For the third year in a row, BET Networks will host the annual Leading Women Defined conference in Washington, D.C., which kicks off today through March 21. Hand-selected top African-American women executives, CEOs, law firm partners, celebrities and more are expected to be in attendance to discuss issues ranging from mentorship and youth voting to education and the upcoming election.
“I started the conference three years ago to really give African-American women a chance to come together and discuss important issues in our community,” BET Networks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Debra Lee tells BET.com. “The goal every year is to come out of the three days with things that we want to continue to talk about or continue to do.”
This year’s theme “Beyond Bold,” is a message to not become complacent in life, and to reach beyond your successes to excel and give back even further, Lee says.
Unlike the thousands of women leadership conferences that take place each year, Leading Women Defined has a more intimate setting. With only 150 attendees, including big names like Valerie Jarrett, Tracee Ellis Ross and Star Jones, BET Networks says that it seeks to create a safe environment where Black women feel comfortable talking about issues and where they don’t have to mask their feelings.
In addition to a place for powerful Black women to address problems plaguing minority communities, Lee also hopes the conference can serve as a safe haven for the women to address their personal problems that, despite their prestige, don’t discriminate.
“Sometimes it’s true what they say; it’s lonely at the top. A lot of us have fought our way to the top of our profession and have no one there to talk to about our insecurities or issues that we face from day to day,” Lee says. “People want to know how to balance a family, how to raise kids successfully and still have a career; how to deal with death of a parent or other issues that may affect our mental health.”
When all is said and done, the chief executive officer says that she wants the attendees to walk away with connections and understand there are African-American women going through the same challenges while simultaneously doing great things.
“I think the thing that I hear the most from women who attend is just how inspirational the three days are, not only being able to discuss issues, but also to hear what other women go through in terms of their careers, with their families, and trying to change the world.”
For more on the conference, stay tuned to BET.com.
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