WREN Annual Summit

When: April 1st, 2019
Where: Columbia Museum of Art

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Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) will be hosting their third annual state-wide summit on April 1st, 2019 at the Columbia Museum of Art in downtown Columbia.

This year WREN welcomes keynote speaker A’ja Wilson, former Lady Gamecock, current WNBA Las Vegas Aces player, 2018 Rookie of the Year, FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist, founder of the A’ja Wilson Foundation, and equal pay and women’s empowerment advocate.

If we continue on our current path, women will not receive equitable pay to men until 2059. Given this, the theme of this year’s summit is “The Time is Now.” The time is NOW for building individual and collective commitments to close the gender and racial wage gap and accelerate women’s economic empowerment in South Carolina.

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Event Agenda

Monday, April 1st, 2019


Reflecting on our Past: Introducing Columbia City of Women Project

Brief video + remarks by Mayor Pro Tempore Tameika Isaac Devine


Planning for the Future: Business and Policy Solutions for Pay Equity

Moderator: Thad Moore, Post & Courier
Honorable Wendy Brawley, SC House of Representatives
JoAnn Turnquist, Central Carolina Community Foundation
Leslie Johnson, Human Resources Executive, Bank of America


Financial Flash Talk: Planning for the Tough Stuff

Erin Cook, Estate Planning of SC, LLC


Morning Breakout Sessions

Childcare and Women's Economic Empowerment
Panelists: Dr. Crystal Campbell, Dorchester County First Steps
Dr. Kimberly Janha, Richland County Legislative Delegation
Amanda McDougald Scott, Institute for Child Success
Moderator: Kathryn Whitaker, Burr Forman McNair Law Firm

Lack of access to safe and affordable childcare options prohibits many women from joining their peers in the workforce. Women are often faced with an impossible choice: achieve greater economic empowerment, or tend to the needs of their loved ones. This lively discussion will address the current childcare crisis, offer ways to improve care for children, and share strategies for engaging with legislators and other powerful figures that could change the landscape for the better.

How to Support Women of Color at Work
Beth Ruffin, Colonial Life Insurance

In this wide-ranging presentation, diversity and inclusion expert Beth Ruffin will discuss a host of issues that women of color face in the workplace, including--but not limited to--bias, microaggressions, stereotyping, and more. It’s everyone’s responsibility to not only practice but champion genuine inclusivity in the workplace. To that end, presentation attendees can expect to encounter a range of different tactics and practical skills to help them become better allies for women of color in professional environments.

Dismantling Structures of Economic Discrimination
Panelists: Tiffany James, Justice James Consulting, LLC
Teshia Salters McSwain, JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA)
Dr. Susan Parlier, University of South Carolina College of Social Work
Marlena Richardson, South Carolina Dream Team Coalition
Moderator: Deborah Billings, PhD, Independent Consultant

In the wake of the Great Recession, gendered economic oppression has proven especially toxic, particularly for those who belonged to already-vulnerable populations. The formerly incarcerated, people living with HIV, low-income and low-wage workers, and those who rely on public transit: many in these groups endure unbearable levels of financial strain. This vital discussion will offer community leaders and professionals in the public health, social work, and human services arenas a forum to explore the possibilities for improving their economic mobility.

Rethinking Women's Leadership
Panelists: Major Vanessa C. Gonzalez, US Air Force
Mahkia Greene, Indie Grits Labs
Lawanda Holliman, Everything Etiquette & You, LLC & NC100BW Liaison
First Lieutenant Eboni Jackson, US Air Force
Moderator: Jane Perdue, The Jane Group

What inhibits women’s economic opportunities, and curbs their leadership potential? Answers to these questions always point back to one thing: power. To correct the imbalances of power in social and professional spaces, women need to wield power differently--in a way that includes and engages, instead of excluding, harming, or marginalizing. This thought-provoking panel will invite attendees to take and utilize power in a way that challenges the status quo by being more inclusive and equitable.

Moving from Talk to Action: Using Data to Drive Results Workshop
Facilitated by Megan Branham, North Public Relations

How do we leverage state data to drive lasting change? In this presentation, public relations expert Megan Branham will guide attendees through a “data walk,” sharing South Carolina specific numbers on workforce and pay disparities, child care and healthcare availabilities, as well as other social factors impacting women’s lives. Each attendee will focus on a data set pertinent to their work, and identify community partners to help them improve outcomes for their constituents moving forward.

Dismantling Toxic Masculinity Workshop
Facilitated by Mike Young, PASOs

Drawing on the work of philosopher Paolo Freire, this interactive workshop will confront difficult questions surrounding access, individual power, and the habits that perpetuate toxically masculine social structures. Participants will join the workshop facilitator in identifying and subsequently dissecting repetitive behaviors that reinforce this type of inequality. Anyone prepared to scrutinize their own reflexive habits and frames of mind will find value in this unique and engaging presentation.


Art tours

Exhibits will be open throughout the day on the second floor atrium. Join the different tours during this time period to learn more and ask artists questions!

