great teams for this new age of talent.

This year’s conference is fully virtual, offering a full day of talent optimization insights for attendees. Speakers include some of the most influential women in business, from Peloton SVP Dara Treseder and Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin, to CarMax AVP Ann Yauger and Dawn Sherifan, VP of People at Slack. Other speakers include How I Built This podcast host Guy Raz, and New York Times bestselling author Baratunde Thurston.

Get a Premium Pass for access to all keynotes, 25+ exclusive breakout speakers, and a free copy of the upcoming book The Science of Dream Teams. A Free Pass is also available, providing access to all keynote presentations.

d&i Leaders Global Forum 2021, June 8–9, 2021

The d&i Leaders Global Forum is an online, two-day program that gives HR and other talent professionals the tools to accelerate diversity and inclusion efforts in their organization. The event offers sessions from more than 30 thought leaders, ranging from consultants and inclusion leaders to diversity officers and executive directors.

Women of COLOR Leadership and Empowerment Conference, June 24, 2021

Hosted by COLOR Magazine, the Women of COLOR (WOC) conference is a two-hour virtual experience centered around empowering women of color. Sponsors for the women’s summit include TJX Companies, State Street, and BridgeTowerMedia.

ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference, August 11, 2021

The ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference aims to amplify, sponsor, and advocate for women leaders. The annual conference welcomes 3,000 attendees yearly, with programming spread across both an in-person event in Omaha, Nebraska, and supplemental virtual learning sessions.

eWN ICON, August 25–28, 2021

Held in Dallas, eWN ICON brings together professional women for a summit on entrepreneurship, marketing, and leadership development. The annual women’s leadership summit is hosted by eWomenNetwork, and offers tickets to both network members and non-members. 

Watermark Leadership Summit, Fall 2021

Watermark’s mission is to empower women by providing leadership training, personal development opportunities, and insights from “Changemakers leading the way.” The organization already held its Changemakers conference back in March, but is planning another leadership summit for the fall. Registration opens May 1.

Women in Tech Summit, October 20–22, 2021

The Women in Tech Summit caters to women interested in or currently pursuing a career in technology. This year’s summit is fully virtual, promising talks about industry trends and career pathing, hands-on workshops, and networking opportunities.

TEDWomen 2021, December 1–3, 2021

TEDWomen is an annual women in leadership conference designed to inspire women and girls to be change-makers in their organizations and communities. Scheduled for December in Palm Springs, California, details remain scarce about the event. Past guests include WNBA champion Renee Montgomery and musician Kesha.

Ellevate Events, various dates

Ellevate is a global community of women, non-binary people, and underrepresented genders. The group is hosting a series of virtual roundtables and workshops throughout 2021, with topics ranging from mental wellness to leadership empowerment. Events are offered either as part of a membership, or a la carte for non-members.

Making the case for women in leadership conferences

Change takes courage. Attending an upcoming leadership event can be a great way to act on that courage—and gain real insights you can bring back to your team.

These conferences are even more powerful when experienced as a group. Share these event links over Slack or social media. Reach out to your manager and peers and encourage them to take part. What may seem like small gestures now can make a world of difference down the road for your organization and people.

Register for OPTIMA21, and get next-level talent insights from Peloton’s Dara Treseder and other top thought leaders.

Captain

Rachel is the event marketing specialist at PI.

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