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Women getting ready to lead Canisius College to host conference

Businesswomen, entrepreneurs and students are getting ready for a pilgrimage to downtown Buffalo on Tuesday.

Canisius College is gearing up for its 4th biennial Women's Leadership Conference, expecting a sellout crowd of more than 400 guests to fill the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Featured speakers will be some shining stars from Canisius alumnae and acclaimed business leaders.

"It's the only conference out there that combines education and networking for women while supporting them in the challenges they have today," said Maureen Millane Rusk, chairwoman of the conference's steering committee and associate dean of external business programs at Canisius. "Our philosophy is to educate the whole person -- their intellect, morals and spirit -- and we've developed a comprehensive event to do that."

The conference will feature educational workshops. "Who's Got the Power?" will teach negotiating tools. "Engaging the 'i' Generation" will explain how to integrate new graduates and their laid-back business culture into workplace or volunteer endeavors. The "Social Networking Primer," will brief the audience on Web site powerhouses such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube.

A panel comprised of Canisius alumnae will discuss the "Work/Life Balance." Cherylyn Harley LeBon, assistant administrator for intergovernmental affairs at the Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C.; Valerie Latona, editor of Shape magazine; and Norma Nowak, director of the DNA Microarray and Genomics Facility at Roswell Park Cancer Institute will share their personal experiences and discuss the challenges of creating a harmonious personal and professional life.

Julie Cordua, vice president of marketing for (RED), created by U2 lead singer Bono to fight AIDS in Africa, will be the event's opening speaker.

Kay Koplovitz, a pioneering network president, author, entrepreneur and chairwoman of the National Women's Business Council, will give a keynote address focused on a leader's view from the front lines.

Drawing from her own experience in the marketplace, Koplovitz will share the lessons she learned on her journey to the top. Using her groundbreaking launch of the USA television network as an example, she will share the key steps she used in making dreams a reality.

"It's the power of the big idea. The factor that has the most influence on your success is making someone believe in you and what you believe in," Koplovitz said. "And that translates across the board."

As co-creator of Springboard Enterprises, she raised $4 billion in venture capital for women founding high-growth companies.

"Everyone needs to know how to raise capital," she said.

As chairwoman of the board for Fortune 500 apparel company Liz Claiborne, Koplovitz sold off 35 of the company's brand names, choosing to move forward with a focus on just five core brands. She will use that experience to illustrate the importance of making tough decisions and being strategic in difficult times.

"The people inside a company need to be able to change direction . . . You either get on the train, play the game and learn the new rules or you start looking for another job. If you're resistant to change, you're not going to be successful."

Koplovitz said women need to "grab on to tough assignments and prove their worth," and said trumpeting their own skills and successes is the most important -- and difficult -- ingredient of a woman's success.

"I joke that being a cheerleader was the best training I ever got to become a CEO," she said. "Men have no problem opening up with a couple of one-liners about how great they are. Women just don't want to do that."

Koplovitz said she is eager to speak at the woman-focused conference. Despite the fact that women start up twice as many companies as men, Fortune 500 companies are run almost exclusively by men. The corporate culture, she said, is simply more inviting for men than for women, who are still learning the secrets of leadership and who aren't members of the boys' club.

"Women like to learn from other women and there's a reason they band together. There's more comfort learning in that zone," she said. "The language of men and women is just plain different."
To register for the conference, call 888-8490 or go to Tickets are $129, including breakfast and lunch.


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