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‘Difference makers’ to give guidance at Women’s Leadership Conference

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The owner of two professional sports franchises, an internationally renowned body language expert and an NBA coach will share stories of success during the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s virtual Women’s Leadership Conference.

Gayle Benson, Jan Hargrave and Teresa Weatherspoon will discuss their careers, leadership styles and lives during UL Lafayette’s women’s conference, which will be held March 2-4.

“Each woman has proven herself a difference maker, adept at overcoming adversity and orchestrating success not only for themselves but, more importantly, for those around them,” said Dr. Taniecea A. Mallery.

Mallery is UL Lafayette’s executive director of Strategic Initiatives and chief diversity officer. She leads the Office for Campus Diversity, which coordinates the Women’s Leadership Conference in conjunction with Women’s History Month. The conference for professional and personal development is in its 14th year.

This year, it’s being held virtually to ensure the health and safety of attendees. Despite the format change, the conference will feature the same opportunities for networking and sharing ideas, experiences and resources as in previous years, Mallery said.

It will also feature speakers and a range of breakout sessions that will focus on topics such as balancing family and work, building professional relationships, empowerment, health and wellness, and inclusion.

The keynote speaker will be Benson, who owns the New Orleans Saints football team and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team. Benson is also an accomplished businesswoman in industries such as management, interior design, and real estate.

“She epitomizes what women leaders can achieve – and how influential they can be – in a multitude of ways and settings. In her case, that includes in professional sports, in business and through her penchant for helping others,” Mallery said.

“The philanthropic efforts she leads are far-reaching, and the University is grateful that her dedication to the betterment of others encompasses us.” 

UL Lafayette is a higher education partner of both the Saints and the Pelicans. As part of a three-year collaboration that began in late 2019, University students and recent graduates have access to internships, networking opportunities and scholarships.

Teresa Weatherspoon, an assistant coach with the Pelicans, will join Benson at the women’s conference. Weatherspoon will lead the conference’s “Team Building and Breaking Barriers” breakout session.

She is one of only a handful of women coaches in the NBA. Weatherspoon also played professionally in the WNBA, and is a member of that league’s Hall of Fame.

Said Mallery: “I’m looking forward to learning about her strategies for operating a team while dealing with pandemic-related considerations. I think that kind of insight will be beneficial for anyone who runs a team of any kind, including in the corporate world.”

“I’m equally interested in learning about ways she feels her gender – and the different approaches she might take as a woman coach – provides value in a male-dominated environment such as the NBA,” she added.

Internationally renowned body language expert Jan Hargrave will be the conference’s closing speaker. A recipient of the University’s Outstanding Alumni Award, she frequently advises the U.S. military and foreign governments regarding witness preparation, jury selection and interrogation tactics.

Hargrave will advise Women’s Leadership Conference attendees about effective ways to communicate in virtual environments, and when standing apart from others while social distancing.

“She will offer instruction to help people understand their own communication styles – and others’ – and the importance of nonverbal cues and behavior, which is more essential than ever in the age of increasing remote work and Zoom meetings,” Mallery said.

The Women's Leadership Conference will be held from 1-4:30 p.m. on March 2-3, and from 2-6 p.m. on March 4. General registration costs $75 and is available until Monday, March 1. Students can attend for $35.

Learn more about the Women’s Leadership Conference and how to register online.

Graphic: Gayle Benson, owner of New Orleans’ Saints football and Pelicans basketball teams, Jan Hargrave, a renowned body language expert, and Teresa Weatherspoon, an NBA coach, will talk about their careers, leadership styles and lives during UL Lafayette’s Women’s Leadership Conference. Graphic credit: Tracey Monte / University of Louisiana at Lafayette