RALEIGH – As an author and veteran journalist, Angela Connor is passionate about tackling some of the issues facing women today that are often left on the back burner.

So she decided to do something about it.

Enter the Women Inspiring Women Conference, the inaugural summit founded by Connor that kicks off at Vidrio on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh today.

The event will include three panel discussions around topics such as “Boss-lady Breadwinners,” “Entrepreneurial All-Stars” and “The Generational Drama Divide.”

Speakers include Lisa Brown, Region Market Manager and Sr. Diversity & Inclusion Consultant at Volkswagen of America; Shirelle Jackson, Senior Associate Athletic Director; Student-Athlete Development at the University of Miami and Kavita White, Senior Editor, TODAY Parents, Digital.

“My goal is to encourage and promote dialogue,” said Connor, CEO of Change Agent Communications. “We are more than leaders in our organizations. We are multidimensional women dealing with real life and real issues that require real-talk.”

WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam recently had the chance to chat with her about her latest project. Here’s what she had to say:

  • Why did you decide to found Women Inspiring Women Conference?

I wish I could tell you there was a grand plan and I mapped out a full-on strategy before launching the Women Inspiring Women Conference. But like much that I do, it was born out of passion and a need that I felt wasn’t being met. I felt a need for stronger, more open, sincere discussions among women on a myriad of topics beyond leadership, but with a focus on all aspects of our lives. I got the idea in February, while sitting at another conference. I started jotting down a few ideas, picked up my phone and purchased the URL from the Godaddy app right then and there. I called a friend on my drive home, told her what I’d decided to do and she agreed there was a need. Then I moved full-steam ahead.

Women’s lives are multidimensional. But what we discuss at conferences can sometimes be so limited. The real discussions tend to happen after hours, in very small groups or over wine, and I believe those topics absolutely deserve a bigger platform.

  •  What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges facing women leaders today?

Women face many challenges, making it hard to select a single one. This is not a cop out, it’s just the truth. And the challenges stem from our personal and professional lives.

  • Can you speak from personal experience? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced over the course of your career?

Wow, where do I start? Well as a working mom, I always struggled with this fallacy of work-life balance. There’s no formula or specific target that applies to all women. And there won’t always be balance. Some days, weeks or months there is none. But we need to feel good about finding what works for us, not the idea of some nonexistent uniform level of balance.
I’ve had challenges with peers from time-to-time who may have thought I was competing with them, when the only person I ever compete with is myself. And honeslty change. I have always been one who wants to move things along, try new things, scratch the status quo, and I’ve had struggles getting others to let me do that without an insane amount of effort and battles along the way.

Early on in my career I had to deal with being taken for granted or overlooked, but because I’m assertive and found a good mentor just as early, I was able to surpass that and communicate my value, and also ask for what I want. There was also a time when I wasn’t my authentic self in the office because it just seemed like there wasn’t an interest in anyone who was different or didn’t fit the status quo. I later found my uniqueness and ability to show people exactly who I am to be my special sauce. Relationships are everything.

  • Tell us a little bit about your firm, Change Agent Communications, and what your mission is.

With Change Agent Communications I’m giving the clients I work with something different.  A firm with a finite number of clients, which allows them to get high levels of attention. I don’t pitch for new business so my clients never have to worry about me spending time chasing new business from people who aren’t paying me, at the expense of those who do. It really is about respect, the right fit and a strong partnership. Change Agent is also very selective. I don’t believe in the “pick me, pick me” notion. I have to pick you too. Because I was a journalist for 16 years, a social media pioneer, particularly in the community management space and have a storng agency background, I really do understand all sides, and that I’m finding is of high value. I’m at a point now where I can leverage all of my skills for clients and not be placed in a box or single department. I didn’t know Change Agent Communications would morph into the PR space the way it did. But that’s a strong skillset of mine and as the founder, I can’t be relegated to a single space.

  • One of your panels will discuss “The Generational Drama Divide.” What’s this about, and why did you think this is an important topic to focus on?

Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials are having a lot of issues with one another in the workplace.
I believe that all are misunderstood on some level and we need to put this out in the open. I’m really excited about this panel because our pre-conference call about the session was eye-opening and honest. We are going to figure out how we can bridge this divide and help one another thrive.
It’s super-important because certain trains of thought about specific groups are being exacerbated not only in the media to a certain extent, but in those after-hours vent sessions I mentioned earlier. Gen X wants Millennials to work as hard as they did, not act entitled deserve what they get. Millennials feel picked on, and Baby Boomers are feeling phased out or irrelevenat and being called “old-school” or deemed as hating change. We have to work through this and seek to understand the others perspective.

  • You’ve got some big sponsors like Red Hat, Bandwidth, Triangle Business Journal (TBJ) and Sugar CRM? How difficult was it to get sponsorship? Do you think more companies are starting to get on board?

Bandwidth, SugarCRM and the TBJ came on first. I asked once, shared my vision and they committed the very same day. It can be difficult to get sponsorships for something that isn’t proven, but we sold out and have a waiting list of 14 women. I am hoping that next year, more companies will come on board and show their support. It’s going to be an experience every woman deserves all the way down to the flowers shipped in from South America.

  •  Where to from here? What’s your vision for the conference, and for the region?

I don’t plan too far out. I let my passion be my guide. If people love it, then I’ll do it again. I do know that it will stay small. I’m not interested in a mega-conference where no one leaves with a single new friend. I do plan to create a quarterly series though, where we discuss topics such as ‘pay negotiation strategies for women” and other topics that are usually happening in small groups and over that bottle of wine.
This region is like no other. I want to be a conduit for building more genuine connections where women have a larger network of women who can inspire them, teach them and remind them of how awesomee they already are at times when they are questioning it the most and provide that real talk that often missing.
We’ll see what happens tomorrow.