The Indiana Conference for Women (ICFW): Growing & Helping Women to do the Same
Hope for Women sat down with Pamela Dyar, the new executive director of the Indiana Conference for Women (ICFW). Go to the ICFW website to read about the rest of the speakers, purchase tickets, or learn about volunteer and internship opportunities.
Introducing Pamela Dyar
Pam Dyar reflects on one summer day she spent interviewing for a position with the Indiana Conference for Women (ICFW). As she spoke with one of the founders, Billie Dragoo, another woman approached hoping to speak with Dragoo as well. The woman brought with her a poem she had written thanking the founders for launching such an operation. She expressed that the conference changed her life, and she described all that she had accomplished since attending. In that moment, Dyar knew this was the place for her.
Dyar was hired as the ICFW’s newest executive director. She oversees the recruiting of sponsors, interns, and volunteers, as well as securing national- and internationally acclaimed keynote speakers. The ICFW seeks to give Midwestern women the opportunity to be inspired by women from all around the world.
What is the ICFW?
The ICFW assists women in launching companies and careers and experiencing healthy, fulfilling lives. When the conference began, there were considerably fewer educational and capital resources, and networking opportunities for women in Indiana than on the coasts. Most were held in large cities and aimed at niche markets, like women who were entrepreneurs, students, or involved in law or medicine. The ICFW was initiated to serve the broadest scope of women across all ages, education levels, and career paths.
The founders, Deborah Collins Stephens and Billie Dragoo, began the ICFW with the vision of equality for women. Both being women in business, they saw an opportunity to help women build companies and careers, and fight for recognition and equal pay in a world where men and women have not been acknowledged equally. Dyar says the conference quickly acted as a springboard for women to network, join forces, and motivate one another professionally.
“As women, often times we’ve been unable to use our voice, or we don’t even know where our voice is. Then by the time we find it, there’s a million reasons why we’re afraid to use it or why we don’t have the time or energy to use it,” Dyar states.
Stephens and Dragoo wanted to encourage women to find their voices and live up to their potential. They believe an environment that fosters the growth and development of women will yield more resilient communities and stronger economic growth. It is their vision to provide a balanced and enriching program that serves the greatest needs of women in the Midwest.
This Year’s Conference
Since its creation in 2012, the ICFW has grown by 20% each year, making it the largest single-day event for women in the Midwest. Nationally, the ICFW is behind only Texas and Pennsylvania for a conference of this size and significance.
The ICFW experienced such extensive growth in the past year that they have had to relocate the event to a larger venue. This year’s conference will be held at the Indiana Convention Center on November 7th, 2019.
Keynote speakers this year include Rachel Ray, celebrity chef and television personality, and Tererai Trent, who—alongside Oprah Winfrey—started one of the best schools for young girls in Africa. A statue honoring Trent has recently been unveiled in New York City. Sisters Miki and Radha Agrawal, founders of THINX menstrual underwear company, will be speaking as well.
As a non-profit organization, the ICFW places great importance on giving back to the community. At the commencement of this year’s conference in November, Dyar says the ICFW hopes to launch a scholarship program for single mothers. She says that by supporting women in the community, they are supporting the entire community at large.
“If a woman is trying to better herself, she’s setting an example for her child,” Dyar says. “Single moms trying to better themselves raises the bar for other women at work, at home, and in the community.”
Ivy Tech has shown interest in partnering with the ICFW for this venture; however, Dyar expresses that the ICFW doesn’t want to isolate women to a single university. That said, they recognize that Ivy Tech has a large single-mother population and a wide location base. The ICFW has affiliations with Indiana University, as well, which may result in some type of partnership.
Dyar adds that, in the future, the ICFW would like to find a way to make tickets more available to an economically diverse audience.
“That way it’s not just businesses buying tables and women who can afford tickets, but people who will also benefit from the conference and who couldn’t otherwise attend,” says Dyar.
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the ICFW. Dyar says the organization sees this as an opportunity to build a tower on their venture by exposing even more Hoosier women to their vision. She says they would like to organize some smaller events on a quarterly basis in different parts of the state—perhaps a “lunch and learn” event in Fort Wayne or a noteworthy public speaker in Evansville. They would also like to keep the message alive year-round by launching a blog or educational podcast.
The ICFW hopes to begin partnering with quality organizations throughout Indiana and the Midwest to allow year-long exposure and continue to bring women together to exchange ideas and support.
“It’s a privilege to oversee the largest women’s conference in the Midwest, and it’s a pretty phenomenal one. I’ve heard so many people say attending the conference changed their life,” says Dyar. “Inspiring women and motivating them to find their voice is critical.”
Kylie Kaiser is a Ball State University senior who studies journalism, sociology, interpersonal relations, and women's studies. She is an editorial intern at Hope for Women magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and attending concerts and festivals.