Introducing the 2021 Keynote Speakers and Breakout Leaders for the Indiana Conference for Women.
TARAJI P. HENSON
Actor, Writer, Producer, & Director
Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor, writer and producer Taraji P. Henson quickly rose to fame after her breakout performance in the critically acclaimed film Hustle & Flow, which earned her and the cast a Screen Actors Guild nomination as well as a BET award for Best Actress.
Henson currently stars as Cookie Lyon in Fox’s hit musical drama Empire, which has earned her three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe Award, a Critic’s Choice Award, and three BET Awards. Prior to Empire, Henson had recurring roles on Person of Interest, Boston Legal and The Division.
In 2017, Henson portrayed NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson in the Academy Award-nominated film Hidden Figures. Henson and her cast received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for the film. Other credits include Proud Mary, Think Like A Man with Kevin Hart, Think Like A Man Too, Talk To Me opposite Don Cheadle, Smokin’ Aces with Ben Affleck and Alicia Keys, Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, Hurricane Season opposite Forest Whitaker, No Good Deed starring opposite Idris Elba (which opened #1 at the box office), Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, Taken From Me, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, for which she earned an Academy Award nomination for “Best Supporting Actress.”
In March 2018, Henson can be seen starring in Tyler Perry’s Acrimony for Lionsgate. Other upcoming projects include Paramount’s What Men Want, from director Adam Shankman and writer Nancy Meyers, and Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, to which she lends her voice.
In October 2016, Henson released her New York Times bestselling novel Around The Way Girl, a memoir about her family and friends, her determination to make it to Hollywood, and the importance of living your own truth. In Around The Way Girl, she reminisces on the world-class theater arts education she received at Howard University, and how she chipped away at Hollywood’s resistance to give women, especially women of color, rich and significant roles. With her iconic humor and honesty, Henson shares the struggles and disappointments of an actor’s journey and shows audiences that she is ever authentic.
A Washington, D.C. native, Henson currently resides in Chicago.
President & Co-Founder
Born This Way Foundation
ABOUT CYNTHIA (She/Her/Hers):
Cynthia Bissett Germanotta is President of Born This Way Foundation, which she co-founded with her daughter Lady Gaga in 2012. Under Cynthia’s leadership, the Foundation has connected with tens of thousands of young people across the country and around the world, launched innovative youth-focused programming, and conducted cutting edge research to improve the understanding of mental wellness. Cynthia is a former telecommunications executive whose career in sales and management spanned 25 years. In May 2019, the United Nations’ World Health Organization appointed Cynthia as a global Goodwill Ambassador for mental health. Cynthia was born and raised in West Virginia, earned her Bachelors degree at West Virginia University and a Masters degree from The George Washington University. She now resides in New York City with her husband Joe Germanotta. Joe and Cynthia have two wonderful daughters, Natali and Stefani, and are owners of a charming NYC restaurant, Joanne Trattoria.
You can follow Cynthia on Twitter at @momgerm, on Instagram at @momgerm, and on Facebook at @CynthiaGermanotta.
Fashion Designer & Entrepreneur
Betsey Johnson has been rocking the fashion industry with her unique and original designs since the 1960s. Known for her celebration of the exuberant, the embellished, and the over-the-top, her commitment to remain true to her one-of-a-kind vision has kept her at the forefront of fashion for over 40 years. She is the recipient of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Timeless Talent Award (created just for her by the CFDA), The National Arts Club Johnson Medal of Honor of Lifetime Achievement in Fashion, and was honored with a plaque on the Fashion Walk of Fame.
Mention the name Betsey Johnson and almost every woman from the age of 15 to 75 can rapturously recall a favorite dress or outfit of hers, whether worn for a prom, a wedding, or just to stand out from the crowd in a colorful style unlike anyone else’s. Some may remember Betsey best as a renegade single mother who palled around with Edie Sedgwick, Twiggy, and The Velvet Underground. They may also know her as a woman who built an empire from scratch, or even as a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Others are familiar with her as the designer who brought stretch clothing to the masses in the 80s and 90s. She is also famous for her iconic pink stores (in 2011 she had 65 shops across the U.S.) and for her habit of closing out her runway shows with a signature split or cartwheel. Throughout her decades-long career, she’s taken pride in producing exciting but rule-breaking clothing at an accessible price-all while running her own company.
