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Inaugural Women's Conference of Florida Set for Friday

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CEO and president of Women's Conference of Florida, Arlene DiBenigno

Tampa will hold the inaugural Women’s Conference of Florida on Friday.

The conference is designed to empower, encourage and educate Florida women through panel discussions, workshops and exhibits.

Guest speakers include CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Randi Zuckerberg; “Mad Men” television writer, Tracy McMillan; former executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson and many more.

They will discuss a variety of topics including gender and pay equality, a conversation that CEO and president of the conference Arlene DiBenigno said shouldn’t even be necessary at this point in history. 

“We’re in the year 2016 and we had one woman on the Republican side running for the highest position in the land and one on the Democratic side still running and yet we’re still having the same conversations and talking about so many of the same issues,” she said.

The conference has been 14 years in the making, since DiBenigno worked for Gov. Jeb Bush in 1998 as the director of appointments for boards and commissions. She said that experience inspired her to create this event.

“One of my duties was to try and identify different individuals that could serve on these boards and commissions and it seemed to me that every time I reached out to a woman who I thought was extremely qualified, who would serve well, the first response was ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I don’t really have the knowledge’,” she said.

Though it took her more than a decade, her dream finally came to fruition.

“We needed to have something in the state of Florida that would bring women together from all parts of the state where we could encourage each other, where we could lift each other up, but I think more importantly learn from each other and learn the opportunities available,” she said.

The conference gets underway this Friday, May 20, and runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Tampa's Marriott Waterside

DiBenigno said the only way for women to make a change in the workplace and everyday life is for women to unite.

“The needle needs to move and the only way I think the needle is going to move is if women really engage and if we come together with one singular voice, then we're going to be heard.”