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CCU Atheneum: The 2011 conference provided a day of inspiring speakers.
The 2011 conference provided a day of inspiring speakers.

Second annual Women's Leadership Conference helps S.C. women find their voice

by Brian Druckenmiller
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A woman’s lifetime earnings will be approximately $1 million less than a man’s, according to the American Association of University Women. Although women’s roles and rights have certainly expanded over the past several decades, there is still work to be done—especially in South Carolina. Coastal Carolina University’s Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL) is helping to address this issue by sponsoring the second annual Women’s Leadership Conference, titled “Speak UP: Give Voice to the Vision,” on March 19 and 20 at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

The conference encourages women to empower themselves, their communities and, ultimately, the world. It also provides women a platform to network within and outside of their personal and professional realms. The event schedule is loaded with presenters who will share their first-hand experience of how women can improve their personal and professional lives by learning how to speak for themselves.

“We’ve shaped this year’s conference so that everyone’s take-away will be more of an individual experience,” said Beth Stedman, coordinator of women’s initiatives and community engagement at Coastal Carolina University. “Different people will come with different expectations, but everyone will take back new ideas and new ways of thinking.”

Included in this year’s conference will be a bookstore for speakers to sell their publications, a professional development event specifically for attendees under 40 years old and a networking session. At a CCU student-led panel titled “Ask the Millennials: Expectations of Tomorrow’s Leaders,” presenters will discuss how the idea of leadership and expectations for the future have changed over the years.

The two-day event closes with the Celebration of Inspiring Women, a dinner and awards ceremony recognizing women with strong ties to South Carolina who have thrived in a variety of areas. This year’s recipients include: Dr. Jeanne Fourrier, a dentist, philanthropist and humanitarian; Patricia Harris, global chief diversity officer for McDonald’s Corporation LLC; Darley Newman, host, creator, writer and producer of the Emmy-winning series “Equitrekking”; Anne Worsham Richardson, artist, naturalist and lecturer; Brig. Gen. Velma Richardson, retired U.S. Army; and Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“South Carolina has an incredible group of women of achievement,” said Stedman. “These awards honor deserving women and allow them to share their accomplishments with the world.”

Stedman explains that South Carolina has been historically behind the majority of the nation in granting women equal rights. The 19th Amendment was first ratified in June 1919; however, the Palmetto State did not ratify it until 1969. While South Carolina women can vote today, a large gap remains between their paychecks and those of men. Women generally make from 73 to 78 cents for every dollar men make in the same position.

 “Women often don’t think they are qualified for the same opportunities as men, so they often go underpaid and unnoticed and do not have the courage to make a change,” said Stedman.

Stedman feels that this adapted perspective of women in the South needs to be changed. Beginning in childhood, young women need role models and mentors in place to convey positive messages. Beyond childhood, women need to enter a professional environment not only knowing that their capabilities are equal to that of a man’s, but to have the confidence to voice that truth to an employer to receive the professional respect deserved.

The main goal of the upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference is to provide women with the knowledge and tools necessary to do these things. While one annual conference is not the only answer, all the South Carolina women who attend can leave the event with a better understanding of how to improve their lives and positively impact and influence their communities.

“We have a long way to go,” said Stedman. “Women need to be willing to help other women in order to close the gap, and the conference does just that. I want women to take what they learn back to their workplace and communities, and make a difference there.”

The conference is sponsored by CCU’s Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL), an organization established in 2007 that provides scholarships and leadership initiatives to positively transform the lives of Coastal Carolina women. Registration for the conference costs $220, and for the Celebration of Inspiring Women ceremony, registration is $125. For more information or to register, visit


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