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Women's leadership conference is back — and bringing stars to Tampa

The Women’s Conference of Florida is scheduled for April 8.

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  • | 8:56 a.m. February 28, 2022
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After a pandemic-forced break in 2021, the Women’s Conference of Florida is back with starry lineup for 2022.

Tampa marketing entrepreneur and political consultant Arlene DiBenigno founded the conference in 2015, with a think-big strategy for both speakers and topics. The genesis of the conference dates back to late 1990s. That’s when DiBenigno, then director of appointments for boards and commissions for Gov. Jeb Bush, witnessed first-hand a deep-rooted challenge women leaders face in advancing their careers.

The challenge? A combination of imposter syndrome and seeing others like them in similar leadership roles. DiBenigno says she would reach out to highly accomplished women about board appointments and the response would always be a surprised, am-I-really-the-right-person hesitancy. Men, on the other hand, normally responded quickly with a ‘sounds good, when do I start’ attitude.

“That stuck with me,” DiBenigno tells Coffee Talk.

So much so that DiBenigno, in addition to her other gig as managing partner of Tampa-based Conversa, has devoted considerable time and effort to the Women’s Conference of Florida. “I put a lot of work into making sure the speakers and topics we have are current and relevant,” she says.  

She notes the idea is not only to educate and inspire women leaders but also to provide a concrete platform for real advancement — combating what she experienced with the governor’s administration. “This isn’t just for bringing people together,” DiBenigno says. “We work really hard to get the next generation of leaders in the room.”

To that end, the conference, has it’s done since 2017, is hosting 80 low-income, academically qualified college women in Florida through its College Women on the Rise program. Sponsored by the Lightning Foundation, State Farm Insurance and Ultimate Medical Academy, the program has benefited 335 college women and awarded $50,000 in educational scholarships.



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