Dallas Women’s Leadership Summit Gains Support for Return to In-Person Event


Helen Giddings developed the Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas to help empower women.

Giddings wanted “a space where women could talk about finding ways to strengthen their network, which is really how we get things done,” Giddings said. “It’s basically like that. This gives women a unique opportunity to do so.

On August 5-6, 250 emerging women leaders will gather at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel to hear from panels and keynote speakers, including Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor-President of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Vanessa Gilmore, retired United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas; and Deryl McKissack, president and CEO of the architectural firm McKissack & McKissack.

Helen Giddings, organizer and founder of the Women’s Leadership Summit(Courtesy of Women’s Leadership S)

The theme of the summit is “Reemerged, Restored, Refocused and Reinvented”.

“We are going to have to restore our confidence, realizing that there are a lot of challenges ahead of us but also believing that we are equipped and that we will be able to overcome these challenges,” Giddings said.

This year’s event follows a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. For the past two years, summit leaders have instead offered virtual sessions focused on mental health, the economy and more.

Topics this year include health and wellness, innovation, diversity and inclusion. Nearly 50 panelists are scheduled to speak at the three-day event.

Create a community

In the fall of 2017, the former Texas House representative Giddings invited just over a dozen women to dinner at the African American Museum in Fair Park. The conversation focused on one topic: women’s empowerment.

“Everyone who was invited to this meeting immediately said, ‘Oh my God, this is something we need to do. It’s essential,” Giddings said.

Then and there, the women at the table decided to hold the first Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, which took place in April 2018. The co-founders contributed to the cause and partnered with colleges and universities to ensure its continuous growth.

Giddings, who is also a founder of the University of North Texas at Dallas, saw partnering with schools as a natural fit.

Noting that she is a Democrat, Giddings said she made sure there were voices from other parties involved in the planning. She invited two Republican women, former Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson and former Fifth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Carolyn Wright-Sanders, to help create the event.

Since then, the summit has grown to include more guest speakers and programming. Hattie Hill, CEO of the TD Jakes Foundation and one of this year’s panelists speaking on technology, said the summit attempts to answer questions from young women entrepreneurs.

Hattie Hill, CEO of Hattie Hill Enterprises Inc., appeared on the Dallas Morning News...
Hattie Hill, CEO of Hattie Hill Enterprises Inc., attended the Dallas Morning News Economic Summit in 2013.(David Woo / personal photographer)

She said women ask ‘How do I start working on a plan? How can I develop a mentor? How can I have the opportunity to get in touch with other women who may be going through the same things? “These conversations are so critical right now,” Hill said.

What will 2022 look like?

Giddings said the summit will follow local and federal guidelines for protecting against COVID-19. There are still places available and the cost to participate is $175 per ticket.

Giddings said the summit’s refocusing theme seems fitting.

“There’s so much diversity in terms of where these people come from across age groups,” Giddings said. “There really is something here for everyone.”

Giddings says the Dallas-Fort Worth area really wants to provide opportunities like this for women.

Courtney Caldwell, co-founder of ShearShare, is a panelist who will focus on “Entrepreneurship Essentials.” She says she wants to help participants kick-start their careers as entrepreneurs.

Caldwell says their No. 1 fear begins.

“I think that’s the hardest thing for people when they think of having an idea that keeps them awake at night,” she said. “Emotionally and mentally, you have to get over that initial hurdle. And for me, it really eliminates that fear.

Joining Caldwell as a panelist is Dallas-based Kanarys co-founder Mandy Price. Price runs the data analytics company focused on diagnostics around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Mandy Price, a graduate of DeSoto High School, is the co-founder and CEO of Kanarys, a...
Mandy Price, a graduate of DeSoto High School, is the co-founder and CEO of Kanarys, a technology platform that fosters collaboration between companies and employees to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.(Lori Wilson Photography)

Price plans to share her story of leaving a career as a lawyer to co-found her own startup.

“We hope that with this session we can remove some of the barriers for those looking to get into entrepreneurship,” Price said. She believes the summit is “critical work” and absolutely essential when considering the number of women in the workforce.

The International Labor Organization has found that 64 million jobs held by women have been lost due to long-standing gender inequalities, which can range from an unequal division of domestic labor to lack of childcare. children, she said.

“Educating, empowering and empowering women is critically important to successfully navigate today’s complex business environment,” Price said.

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