Columbia Museum of Art
“More than the Sum of Her Parts,” Fran Gardner
Latinas Chingonas with Ivan Segura


Afternoon Breakout Sessions

A Seat at the Table: Securing and Maximizing Your Role on Boards and Commissions
Panelists: Jamesha Shackerford, Central Carolina Community Foundation
Kaitlin Sidorsky, Coastal Carolina University
Moderator: Erin Johnson, Central Carolina Community Foundation

Millennials are coming into their own, serving on public boards and cultivating positive outcomes for their communities. But for those who have yet to take the leadership leap, how do you navigate--let alone initiate--that tricky first year as a board or commission member? Seasoned experts from Central Carolina Community Foundation and Coastal Carolina University offer insights, strategies, and words of wisdom to guide board and commission prospects through this sometimes complex, but always rewarding, process.

Empowering Girls and Trans Youth
Panelists: Bianca Chardei, Love Yourself Always, Inc.
Zakiya Esper, Sowing Seeds Into the Midlands
Radia Heyward, Charleston Promise Neighborhood
Hartley Middleton, Girls Rock - Columbia
Moderator: Nijeeah Richardson, We Are Family

South Carolina’s girls and trans youth will constitute the next generation of leaders in our state. But how can public officials, school administrators, nonprofit heads and other impact-focused community servants effectively empower these oftentimes vulnerable young people? It starts by reminding them that they belong, and that their perspectives matter.

Show Me Your Brave
Lisa Hostetler Brown, LawyerLisa
Kim Humphrey, MSW Candidate, University of South Carolina

Show Me Your Brave addresses the challenges and opportunities unique to women leaders in the contemporary professional landscape, and urges attendees to recognize their own leadership potential. This energizing confidence-building exercise invites participants to consider the unique power that women leaders hold, especially when it comes to supporting other women--namely, in cultivating a supportive atmosphere that makes it possible for them to achieve their career goals and personal aspirations.

Women Asking More
Panelists: Melissa-Anne Cunningham-Sereque, Motivation & Achievement Concepts, Inc.
Georgina Dukes, Unite Us
Dr. Toni A. Haley, Lifestyle Coach
Shayne Kinloch, Together SC
Moderator: Lindsey Jacobs, Public Education Partners

This multifaceted interactive panel will touch on a series of topics pertinent to the women of today’s workforce. Expect forthright discussions on salary negotiations, side hustles that augment your income, warning signs of overwork or “burnout,” and more. The core purpose of this panel is to inspire a greater degree of reflection in attendees regarding work, its value in their lives, and how elements of identity like race and gender inform conceptions of self.

Domestic and Sexual Violence: Thinking Beyond the Criminal Justice Response Workshop
Facilitated by Sara Barber, South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

When it comes to preventing domestic and sexual violence, the failings of the criminal justice system are readily apparent. In this workshop, participants will receive a brief overview of the historically ineffective state and federal approaches to these forms of violence, discuss creative approaches to policy, and explore recent research on alternative forms of community prevention and accountability. All are welcome to attend this workshop--no prior knowledge of domestic or sexual violence policies is required.

Misogynoir: What it is and How it Affects Black Womxn Economically and Mentally Workshop
Facilitated by Kymberly Smith

When Black Womxn grapple with misogyny, they experience compounded oppression--oppression motivated not only by their race, but by their gender identification as well. In this revealing panel, community organizer and activist Kymberly Smith discusses the real-world ramifications of misogynoir with fellow Black Womxn organizers from across the Palmetto State. Geared toward audiences of all races and ethnicities, this discussion is the first step in a long process of unlearning racial and gender-based prejudices.


Financial Flash Talk: Taking Control of Debt

Ashleigh Brooker, AJ Brooker Financial Associates


Recruiting and Retaining Women in the Workforce Plenary Panel

Moderator: Claire Hall, Parker Poe
Adrienne Temple, South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, Trident Technical College, South Carolina Aeronautical Training Center
Suzanne Dickerson, South Carolina Council on Competitiveness
Angela Adams, Sonoco Products Company
Rhonda LaFrance, Spirax Sarco Inc.
Featuring voices from across the Palmetto State, this panel will reinforce how South Carolina’s ever-expanding manufacturing presence can be a lucrative option for the state’s women workers.


Financial Flash Talk: Making a Plan for Cybersecurity

Laird Green, Abacus Planning Group


36 Questions with Shannon and Sherrie

Shannon Ivey and Sherrie Belton know what a good question and active listening can do. 36 Questions is an experience introduced by Ivey at the wildly popular community engagement project, Enjoy SC. This scientifically based exploration of asking and listening will enhance your bond with a new friend or ally, and leave you feeling heard, connected, and refreshed. Shannon and Sherrie will facilitate a 25-minute version of the experience. Bring a buddy, or we will find you one.

Need a place to stay?

These hotels are located in downtown Columbia.


Get an in-depth look into the barriers, benefits, and challenges that women face when entering and advancing in the workforce in South Carolina.

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Check Out Highlights From Last Year!

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Thank you to our generous sponsors!