2017 Women > A Force in Business

September 21, 2017

Presented by


Host Sponsor

Television Media Sponsor

 Print Media Sponsor

Glass ceiling, meet floor. In North Carolina, and across the country, more women are aspiring to and filling roles in the political, corporate and nonprofit realms. They are wielding more buying power than ever before and launching businesses of their own. They are conquering and overturning gendered stereotypes of yesterday. And they’re just getting started.

Join us in September as we explore pathways to leadership, what it’s like at the top and how men and women can work together to inspire the next generation of female leaders.

New for 2017, attendees will have the opportunity to browse the exhibits of approximately 30 companies specializing in physical health and emotional well-being, fiscal and investment literacy, resume and interview training, personal branding and more.

Come ready to learn, connect and engage at one of the NC Chamber’s most popular and highly-attended events.

Get Engaged: #WomenLeadNC


What: 2017 Women > A Force in Business Conference
When: Thursday, September 21, 2017 | 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Where: Raleigh Convention Center | 500 S. Salisbury Street, Raleigh, N.C. 27601
Hotel: SHERATON RALEIGH HOTEL | 421 South Salisbury Street, Raleigh, NC 27601 | $159.00 per night
Click for reservations or call 919-834-9900. The room block expires on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Register, Exhibit or Sponsor


Ticket Pricing:

Member:  Early-Bird $150 | Regular $175 | $200 Late
Non-Member:  Early-Bird $225 | Regular $250 | $275 Late
Reserved Table of 10: Member $1,500 | Non-Member $2,000

Special early-bird pricing ends on Friday, Aug. 25. Regular pricing ends on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Late and final registration ends on Friday, Sept. 15.


8:00 a.m. Registration Opens

8:30 a.m. Pre-Conference Sessions

9:00 a.m. Exhibit Hall Opens & Headshot Station Open

9:15 a.m. Pop-Up Sessions in Exhibit Hall

10:30 a.m. Opening Sessions

  • Emcee, Barbara Gibbs, Morning and Noon Anchor, ABC11 Eyewitness News
  • Remarks by Presenting Sponsor, Dell

The Business of Story
Hillary Rea, Founder, Tell Me A Story

Eight years ago, Hillary Rea stood on a comedy stage to perform stand-up, without realizing she was sharing one story through to its end. Listen to her journey from getting laughs on stage to running her business and helping others tell their story.

Unconscious Bias + Women in STEM: Impact and Solutions
Dr. Jenna Carpenter, Dean, School of Engineering, Campbell University

Research shows that unconscious or implicit biases are largely responsible for the chilly climate experienced by women (from age 5 to age 85) in STEM. The impact, unfortunately, extends beyond the work environment to influence many key aspects of one’s job and overall career advancement. The good news is that being educated about these biases, together with research-based strategies for successfully navigating around them, helps women in STEM succeed. Come learn how to put these solutions to work for you.

Leadership Lessons
Tara Jaye Frank, Leadership Development Expert, President and CEO, P3T Group, Inc.

Tara Jay Frank will use her own points of transformation to share universal lessons in leadership. From generosity as a career strategy to leading from where you are, we can all be stronger leaders and have a deeper impact on our workplaces and communities.

11:30 a.m. Lunch

12:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions

1:30 p.m. Networking Break (Exhibit Hall Open; Pop-Up Sessions)

2:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions

3:00 p.m. Networking Break (Exhibit Hall Open: Pop-Up Sessions)

3:30 p.m. Closing Session

  • Emcee, Diane Wilson, ABC11 Eyewitness News Consumer Reporter

Zero to Breakthrough, Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, Americaʼs First African American Female Combat Pilot
A “breakthrough” mentality creates a breakthrough life! Acknowledge the obstacle, DON’T give it power. This presentation helps you put passion back in your life and design the path to your dreams with a ‘Breakthrough Mentality.’ Be inspired by FlyGirl’s personal story of setbacks, challenges, adventure, success and triumph. FlyGirl takes you on an amazing journey through her life experiences and, most importantly, the lessons learned. Unleash the personal leadership power needed to take your life to the next level! Attendees will discover:

• How to acknowledge the inevitable challenges and obstacles and continue to drive toward the solution
• The tangibility of possibility
• Delay is not denial and retreat does not mean defeat
• How to engage a Breakthrough Mentality!

4:30 p.m. Power Hour (Exhibit Hall)

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your peers and the event speakers during this networking reception.

