Launched in 2004 by Leslie Stiles, the mission of the PA Conference for Women is to be a premier one-day professional and personal development event for women, featuring dozens of renowned speakers sharing inspirational stories and leading seminars.
To that end, Stiles has more than accomplished that mission. On Oct. 16, the PA Convention Center’s halls and meeting rooms were filled with thousands of women eager to network, share stories and connect with others. The exhibit hall included well-known tri-state area businesses, including QVC, Beneficial Bank, Bristol-Myers Squibb, PPL Corporation, AstraZeneca, The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania and non-profit organizations, with some of their core missions dedicated to helping women’s causes.
“It’s been a banner year for women in the news,” said Stiles during her luncheon opening remarks. She gave a shout out to local Little League baseball phenom Mo’ne Davis of the Taney Dragons. “She proved once again that we can do anything we set our minds to.”
On the flip side, Stiles also presented the negative news affecting women, specifically the viral video of NFL player Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino.
“One in four women will suffer physical violence by a partner in their lifetime…12 million women every year. Most of them didn’t have videos, nor should they need them,” she said.
“If we’re going to have a solution we have to talk to each other and we have to engage men in that conversation,” Stiles added.
Stiles went on to talk about the continuing inequities in our society regarding gender, specifically with “women still earning 23 percent less than the guy next to us. There is so much to be done and so much we can do. Gender should not dictate our value.”
She further emphasized the importance of being politically active to create the changes we want to see.
“Make sure you vote. It’s the single most powerful thing you can do.”
Finally, she concluded by recommending to attendees that they “use this conference as a springboard to action.”
After Stiles’ inspiring opening, Monica Malpass, co-anchor of “Action News” on 6 ABC News, took the helm as emcee for the speakers during the keynote luncheon.
Strawberry Mansion High School principal Linda Cliatt-Wayman and Diane Keaton delivered memorable and passionate keynotes, followed by Robin Roberts being interviewed by friend and fellow Good Morning America colleague Tory Johnson.
Cliatt-Wayman’s moving speech on the possibilities for every child was a fervent call to action. She urged attendees to “use your power and influence, and take your role seriously.”
Strawberry Mansion High School was once on the list of the 10 most dangerous high schools in the U.S., yet through Cliatt-Wayman’s guidance, vision and dedication, the school no longer makes this list.
She continued to speak proudly of her ability to “continue to witness your willingness to support children in need. We have to care about the right to education for all of America’s children.”
She finished to enthusiastic applause from the thousands of women in the audience.
Diane Keaton’s colorful keynote about the idea of beauty was certainly the most unique of the day. She sang, read excerpts from her book, “Let’s Just Say it Wasn’t Pretty,” and talked about her friendship with Jack Nicholson. Her poignant remarks about her mother resonated with many when she said: “My mother was my greatest advocate.”
Finally, Robin Roberts’ frank conversation with Tory Johnson gave conference attendees a view of Roberts’ personal relationship with partner Amber Laign and a glimpse into her life before becoming a GMA anchor.
When Johnson asked Roberts about her health, after battling both breast cancer and a rare blood disorder, Roberts responded: “I’m strong like bull.”
Regarding her career path and aspirations, Roberts said she “always spoke up.” When she wanted a job on ESPN’s Sportscenter, Roberts said simply: “I asked for it.”
Roberts also spoke of her upbringing in Mississippi, her parents’ strong presence and her unshakeable faith. “When you have faith anything is possible. Reason will only take you so far.”