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Ninth bienniel women's conference moves to Assembly Hall

Matt Hanley, News Bureau 
(217) 244-0470;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton will be the first keynote speaker at the University of Illinois’ ninth Biennial Conference for Working Women, to be held at Assembly Hall, 1800 S. First St., Champaign, April 13-14.

The event, billed as “Two days to totally change your life,” will bring thousands of working women together to motivate, educate and inspire each other as they confront challenges in their personal and professional lives.  This year will be the first time the conference is being held in the Assembly Hall.  The decision to hold the event there was made because of increased interest and attendance at previous conferences.

Among the 14 speakers scheduled for the conference are Ann Richards, a former governor of Texas; Linda Ellerbee, an Emmy award-winning journalist; and Linda Evans, a former movie actress and star of the “Dynasty” television series.

The conference schedule:

April 13
• 8:30 a.m.:  Opening festivities
• 9 a.m.:  “The Competitive Edge,” with Mary Lou Retton.  Retton, who won five medals at the 1984 Olympics, will talk about excellence and hard work.
• 10:15 a.m.:  “Never Let ’Em See You Sweat:  Keeping Cool Under Fire,” with Thelma Wells.  Wells will discuss how she overcame tremendous odds and how others can do the same.  Wells was born the illegitimate child of a crippled teenager but eventually owned her own business and served as the vice president of a bank.
• 11:15 a.m.:  “Fire With Fire:  The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century,” with Naomi Wolf.  Wolf will speak about women using feminism as a way to achieve equality.
• 12:15 p.m.:  “Tough Target,” with J.J. Bittenbinder.  A former Chicago police officer, Bittenbinder will give women tips on how they can protect themselves.
• 2 p.m.:  “And So It Goes,” with Linda Ellerbee.  Ellerbee will talk about her struggles and survival in the news business.
• 2:15 p.m.:  “How to Be the Person Companies Fight to Keep,” with Connie Podesta.
• 3:15 p.m.:  “Challenges, Choices, and Change,” with Rosita Perez.  Perez will look at the important things in life, besides work, and ask listeners to re-evaluate their priorities.

April 14
• 8:30 a.m.:  Opening festivities.
• 9 a.m.:  “Straight From the Heart,” with Ann Richards.
• 10:15 a.m.:  “Conquering the Seven Deadly Sins:  Speaking With Power,” with Mimi Donaldson.  A former human resource specialist for Disney, Donaldson will talk about more effective ways of communicating.
• 11:15 a.m.:  “Thriving in the New Age,” with Dr. Jennifer James.  James will speak on how to deal with change, offering a wide range of solutions for coping.
• 12:15 p.m.:  “Thank God It’s Monday!,” with Roxanne Emmerich.  Emmerich will speak about re-invigorating your workplace and adding motivation to your job.
• 1:15 p.m.:  “Attitude is Everything,” with Keith Harrell.  Harrell will concentrate on how attitude can often influence the outcome of our actions.
• 2:15 p.m.:  “The Real Meaning of Self-Esteem,” with Linda Evans.
• 3:15 p.m.:  “The World According to Me,” with Bertice Berry.  The former talk-show host will talk about overcoming the toughest odds with will power and the right attitude.
• 5 p.m.:  Inter/Expo (an exhibitors’ area) closes.
People interested in registering for the conference may call toll-free, (877) 509-8796 or visit