This year’s annual YWCA Moxie Conference, which will be held Thursday, May 31, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in downtown Madison, will have an intersectional approach to racial justice. YWCA Madison CEO Vanessa McDowell says that as they’ve planned the event, they’ve been really intentional about being more inclusive for this conference which will give it a much more grassroots feel than it has had in the past.
“This will be our 6th Moxie Conference overall. Traditionally, it’s a women’s leadership conference that has been more for the corporate woman and so we’re making a huge pivot this year … it’s more for the everyday woman,” McDowell tells Madison365. “So we’re excited about having multiple sessions in Spanish as well as breakout sessions that are for black-women-only spaces. We’re having many opportunities for a variety of women who can take away from this conference.
The price has been taken down drastically and more scholarships have been offered for this year’s Moxie Conference which is designed for women who want to expand their network, impact, and leadership skills. This will be McDowell’s first Moxie conference as CEO. Last year, she was interim CEO during the conference. The 2018 theme is “Reclaiming Our Time,” a homage to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the U.S. Representative for California’s 43rd congressional.
“This year, I wanted to have a connection between all of our big fundraisers and events throughout the year,” McDowell says. “As I was thinking about what could be the theme, this ‘reclaimed’ theme kept coming up paying homage to Rep. Maxine Waters who coined the phrase [while making her point at the House Financial Services Committee meeting last summer. ]
The YWCA’s Circle of Women event earlier this year was titled “Reclaiming our Power.” The YWCA Moxie Conference on Thursday will be “Reclaiming our Time” and the YWCA Racial Justice Summit later this year will be “Reclaiming our Story.”
“We are reclaiming our power, time, and story and those words begin with the letters ‘PTS,’” McDowell says. “And when you think about it, that’s what we’ve been experiencing over the last year in our nation. How to recoup from that is by reclaiming our power, our time, and our story.”
This event will also host the 44th Women of Distinction Leadership Awards. Since 1974, YWCA Madison has recognized over 220 women for their community service, professional achievement, integrity, leadership and dedication to the lives of others and to the quality of life for all stand as a reflection of the YWCA’s historic mission and values. This year, the YWCA Madison will honor Barbara Katz, Libby Lee, Kay Simmons, and Alondra Quechol with Women of Distinction Awards for exemplifying the YWCA mission.
“We’re excited about honoring these four women. We’re doing a little different twist this year,” McDowell says. “Normally, I would present the award, but this year we’re going to have their nominators present the award so they actually get to talk about why they nominated that particular woman. So we’re excited about this.”
The keynote speakers for this year’s YWCA Moxie Conference will be Sandra Kim, founder and training director of Everyday Liberation and founder and president of Everyday Feminism, and Courtnee Carrigan, the CEO and Executive Trainer at Raising the Bar Performance Group, LLC.
Kim recently founded Everyday Liberation, which is an educational platform supporting people in building explicitly anti-oppressive and liberating lives and communities – with a regular healing practice. Everyday Liberation offers online training programs for building organization explicitly structured to be anti-oppressive and pro-liberation and healing from oppression as both marginalized and privileged people. She also founded Everyday Feminism in 2012 and led it to become one of the largest independent feminist media sites in the world, with millions of people visiting the site every month. It supports people in applying intersectional feminism to their everyday lives in order to address the daily struggles of violence, discrimination, and marginalization.
Carrigan has over 15 years experience as a nonprofit leader, executive trainer, and strategic facilitator for Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. She combines innovative strategy with effective communication to influence positive change and build organizational capacity. Carrigan has successfully created diverse partnerships working with over 30 nonprofits, schools, universities and businesses to implement well-researched and documented methods to improve workforce performance and community relations.
“It’s really going to be a great opportunity to hear from some folks who are doing amazing work in our nation,” McDowell says. “I’m excited to hear both of our keynote speakers who are coming up – Sandra and Courtnee. It’s going to be an interesting time and I know that they are both powerful speakers.”
This Moxie Conference will also see the announcement of the first cohort of Amplify Madison recipients. There will also be breakout sessions that will tackle subjects like “Breaking the Confidence Code,” “Indigenous Women Shall Lead: Embracing Our Identity, Culture, and Leadership,” “Building Power: Women in Elected Roles,” “Black Women Heal: Reclaiming our Spirits, Our Minds, and Our Bodies,” “Reclaiming Our Identity: Internalized Sexism, Bias, and Intersectionality,” and much more.
“For me, I’m looking forward to seeing the newness of the conference this year and seeing more diversity and inclusion, in particular, and the different women and different presenters that will be there,” McDowell says. “A lot of them are community members who are powerful women in this community. I’m excited for women to be in this space and to learn from each other.”
The Moxie Conference has traditionally been a day of great energy and sisterhood that really leaves women invigorated and motivated. In the end, McDowell says that she wants it to be something that’s much more than just one day.
“To me, there’s a big difference between inspiration and empowerment. You can get inspired for a day – or a couple of days even – after a big conference like this but empowerment means that you are empowered to do something,” McDowell says. “So, the goal of the conference is a call to action to do something. So, the hope is that the women leave with the opportunities and tools to be able to do something different when it comes to reclaiming their time.
“We’re hoping that the action that comes from the conference means that it won’t just be an inspiring event but something that actually empowers people to lead and to act,” she adds.