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Florida conference to boost women’s professional stature coming to Tampa

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Women in Florida can now register for the state’s first of its kind professional women’s conference. The two-day event aimed at empowering women in various professions features a number of respected professionals and thought leaders, exhibits, networking opportunities and panel discussions.

The conference runs this spring on May 19 and 20. A pre-conference reception is scheduled for the evening of Thursday May 19 at Port Tampa Bay. The following day more than 1,200 attendees are expected to flood the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina to hear from a range of speakers from statewide and national companies and organizations featuring female talent.

Speakers include Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show; Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times and first woman to hold the most senior editorial positions at the publication; and Lori Greiner, American inventor, investor, entrepreneur, author, and cast member of the reality TV show Shark Tank.

More speakers are expected to be named in the coming months.

“The goal of the Women’s Conference of Florida is to annually raise awareness of timely issues impacting women, both at work and home, such as leadership, mentorship and paying it forward, personal finances, social change, and more,” said Arlene DiBenigno, president of the Women’s Conference of Florida and managing partner of full-service communication firm Conversa. “These speakers reflect the caliber of talent and expertise Florida’s professional women have expressed they want to learn from and be inspired by, as their stories of overcoming obstacles and achieving success resonate with a wide-variety of attendees.”

The event is primarily sponsored by the local company, Laser Spine Institute where women hold 53 percent of the group’s leadership positions.

“We continually strive to give female business professionals the resources to lead, both professionally and personally, and that’s something we’re very proud of,” said Bill Horne, CEO of Laser Spine Institute. “Through our partnership with the Women’s Conference of Florida, we look forward to sharing this essential part of our culture with women from across the state of Florida and beyond, empowering them to lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.”

Women account for less than 12 percent of board seats in public companies and only three to four percent are heads of companies nationwide. Florida is not expected to reach pay equality until the year 2038. The statistics highlight why the Women’s Conference of Florida is needed. Leaders strive to ultimately improve these figures.

“The conference will offer women from across the state of Florida and beyond a platform to learn how they can involve, inspire, and invest in not only themselves but others, as well as provide expertise about today’s leading industries,” said Women’s Conference of Florida Chair and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Other sponsors of the 2016 event include Clear Channel Outdoor, Verizon, DTCC, Pfizer, TECO Energy Company, Bank of America, Strategic Property Partners, Port Tampa Bay, Conversa, Gracepoint and Mosaic.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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