Women’s Conference deadline fast approaching


*Since publishing this article the deadline for submissions has since been extended to February 4th. The  Women’s Conference has been condensed to a one day event that will be held virtually. The committee is also offering an optional in person reception where they will discuss the Women’s Leadership Retreat according the SIU Women on Facebook.*

The Women’s Conference committee motivates its attendees to think creatively and broadly.

The deadline for the Women’s Conference, themed “Advocates and Allies” this year is
Jan. 31, 2022. The committee will notify all accepted applicants by Feb. 4.


Proposals may include material presented in past academic courses related to the theme as well as interactive workshops, narrative writings, poetry, discussion panels and much more.

The conference will be on March 18 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on March 19 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Student Center at Southern Illinois University (SIU). The organization is prepared to make it virtual if circumstances warrant.

Rita Medina, co-chair of the planning committee and academic advisor, has been working with and attending the conference for several years now. She says submissions should be fresh, but don’t have to be fully developed as the committee will help applicants formulate their ideas.

“They don’t necessarily have to have a concrete outline right now, today, to be able to say, ‘I really want to discuss this,’” Medina said.

The annual conference brings a lot of attention to those who identify as women in the local community, in SIU classrooms and those who are interested in racism, ableism, heterosexism and more.

Jackie Spinner, an alumni of SIU, was a keynote speaker at the last Women’s Conference in March 2021, addressing the obstacles she overcame while pursuing a career in investigative journalism.

Shelby Swafford, Ph.D. candidate in communication studies, serves on the programming committee and has been involved with the conference since 2018. She served on the executive board for the Women, Gender, and Sexual Studies (WGSS) program at SIU.


Swafford said she enjoyed Spinner’s remarks, as it changed her perspective on a lot of things considering she wouldn’t have seen the journalist since she’s outside her direct field of study.

“Sometimes in academia, as a grad student, we feel really pressured to be super tuned in to our fields of study,” Swafford said. “I wouldn’t have heard that talk from Jackie Spinner… but I learned a lot from listening to her speak about her experience as a woman in the field.”

According to SIU News, this year’s theme “Advocate’s and Allies” focuses on “how women and gender minorities may ally with, advocate for and support one another.”

Sandy Pensoneau Conway serves as interim Director for the WGSS program, and is co-chair to the programming committee for the Women’s Conference. In the past, she volunteered at SIUC Women’s Leadership Retreat and assisted with different groups on campus to advocate for women.

Conway said how one interprets “Advocates and Allies” can be focused or broad when it comes to submitting proposals, but what is important is how, whatever you choose to do, there’s a team behind you that’s in it together with you.

“Really it’s about coalition building, community building, kind of the idea that ‘let’s lift all of our boats up at the same time,’” Conway said. “It’s how we can be advocates for ourselves and one another, as well as how we can be allies to each other.”

The committee works to make sure no one should feel excluded in this experience. Ultimately, Swafford emphasizes participants of the conference are all fighting for the same thing.

“There is no single issue struggle… All of our fights for social justice, for human rights are intimately and intricately connected. We can’t parse them apart as separate things,” she said.

Swafford said every proposal is appreciated. The Women’s Conference is to educate, develop new understandings and connect.

“I’m hoping what this conference can help achieve is a space for folks to have the conversations to build those coalitions in their communities,” Swafford said. “Even if it’s not my specific struggle… none of us are free from oppression until everyone is.”

Medina said the Women’s Conference is known for bringing together people from disparate parts of the local community as well as the campus.
She said a big part of recruitment is these leaders walking into town face-to-face proposing potential recruits to join the team. They are a mix of faculty members, students, and community members who want to work together to solve problems within their neighborhoods.

“We tend to try to notice other women in the community and ask ‘hey, do you want to get involved, we see that you’re really taking charge,’” Medina said. “We hope to continue doing that with others.”

Medina said the fight in the community and on campus gets stronger when members join together. There are many things that come with being a woman and that’s why it’s important to be allies and advocates for those around us, she said.

“We’re sensitive to the way people identify, which is why we chose to add the ally component into this conference,” Medina said. “They can advocate for the rest of us, who have a lot of issues that a lot of us encounter.”

This year the Career Services Department is collaborating with the Women’s Conference. It is offering private consultations with attendees of the conference.

“Resume feedback, interview assistance, negotiation skills, job searching, anything somebody might need our Career Services is going to participate,” Conway said.

The link to register will be posted soon, for those who are looking to attend. For more information about the conference visit its website at conferenceservices.siu.edu/conferences/womens-conference.php.

Staff reporter Kamaria Harmon can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @QuoteKamariaa. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.