Over two hundred women, and even some men, came together in October for a day of encouraging each other at the second annual Focus Women’s Conference. Its founder, Devin Ford established the conference in 2017 after participating in the West Hollywood Women’s Leadership Conference in California. “After seeing all these women coming together to talk about current issues and trying to solve problems in the world, I realized that Mobile needed an outlet for women in the area to get together as a community to promote growth in each other,” she said.
I realized that Mobile needed an outlet for women in the area to get together as a community to promote growth in each other
The overarching goal for Focus is to encourage, educate, and empower women in the Mobile area. To achieve this goal, there was a lunch discussion, keynote speaker, and 16 breakout sessions with topics ranging from self-care to financial planning to building our online brand. Attendees had the opportunity to customize their breakout session choices to best fit what they wanted to get out of the conference.
Focus is one of the only conferences of its size in the region that caters to professional development for women. This attracted 250 attendees to this year’s conference who all came to learn, but also left with relationships & tools to achieve their goals.
“The biggest thing I learned from one of the sessions I went to was the volume and impact of the word ‘sorry,’ and how we as women tend to use it too much,” said one attendee while another said, “There’s a lot more women wanting to encourage each other than I was expecting. Seeing women who are willing to do it in a way that is not competitive has been really encouraging.”
The lunch discussion was a look into the life of Monique Rogers Henley, a Mobile native who started with a cleaning service and now owns H & S Management Holding Company (a family of companies offering industrial & commercial products and services). Kesshia Davis sat down with her to talk about her humble beginnings, and Henley was happy to share some tips and tricks for achieving daunting goals. She encouraged attendees to focus on developing their personal goals as well as professional ones all while helping others achieve theirs.
Focus’s keynote speaker was former Paralympian and Vanderbilt professor Anjali Forber-Pratt. She is an immigrant to the U.S. who was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare disease which paralyzed her from the waist down, shortly after arriving at the age of only four and a half months. When her parents brought her to the sidelines of Boston Marathon she was utterly amazed at the strength and speed of the wheelchair racers. At that moment, she became determined to become one of the world’s greatest athletes.
“I know that not everyone will have the opportunity to become a world champion in the Paralympic games, but the pathway of what it took to get there is something we can all resonate with. You are all building a platform to be able to change the world,” said Forber-Pratt.
Her life motto is “Dream, Drive, Do,” and she instills this into everyone she meets. Attendees left with a rejuvenated motivation to accomplish anything they can dream.
I know that not everyone will have the opportunity to become a world champion in the Paralympic games, but the pathway of what it took to get there is something we can all resonate with. You are all building a platform to be able to change the world
About Forber-Pratt, one attendee said, “She really encouraged me to focus on goals and to take them step by step. I wrote down a quote from her about taking when people say no to you as motivation instead of letting it get you down. This is something I really needed at this point in my life. It’s nice to be around a group of women in a field that’s mainly men; it’s encouraging me.”
Ford hopes that one day women from all over the southeast will travel to Mobile for the conference. “We want Focus to be an event that brings thousands of women from the southeast together to be educated and encouraged. In staying bi-partisan, it is an event for women to figure out all of the things we agree about and tackle those issues together instead of focusing on what we disagree about,” said Ford.
She is proud of what Focus is doing for women in the community and hopes to continue its role as a catalyst for change and togetherness. Ford said, “After it was all said and done, I felt really inspired and happy, and it made all of the hard work worth it. I had the chance to sit in on the ‘Women Empowering Women – Especially the Ones Who Don’t Like You’ session; at it, they went around and said what they got out of the day. It honestly made me cry a little hearing their feedback about how much they got and how important the day was to them.”