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Leaders Unite for Women’s Leadership Conference

“If you want something done,” a certain saying goes, “give it to a busy woman.”

On that note, a group of more than 200 busy women joined the Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) on Thursday, March 8, for its annual Women’s Leadership Conference.

HCCC President Leonardo McClarty kicked off the event by introducing the morning’s keynote speaker, Laura Gamble, regional vice president, PNC Bank. Gamble focused on tips, rather than challenges, and said some of the most important advice she could offer was to know yourself, then work from your strengths.

The first panel of the day, moderated by Lisa Anderson of Anavo Transformation Solutions, was focused on mentoring and championing. Anderson set the tone by referring to her panel’s discussion as “black coffee conversation;” the straight talk that followed with panelists Margaret Davis, Maryland Hall; Sharon Pinder, Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council; and Holly Shook, CUPs Coffeehouse and Project I CAN, focused on how leaders can pass on their skills. All of the panelists talked about learning to lead, but also of the importance of having people you can speak with openly and honestly.

The second panel, led by moderator Nicole Mitchell, Aronson, included Lisa Cines, Radius; Howard Community College President Kate Hetherington; and Elizabeth Edsall Kromm, Howard County General Hospital. All of the panelists agreed that the struggles of the baby boomer generation are not always the same as today’s struggles, but they also emphasized the importance of “not making the next generation do things the hard way, like we did.”

The third panel was about succeeding in male-dominated fields. Moderator Kim Watters, GovRealm, asked panelists Susan Brown, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab; Debra Cruz, Levin & Gann Law; and Sallie Sweeney, GDIT, about their experiences working in male-dominated industries. All three women talked about the importance of emotional intelligence and “picking your battles.” But above all else, they agreed that you have to know your audience, know your stuff and hold your own.

After a brief break, conference attendees were treated to a visit from Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan. She met with guests in the Exhibitor Hall and then addressed the entire conference, saying she was “very pleased” to be able to attend, having been a one-time resident of Howard County and because the day was all about celebrating women. She also offered that women should “continue helping each other and supporting each other.”
The last session, “Rising To and Inspiring From the Top,” was among the day’s highlights. Moderator Anna Fleeman Elhini, founder of Creatrix, introduced two women who needed no introduction: Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, Maryland National Guard; and Jane Campbell, Washington Office for Advocacy, National Development, and former Mayor of Cleveland, who shared their life stories. Singh spoke about her hard-fought journey to success and also said, “When you get up here, you gotta start pulling.” Campbell talked about how she got into politics as a child through her religion and her family, but was constantly having to be the first woman to hold most offices in Ohio along her way.

Afternoon keynote speaker Laurie Moe Buckhout, Col. (Ret.) U.S. Army, and now of Corvus, kept the crowd laughing and riveted through her stories of public service, motherhood and entrepreneurship. She mentioned she had been reading a lot of presidential biographies recently and has learned “the people who stand still in life aren’t the ones they write books about.”