‘Be confident … have guts,’ journalist plans to tell audience

When a notable CNN journalist speaks to a leadership conference later this year, she will deliver a clear message:

“You need to be well-informed. You need to be confident and you’ve got to have guts,” Natalie Allen said of the leaders she will address at the 2014 Women’s Leadership Conference at the MGM Grand on Aug. 6 and 7.

The leadership conference is being presented by the MGM Resorts Foundation, which has invited CNN international anchor Allen to host.

The anchor and correspondent is looking forward to the annual conference that will focus this year on women’s professional development and career advancement. She’s excited to see the female community come together in the first by-women, for-women conference she’s heard of in decades.

Allen worked her way up from being a college intern at a local TV station in Memphis, Tenn., to a CNN anchor. At the time of her internship, she was also attending the University of Memphis.

She hosted a show on the Weather Channel for several years and has traveled internationally to tell the stories of women struggling to be progressive in impoverished countries.

Allen attributes her success in a male industry to two things: passion and devotion to hard work, which creates a lot of energy.

It’s an important cycle to continue, she said. The conference in August, which is expected to draw about 800 people, will give women the tools to hone those characteristics.

The conference will focus on women in leadership positions in any industry. Government, retail, nonprofit and Fortune 500 company workers are all invited.

Allen, along with other keynote speakers not yet announced, will guide attendees through general sessions and breakout sessions.

There will be breakout sessions for emerging leaders and existing executives. There will be workshops for new business owners as well as established ones. Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, has previously served on these panels and will likely attend this year.

MGM has always emphasized diversity, conference planner and director of national diversity Maria Gatti said. It was the first group to have a woman serve as president of a major Strip property, and elevates women to leadership positions.

“It’s just a thrill,” Gatti said of the opportunity to bring mentorship to other women such as she had while growing up.

Allen is quick to acknowledge the extra challenges women face in their careers.

They’re expected to multitask in ways men aren’t, juggling children, jobs and a house. That’s why she thinks this conference is so important.

“We may not feel it, but we are very powerful and capable,” she said of every woman who will attend. She wants everyone there to walk away with a boost, both in confidence and practical skills to further their leadership abilities.

Allen said the men who attend, who will likely be few in number, should be applauded for their support of women leaders.

She hopes they will walk away with a better idea of women’s struggle to speak up about how much they’re capable of.

After the conference, MGM Resorts Foundation will donate the proceeds to a nonprofit organization that focuses on the development of women.

In March, $20,000 that included proceeds from last year’s conference was donated to Safe Nest.

In previous years, donations were made to the Women’s Research Institute and the Women’s Development Center.

The cost of the conference is $275 through May, and $350 from June until the conference begins.

Contact reporter Annalise Porter at aporter@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.