Frustrated by ‘unrelatable’ conferences, Philly woman creates her own

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Melissa Alam is the creator of Fearless Con, a two-day conference that empowers women in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Melissa Alam is the creator of Fearless Con, a two-day conference that empowers women in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Melissa Alam is a first-generation Bangladeshi-American who specializes in digital marketing. She creates websites and does creative branding for clients.

For a decade, Alam has been traveling to conferences around the country looking to build her business. But she noticed a pattern. Many of the conferences and panelists in her field were unrelatable.

“I looked at the lineup and it was all men, primarily white men speaking and I was like, ‘Why would I attend this conference if I can’t even see myself in any of the speakers,'” Alam said. “I won’t be able to relate. I didn’t end up going. But it sparked something in me.”

So, Alam, took to Twitter and voiced her frustration. Where were the spaces for diverse, creative women? After many others echoed her question, Alam created the Fearless Conference or Fearless Con — a conference for multicultural, creative women, now in its fourth year.

Alam says there are several essential elements to make spaces inclusive: have diverse speakers, create content that relates to attendees and invite people with memorable stories.

Last year, there was a panel of women who were daughters of immigrants or immigrants themselves.

“I love that type of conversation because I think people need to hear them,” Alam said. “Even if you’re not a minority, even if you’re not a woman of color, you still need to hear these stories so you can gain empathy and see what other women are going through and that’s really important to me.”

Attendees of Fearless Con can expect workshops that cater to women empowerment.

Some of the workshops at this year’s conference include:

“Women Who ROAR — a session on women in social and political fields,” “How to Get Paid What You’re Worth” and a session on what the American Dream looks like from the viewpoints of female immigrant entrepreneurs.

“I tell people, hey for the first day of workshops, come in sweatpants because I will be in sweats as well,” Alam said. “It’s not about looking good. It’s about being comfortable and taking notes. It’s an educational day.”

And yes, she’s serious about that.

Fearless Con runs September 29th and 30th in Northern Liberties and South Philadelphia.

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