The Best Women-in-Leadership Conferences of 2019

The Best Women-in-Leadership Conferences of 2019

By Suzy Strutner, managing editor at Grow Wire


In many cases, businesswomen experience the work landscape differently than businessmen. Fewer women start businesses than men, and only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women are less likely to seek VC funding, and they receive just 2% of it annually. Throw in those societal expectations of raising a family, and starting or growing a life as a businesswoman can feel straight-up challenging.

Women-in-leadership conferences aim to serve as an antidote, providing support and camaraderie in addition to advice and networking. A growing slate of them are held annually, focusing on matters both narrow (like how to get your voice heard in a meeting) and broad (like fighting discrimination at the societal level). Diverse themes, guests lists and prices ensure there’s something for nearly everyone. Our favorite women in leadership conferences include:

The Conferences for Women

The Conferences for Women hosts annual gatherings in cities across the U.S., bringing together  “thousands of active professionals to connect, renew, and find inspiration in community.” Each conference comes with its own slate of speakers -- both male and female -- that have included business author Simon Sinek, the co-founders of The Skimm and a top Morgan Stanley exec. Breakout sessions cover topics like “the workplace after #MeToo” and “fostering your inner entrepreneur.”

Who: This conference is for businesswomen who are passionate about eliminating the pay gap, gender discrimination at work and the gender gap in company leadership.

When/Where: San Jose, CA in February; Philadelphia, PA in October; Austin, TX in October; Boston, MA in December

How to attend: Buy tickets on each conference’s respective website.

Cost: Tickets are about $225.


Women in the World Summit

Speakers at this summit need no introduction: Oprah, Anna Wintour and Cindy McCain graced the stage this year to talk about the global women’s movement and our collective role in it. Set in a theater, the Summit’s talks cover career as well as broader women’s issues: This year, recently-retired PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi detailed her new life mission, and Hillary Clinton chatted with CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria. 

Who: You won’t get hands-on career advice here. But you will enjoy the Summit if you’re interested in putting your day-to-day business in a global feminism context. 

When: Annually, in April

Where: New York, NY

How to attend: Buy tickets online. Tickets for the 2020 summit aren’t on sale yet; mark your calendar to check the 2019 Summit website for details on next year’s event as the time nears.

Cost: Ticket prices aren’t currently listed, but they look to cost about $900 to start.


WIN Summit

The Women’s Insights on the Art of Negotiation (WIN) Summit aims to help businesswomen become better negotiators. Practical workshops teach specific skills like “how to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’” and how to meditate in preparation for negotiation. They’re star-studded, too: This year’s speakers included the co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, a law professor from George Washington University and the editor in chief of Allure.

Who: The event is especially tailored to executives, current and prospective high-level management, entrepreneurs and consultants.

When: Annually, in May

Where: New York, NY

How to attend: Register and purchase tickets online.

Cost: Individual tickets for first-time attendees were $799 this year.


Forbes Women’s Summit

Search “women’s leadership conference,” and you’ll soon conclude this is the premier one in the nation. The Forbes Women’s Summit just wrapped its seventh iteration with a customarily diverse lineup of A-list speakers including Jennifer Garner, NASA’s chief flight director and Recode co-founder Kara Swisher. Image sessions about using the power of community to build your business with the co-founder of Soul Cycle and a behavioral psychologist from Stanford’s School of Business.

Who: Attend the Summit if you’re interested in gleaning inspiration from female leaders “across industries and generations,” per Forbes, and learning how they’re responding to social movements in real time.

When: Annually, in June

Where: New York, NY

How to attend: Registration for the 2020 event isn’t open yet. Mark your calendar to check the 2019 Summit website for details on next year’s event as the time nears.

Cost: Standard tickets to Forbes summits are usually $600-700. 


The Girlboss Rally

If you’re a millennial businesswoman and don’t live under a rock, then you’re probably familiar with Girlboss, the empowerment-organization-slash-media-brand from Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amaruso. The annual Rally combines speakers with savvy-sounding, hands-on workshops: This year, attendees might view a panel on workplace “drama” with Zappos’ corporate council, hear a reading from Instagram-famous poet Rupi Kaur or complete a workshop about budgeting for startups. Oh, and pretty much the entire venue is pink. 

Who: With selfie stations, a merch shop and networking mixers, this is conference for “woke” twenty- and thirtysomething women.

When: Annually, in June

Where: Location varies. The 2019 event is in Los Angeles, CA.

How to attend: Buy tickets online.

Cost: A one-day pass is $325; a two-day pass is $550.


Mobilize Women

This daylong event features leaders from the Ellevate Network, the brainchild of Wall Street legend Sallie Krawcheck. Conversations focus on “giving diverse voices, and particularly those of women, a seat at the table where decisions are made.” As an attendee, you might hear from civil rights activists, an HR exec at SeatGeek or a Visa VP.

Who: This summit is perfect for women who want to see social change start in their offices. As the title suggests, it’ll fire you up to build a more equal world in business and beyond. 

When: Annually, in June

Where: New York, NY

How to attend: Register online. Tickets usually go on sale in January; check the 2019 event website for details on 2020’s summit.

Cost: Last year, early-bird tickets for non-members were $500.


Summit21

Black girl bliss, beauty and boss moves” reign at this event from Blavity, a collection of lifestyle brands for black millennials. Tracks have titles like Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Beauty and Impact and feature figureheads from YouTube producers to political strategists. There’s also a pitch competition for startups and nighttime Blavity-branded parties. Summit21 is one big celebration of #blackgirlmagic

Who: This event is designed with black, millennial entrepreneurs, influencers and creators in mind.

When: The main Atlanta conference is held annually, in June. However, Summit21 just added a one-day event in Los Angeles in October 2019.

Where: Atlanta, GA and Los Angeles, CA

How to attend: Buy tickets online.

Cost: Early bird tickets are $150.


Bullish Conference

Jennifer Dziura founded GetBullish as a hub for “career and biz badassery + feminism” based on her experience busting norms as a marketer, educational curriculum developer and business writer. (Fun fact: She got perfect scores on both the GRE and SAT.) Dziura’s organization comes alive at the Bullish Conference, where an intentionally small group of “bullicorns”  -- that’s the Wall Street bull with a unicorn horn -- learn to grow their careers and strengthen marginalized groups.

Who: “Feminist goal-getters” will thrive at this conference.

When: Annually, in September-October

Where: Palm Springs, CA

How to attend: Tickets are sold online, but they’re not available yet for this year’s event. Sign up to get email alerts, or keep checking the event website.

Cost: In previous years, tickets cost about $650.


Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit

This Summit is elite. Attending requires membership in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women “club” (more details below). The “world’s most extraordinary leadership community” yields truly interesting business conversations infused with insights from philosophy, government work and more. This year’s Summit participants will include designer Tory Burch, the chairwoman of Sodexo and the COOs of both Pinterest and Airbnb.

Who: Only the most conventionally powerful of the powerful seem to make it to this event. The rest of us can benefit from watching YouTube videos of the sessions.

When: Annually, in October

Where: Location varies. The 2019 event is in Washington, D.C.

How to attend: You’ll need to apply for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Membership, providing details on your company’s size and revenue.

Cost: Membership (i.e. your ticket to the Summit) is $13,500. (Cue YouTube videos.)