Friday, November 7, 2008

This year I went to the Women's Conference. Each year I forget about it, kind of hear that it was really great after the fact, and think about getting around to going one day. But this year I was sent, and I went despite having a midterm the next day.

I wasn't sure what to expect. A bunch of women in a conference? 14,000 to be exact? That's a lot of estrogen. Between that and the election, I expected a lot of protesting, political pushing, and man-hating.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I met a friend of mine and we carpooled to the convention center at 6:30 in the morning. But traffic really wasn't bad going in or out. You first go in and they give you a giant bag full of stuff - to be filled with more free stuff as you go through the exhibit hall. And the exhibitors literally force free stuff on you! A lot of it is sample-sized, but there were an awful lot of full-sized products given out (Dancing with the Stars for Wii, reuseable grocery bags, light bulbs) and coupons (some of which I used, and some samples I plan on buying).

The first session was everyone, all in one arena, for the first speakers. The most memorable was Arnold Schwarzenegger, Warren Buffett, and Chris Matthews - they didn't really talk about the economy, but all three talked about how important women are (especially in their homes!) and all three were quite funny. Christine Amanpour spoke, but she was just a little too political-soapbox-y - we went back to the exhibit hall.

One bummer of the day were the breakout sessions. They tended to fill up quickly, so you almost had to leave the general sessions early to get in to the popular ones. I wanted to see Madeline Albright, but that was full almost instantly. Instead I went to the session on entrepreneurship. I'll just say this: Heidi Klum really is perfect in real life. Even her wrinkles are perfect. She is also very upbeat.

Over lunch Maria Shriver spoke, and she really is an amazing speaker. She was so personable, and it was so easy to relate to her, that regardless of politics I have to say I like her a lot. There was not a dry eye in the arena and I was really in to it until she read a poem that she and her mother wrote while her mother was in the hospital. Um, what?? Condoleeza Rice, Indra Nooyi, and Campbell Brown also had a little discussion that was entertaining but Indra Nooyi really stole the show. And then I saw Campbell Brown on the TVs at school that play CNN constantly! Of course the best part: thinking about the logistics of 14,000 boxed lunches that were very, very good. Mmm... logistics.

In the afternoon, most of the sessions were full. But I wanted to see Michael J. Fox anyway, and he was great. Very funny, and very sweet - of course it was probably more interesting to me for a variety of personal reasons.

Afterward, though, was kind of a snafu. The conference hours were extended this year, and while they served a boxed lunch there was nothing to do about dinner! Sure, you could have left, or gone to one of the concession stands that were open throughout the convention center, but somehow this didn't seem quite right. Anyway, it didn't really matter. Safeway and Pepsi had exhibitor booths right across from each other, and had plenty of snacks!

The evening session was very exciting. I'm still not sure what a Minerva is, but the awards winners were great. My favorite, and probably the most popular, was Betty Chinn - you should read her story. I wasn't really looking forward to Bono speaking because I don't really agree with his politics either - but he was so charming! I learned a lot about his organizations. The night ended with a concert by Bonnie Raitt, but by 7 pm who had the energy left to dance?

Next year I think I am going to try and volunteer, since I won't be in school and likely bored out of my mind by then. Even if your workplace doesn't send you, and even though it's hard to get tickets, and it's a little bit pricey if you're on a budget, you should try to go at least once.

The Women's Conference

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