Women business owners and entrepreneurs celebrate International Women’s Day


Claire Proctor/Daily Senior Staffer

Women gather at the Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave., for the Empowering Women Conference & Expo. The event equipped women with resources and tools through speaker-led seminars to have a voice in the business community

Clare Proctor, Assistant City Editor

More than 50 business women gathered Thursday for a conference celebrating International Women’s Day, which is March 8, by encouraging women to speak up in the business community.

The Empowering Women Conference & Expo offered women in business in Evanston and the surrounding areas tools and resources to enhance their businesses. The event, which benefited the Evanston Women’s Business Center, included a series of speakers and seminars, concluding the day with a networking event.

Linda Del Bosque — the editor in chief of Evanston Woman magazine — said she and 20 other founding members of the EWBC organized the conference. The event featured local business owners speaking to empower other women in business, “giving them a bigger voice,” Del Bosque said.

Del Bosque said the conference is part of EWBC’s effort to close the gap of tools, resources, capital and education between men and women in business. The EWBC also focuses on serving minority business owners, she added.

“Myself being … not only a woman business owner, but a minority business owner, I really appreciate the opportunity of our women coming together and really focusing on how we can work together to achieve our ultimate goal, which is success,” Del Bosque said.

The event at the Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave., featured a series of speakers discussing topics like how to use yoga to heal from the #MeToo movement and how to make difficult medical decisions.

The conference also showcased the artistic project “Outcry” by artist Whitney Bradshaw. Bradshaw started the project on the day of the 2018 Women’s March, and she said the project teaches women who have historically been silenced to use their voices.

“We’ve grown up in a culture where we’re taught to be good girls,” Bradshaw said. “And good girls are quiet. I really wanted to create a project that empowered women.”

“Outcry” is a series of more than 250 portraits of female-identifying people screaming. Some are joyous screams, Bradshaw said, while others are screams of frustration and hurt.

Bradshaw offered one of her “scream sessions” at the conference Thursday. These sessions start with Bradshaw showing different ways to scream and then having all the women scream together to become more comfortable with their voices, she said. The women then step in front of the camera one-by-one and have the option to either scream by themselves or with other women in the group, so no one is forced to scream alone if they don’t want to, Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said she hopes her artistic representation challenges the “male gaze” dominant in media. Her photographs don’t show women smiling or trying to look sexy, she said.

“One of the really powerful things about this project is that it’s really about the female gaze,” Bradshaw said. “This is for us.”

The conference concluded with a social hour geared toward networking among other women in business.

Chicago resident Welu Aningo, an HR consultant, said she attended the conference eager to network with other entrepreneurs. She has attended similar events for organizations — such as Ladies Get Paid, which works to close the wage gap, and EvolveHer, which fosters collaboration among women — which serve as “warm, welcoming spaces,” Aningo said.

“You can’t exist in that bubble,” Aningo said. “But it’s nice to get recharged and learn in a woman-focused space.”

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