To be brutally honest, blogging for Patch does not have many perqs. There is no office space where I can chat with fellow bloggers; there are no office supplies to take home when my printer runs out of paper. The main benefit is of course the internet real estate which, for me, is the equivalent of a great corner lot with a view. If not for Patch, my readership was mostly limited to my mom and a few loyal friends. So imagine my delight when I heard that I would get a chance to attend the launch and VIP reception for the new California Women's Conference!
Yes, The California Women's Conference is coming to Long Beach in September, not to be confused with its "spiritual predecessor," the California Governor & First Lady's Conference on Women. (I liked that spiritual predecessor phrase, very catchy.) I will be excitedly attending the launch party at the Hotel Maya to rub shoulders with some of the women entrepreneurs, activists and celebrities who are scheduled to speak at the new incarnation of this California tradition.
As with some other high profile conferences (like TED), The Women's Conference has been taken private. The company taking it on is called EventComplete, an event production company headed by CEO Michelle Patterson. I had the chance to speak with Michelle and find out how this came about and what is going to change with this new stewardship of a very important California women's tradition. She is an easy-going, energetic spokesperson for her latest venture. I was pleasantly surprised by her willingness to spend time talking with me, an unknown blogger, and I was happy with the direction she wants to take it all.
Michelle Patterson is a California businesswoman. She started out in the corporate world working for other people, and now she runs her own company. Really, she is the perfect champion for The California Women's Conference (TCWC), which was started by Governor Deukmejian and First Lady Gloria Deukmejian in 1985 as a way to encourage and support California's women's economy. In that era, women entrepreneurs were having a very hard time making a go of their businesses, and the Deukmejians--longtime Belmont Shore residents--saw the need to address the lack of resources and funding accessible to women. The rest was history and the First Lady's Conference went on to become one of the most successful annual events designed for women.
Sadly, the end of the era came last year as Maria Shriver, then Governor Schwarzenegger's wife, hosted the last First Lady's Conference. The mad dash for tickets was so intense that the whole thing sold out in minutes. It was clear that the need and desire for such a conference was still there 25 years later. That is where Michelle Patterson stepped in.
There really was nobody else to take on the conference, Governor Brown and his wife deciding not to follow the tradition (they felt the dire state budget situation was more pressing in the immediate). It is a huge project and investors were needed. Luckily Michelle, as a major Southern California event planner, had the experience and the connections to make it happen. She is working closely with Long Beach dignitaries to make sure the conference retains and builds on its high quality reputation. Nancy Foster, Mayor Bob Foster's wife, is advising Michelle and ensuring that Long Beach is a welcoming home to the thousands of women who descend on the Convention Center in September.
So I will be taking copious notes on my cocktail napkins as I listen to TCWC speakers tell us what to expect from this year's conference and I will report back here on my Patch blog, with pleasure, at being afforded the opportunity. Had I been a woman writer in 1985 wanting to write my opinions about life, I doubt very much that a venue as egalitarian as Patch.com would have been available to me. I am certainly the beneficiary of the work of many women who came before me. And I am grateful.