Last year, the Odessa Chamber of Commerce held a virtual panel discussion made up of local women as part of International Women’s Day.

The event proved to be successful enough to be brought back this year, only this time, it’ll be held in-person for the first time.

On March 8, the Odessa Chamber of Commerce plans to hold its SheCan International Women’s Day Conference at the Odessa Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

The half day conference will run from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the goal to empower, encourage and engage with women in the Permian Basin by creating an inviting and fun atmosphere for networking.

Numerous guests will speak throughout the day including Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center President Dr. Lori Rice-Spearman, accountant and former city council member Peggy Dean and Sports Agent Kelli Masters.

“Last year, with about four weeks time, maybe less than that, we put together a little virtual panel of 10 local women,” Odessa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Renee Earls said. “At the time, we said, you know, if COVID has lapsed some, we’d like to do an in-person event so here we are. It’s a day of empowerment. It’s a day of education and a day of engagement with each other and really a time for women to come together and hear from the leaders and how they got to where they are and what their idea of success is.”

Rice-Spearman is the ninth president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the first female president in the Texas Tech University System. She joined TTUHSC in 1987 and has held multiple leadership positions during her tenure with the university including provost and chief academic officer, associate provost and dean of the School of Health Professions.

Rice-Spearman, who is an Odessa native, is also an alumna of the School of Health Professions’ first class in the Clinical Laboratory Sciences program and earned her master’s and Ph.D from Texas Tech University.

“I’m honored to come back to the community that helped grow me,” Rice-Spearman said. “I was born in Stanton and was raised in Odessa. My father (Sam Rice) owned a small business (Sam Rice Auto Parts) there for 40 years and a lot of who I am today came from my experience in the Permian Basin. I’m quite honored to come back and contribute and be a part of this conference.”

Rice-Spearman says the theme of her speech will be “Today, here and now.”

“It’s talking about taking women leaders and engaging them and helping them grow and empower them,” Rice-Spearman said. “I feel very strongly that strong women leaders build strong communities so that’s really going to be the focus of my remarks.”

In addition to being a sports agent for the NFL, Masters (who hails from Oklahoma City) is an attorney and founder and president of KMM Sports, a full-service sports management company with offices in New York, Los Angeles and her hometown. Masters has been recognized as one of the most influential women in the sports business, representing more professional athletes than any woman in the industry.

“After listening to a podcast she was on and reading her book, it was interesting to see how she made a career change into a very male-dominated field as a sports agent,” Earls said. “Not only she made that career change but just the way that she treats her athletes like family. She offers more than what a sports agent would offer because she understands that their sports careers will end at some point and need to plan for success. She’s almost like a mom to them. She has a great story to share and we’re excited to have her here.”

Dean has been a shareholder in a regional accounting firm from 1986-2015 with emphasis on income taxation, estate and financial planning, consulting and mergers and acquisitions.

She began as a supervisor for Johnson, Miller and Co. CPA’s in 1985 and was promoted to Shareholder within 18 months.

Dean transferred to Odessa in 1990 to open a regional office for the company, which has grown to be the largest accounting firm in Odessa.

Dean also served as at-large city council member from 2018-2020 and has served on many boards including the Education Foundation, President’s Advisory Committee UTPB, ODC Compliance Committee and the Finance Chair of Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center board.

Dean was also named the 2002 Citizen of the Year and has also won the Athena Award, been named to the Business Hall of Fame and the First Lady of Odessa.

“Peggy Dean is one of our local female leaders that will also talk to us,” Earls said. “She has a topic that she focuses on. She focuses on the four G’s. We’ve had other people hear her on this topic and they’ve said she’s fantastic so we feel like she’s a great female leader to share her knowledge.”

Doors will open at 7:30 a.m. and Earls says the event will start around 8:15-8:30.

Rice-Spearman will be the morning speaker for session one and then Dean will speak at session two.

Following session two, there will be a networking break and pop-up shopping.

“We’ll have some local vendors who are female-owned businesses,” Earls said. “It’s really an opportunity to rejuvenate and honor International Women’s Day.”

Session four will feature lunch with Masters as the keynote speaker followed by the event wrap and her book signing.

“This is our inaugural in-person event and so we know that there will be some things that we’re still learning from,” Earls said. “Just getting 300 women together just for the fellowship and to learn from each other and empower each other and I think that will be powerful in itself.”

The event is also being held in memory of Adela Vasquez who was a longtime educator in Odessa who lost her battle with cancer in January.

Tickets can be purchased at

“I’ve tried to stress that although it is a women’s conference, we certainly would encourage anyone to come because all of the speakers have a great message,” Earls said. “It’s not just about women, it’s about men as well and I encourage people to bring their daughters or their sons. It’s a good opportunity to hear how other people struggle but have overcome. If a female is thinking about going into the workforce or going back to school or they’ve raised their children and they have extra time to volunteer, women have really broken out in the world of philanthropy. We just want women or any attendee to walk out of there feeling like they’ve received some great information and feeling like they can conquer anything.”

If you go