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Conference empowers women

By | August 29, 2013 | Arts & Entertainment

Academy Award winning actress Helen Hunt is this year's Central California Women's Conference keynote speaker and will speak about living a passionate life.  Photo courtesy of Central California Women's Conference

On Sept. 17, 3,500 women, and a few men, will gather for the 26th annual Central California Women’s Conference at the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center to become empowered.

Jan Edwards, a lecturer at Fresno State, has been a consultant since 2006, and currently is the director of development and marketing for the conference.

Edwards said the main goal of the conference is to empower women in all stages of their lives.

“This is accomplished twofold,” Edwards said. “At the one-day event and by giving back funding to Community Benefit Organizations.

“To date, CCWC [Central California Women’s Conference] has donated in excess of $550,000 dollars to Valley nonprofits.”

Part of the success of the conference, Edwards said, is its resume of impressive speakers. The largest women’s conference in the Central Valley and one of the best in the state, Edwards said the selection process for speakers is very intensive.

“Our vetting process involves research of our attendees, focus groups, market analytics, and we are very fortunate to have a very hands-on board that really is committed,” Edwards said. “They take our recommendations, based on research, and create a short list, and then the hunt is on.”

This year, Edwards said the conference is hosting Academy Award winning actress Helen Hunt, who will speak on living a passionate life.

Edwards said Hunt’s topics will focus on success in Hollywood, breaking through the “glass ceiling” and her most important roles: as an actress, a mother and a strong, independent woman.

Edwards said Betsy Hays, a mass communication and journalism professor at Fresno State, was responsible for booking many other standout speakers for this year’s conference.

Edwards said one of the speakers Hays booked will make Central California Women’s Conference history.

Maria Marin, a Latina-international motivational speaker and named one of the 25 most powerful women in 2012, is speaking at the CCWC. Photo Courtesy of Central California Women's Conference

Maria Marin, a Latina international motivational speaker and named one of the 25 most powerful women in 2012, is speaking at this year’s CCWC. Photo courtesy of Central California Women’s Conference

“For the first time, we have a Latina international motivational speaker,” Edwards said, “Maria Marin.”

Edwards said Marin, who People en Español magazine named one of the 25 most powerful women in 2012, will speak on believing in yourself and give tips for self-confidence.

Other session leaders can be found on the conference’s website and include Fresno businessmen and women, TV personalities, authors, doctors, fitness experts and bloggers.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, Granville Homes President Darius Assemi and Liz Harrison of ABC30 Action News are among those scheduled to lead sessions at this year’s conference, which is sold out.

With 3,500 people expected to attend, Edwards said she feels blessed the tickets went so quickly.

Selling out third fastest only behind speaker Goldie Hawn in 2007 and Suze Orman in 2008, Edwards said that kind of response is rewarding.

“We live for those words, sold-out!” Edwards said. “We know that we’re giving our public what they want and that is a very fulfilling feeling.”

Edwards said the conference is also a great networking tool for students.

“I always tell my students: if you put it out there–work hard and be at the right place at the right time–magic happens,” Edwards said. “Magic has happened at CCWC for my students.”

Fresno State mass communication and journalism major Elly Walker interned at this year’s conference. She said the conference gave her hands-on experience that will help her in her future career.

As the public relations and speaker intern for the conference, Walker said she worked with Hays in a variety of areas.

“I assisted Betsy in gathering all of our speaker proposals and collecting each of their proposed session topics and descriptions,” Walker said. “Betsy and I worked with our board of directors to create the fabulous lineup of speakers that we have now.”

Walker said the speakers each will bring something special to the table.

“I believe each of our speakers and panels will be powerful!” Walker said. “We have a wide variety of topics that will truly encourage each attendee to want to live their passion.”

Catering to women of all ages, Walker said the event will also benefit college students.

“Each speaker is extremely knowledgeable on their topic,” Walker said. “What they will share during their session will be inspirational and encouraging to any women in any age group.”

The $95 admission fee includes breakfast, snacks, speakers, keynote speaker Helen Hunt and even raffle prizes. Edwards said her main hope is that women will leave with more than they paid for.

“Our hope is that women will leave empowered to live the best life they can lead each and every day,” Edwards said. “We offer attendees a day of networking, entertainment, fun and concrete information with formulas for action plans that can and do change their lives.

“We hope they will live their passion!”

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