In BETSEY: A Memoir the iconic designer and businesswoman cartwheels off the page in a lively retelling of her life and career—revealing what it took to go from a white picket fence childhood in Connecticut to an internationally known force in the fashion world. Taking readers behind the tutu, Betsey shares candid memories of the fashion and downtown scene in the 1960s and how she started her own business from the ground up after designing successfully for multiple other houses. She discusses that business’s ups and downs and reinventions (including bankruptcy); her thoughts on love, divorce, men, and motherhood; as well as her bout with breast cancer. Told in Betsey’s enduringly witty and exuberant voice, these stories will charm and delight readers – just as Betsey’s unique, effervescent style has done for decades.
Richly illustrated with many of Betsey’s landmark clothes, fashion sketches, and personal photos, BETSEY is the perfect memento for every woman for whom Betsey is, as a recent New York Times profile noted, “a role model still.”
Associate Professor of Psychology
Emily Balcetis, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at New York University. She is the author of more than seventy-five scientific publications, and her research has been covered by Forbes, Newsweek, Time, Cosmopolitan, Scientific American, and The Atlantic. Her TED talk has more than 3.6 million views. Her work has been recognized by the Federation of Associations of Behavioral & Brain Scientists, the International Society for Self and Identity, and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, among others. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.
UN Women's Global Innovation Coalition for Change
Michelle King is a leading global expert in gender and organizations and head of the UN Women’s Global Innovation Coalition for Change. In addition, King is an advisory board member for Girl Up, the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign. Michelle writes for Forbes, Thrive, Harvard Business Review, and is also the host of the weekly podcast, The Fix, which shares practical ways men and women can advance equality at work. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two children.
In the vein of #Girlboss and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, discover how to thrive at work from the head of the Global Innovation Coalition for Change at UN Women with this “passionate, practical roadmap for addressing inequality and finally making our workplaces work for women” (Arianna Huffington).
For years, we’ve been telling women that in order to succeed at work, they have to change themselves first— lean in, negotiate like a man, don’t act too nice or you’ll never get the corner office. But after sixteen years working with major Fortune 500 companies as a gender equality expert, Michelle King has realized one simple truth—the tired advice of fixing women doesn’t fix anything.
The truth is that workplaces are gendered; they were designed by men for men. Because of this, most organizations unconsciously carry the idea of an “ideal worker,” typically a straight, white man who doesn’t have to juggle work and family commitments. Based on King’s research and exclusive interviews with major companies and thought leaders, The Fix reveals why denying the fact that women are held back just because they are women—what she calls gender denial—is the biggest obstacle holding women back at work and outlines the hidden sexism and invisible barriers women encounter at work every day. Women who speak up are seen as pushy. Women who ask for a raise are seen as difficult. Women who spend hours networking don’t get the same career benefits as men do. Because women don’t look like the ideal worker and can’t behave like the ideal worker, they are passed over for promotions, paid less, and pushed out of the workforce, not because they aren’t good enough, but because they aren’t men.
In this fascinating and empowering book, King outlines the invisible barriers that hold women back at all stages of their careers, and provides readers with a clear set of takeaways to thrive despite the sexist workplace, as they fight for change from within. Gender equality is not about women, and it is not about men—it is about making workplaces work for everyone. Together, we can fix work, not women.
JORDAN LEE DOOLEY
"I used to be a determined over-achiever, completely caught up in proving my worth by building a successful career. What society told me was meant to fulfill me- my career- left only painful emptiness. At the end of 2019, I found myself intentionally without a job, wondering what’s next, and who I even am anymore. So what happened? Until God recently got my attention through a series of events (lots of dreams unraveled), I didn’t understand that working myself to death at a career that was ”soul destroying,” wasn’t the point of life. I had to put down the masquerade and admit that I was no longer okay. I was out of gas...I was on empty.
I finally asked God for help. I can still clearly remember the moment when I was sitting on my bedroom floor. I was so broken...it was quiet. My dog was softly snoring and so I grabbed his paw and prayed. Why not? Matthew 18:20 says, ``For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Couldn't hurt, right?
So God started to slowly prune away, ultimately calling me to take a step back - I left my job and went on a year long sabbatical to “figure it all out.” Sounds like a dream, right? But when I did, I was utterly and completely lost. Who am I outside of what I did?
Taking a sabbatical started me on my personal journey to discover my purpose and a shiny, new vocational calling."
VP of Talent and Development
Tara Schuster is vice president of Talent and Development at Comedy Central. She is the executive in charge of Lights Out with David Spade, and was the executive in charge of the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning Key & Peele and the Emmy Award–winning @Midnight. Her numerous other shows included Another Period, Not Safe with Nikki Glazer, and Hood Adjacent. Her plays have been performed in the New York International Fringe Festival and her writing has appeared in The New Yorker online. She lives in Los Angeles.