5:30 p.m. Registration and Exhibit Hall Close

Breakout Sessions

Pre-Conference Sessions

8:30 a.m. Women and Wealth
Lori Taylor, Senior Vice President, Wealth Management Advisor, Fifth Third Bank
Lisa Smoots, Vice President; Regional Managing Director and Director of Corporate Executive Planning, Fifth Third Bank

Women’s influence over wealth in today’s global society can no longer be overlooked. Learn from a quick learning burst of tips to build, invest and protect your purse.

9:00 a.m. Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery in Plain Sight
Margaret Dardess, Author and Adjunct Professor of Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina

More than twenty million people are victims of human trafficking world-wide, and our own North Carolina is in the top 10 U.S. states for reported cases of human trafficking. Margaret Dardess, author of Brutal Silence, will tell us about this multi-billion dollar problem, and what we can do about it.

Breakout Sessions will take place at 12:30 and 2:00 p.m. More details on topic descriptions and speakers coming soon!

How to Lead At Any Level (12:30 p.m.)
Dr. Cicely Mitchell, President and Co-Founder, Art of Cool Festival
Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, Founder and CEO, Bee Downtown
Stephanie Jensen, Group Controlling and Data Management, BASF
Jael Vazquez, Vice President, Multitech Mechanical Support Inc.
Jennifer Dunleavy, President and CEO, The Accuro Group (Moderator)

Leadership is not a trait reserved solely for those in the corner office; it can be demonstrated at any rung on the corporate ladder. This panel will explore how women can thrive as leaders in their professional role, whether in the green or golden years of their career.

Origin Stories: Crafting your Personal Narrative (12:30 p.m.)
Hillary Rea, Founder, Tell Me A Story

Everyone needs an Origin Story. And it’s up to you to tell your story through your own authentic lens. Join Tell Me A Story founder, Hillary Rea, to explore ways to answer the question “How did you get to where you are now?” without telling your entire life story. You’ll leave this session with: 
  – A strategy for brainstorming and prepping your narrative. 
  – A game plan for putting your story into practice.
  – A better understanding of how origin stories can work in your professional life.

Gender Partnership: Engaging Men As Advocates to Gender Equity (12:30 p.m.)
Brad Wilson, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
Steve Burriss, President, UNC REX Healthcare
Carol Flack, Vice President, North Carolina Operations, Dell
Pam Townsend, Senior Vice President, Southeast Regional Manager, WSP USA
Gary Salamido, Vice President of Governmental Affairs, North Carolina Chamber

Men cannot be left out of the gender equity formula. This session will bring together male and female leaders in North Carolina to share their personal experiences working with or serving as male allies, sponsors and advocates in the workplace. Attendees of all genders will leave with a better sense of how to champion equity within their organization, and the importance of enlisting men in the cause.

Building Executive Presence (12:30 p.m. & 2:00 p.m.)
Sharon Delaney McCloud, Partner and Vice President of Professional Development, Walk West

Women make up 57% of college graduates and earn 63% of master’s degrees in the United States. Yet female leadership in C-Suites, politics and elsewhere comes nowhere close. Why is that?  In numerous surveys, top executives point to being perceived as leadership material as essential to being promoted into leadership positions. Aligning mindshare with the ability to command a room is the DNA of executive presence. Learn how to project confidence, poise under pressure and strong speaking skills to increase your executive presence.

Emotional Intelligence: The Art of Female Leadership (2:00 p.m.)
Venessa Harrison, President, AT&T North Carolina
Lisa Yañez, Vice President Marketing, United Therapeutics
Amy Kendall, Chief Administrative Officer, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare
Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, Corporate Affairs and Business Executive
Tara Jaye Frank (Moderator)

Science shows us that women possess unique leadership qualities that set them apart from their male counterparts. Learn how to harness and leverage those in this session. This is a great session for all genders, as attendees will explore the positive impact of a strong emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” and work to improve their own EQ skills.

How to Say “No”; When to Say “Yes” (2:00 p.m.)
Hope Rush, Director, Talent Strategy, Volvo Group North America
Melanie Sanders, Media Trainer/Producer, Walk West
Jill McConnell, VP Finance, US Pharmaceuticals, GSK

Being able to say “no” is an important life success strategy, so why are women averse to saying it? Sit in and enjoy an unrehearsed, informal chat between two leading North Carolina business women on when it’s beneficial and strategic to say “Yes,” and how to avoid the discomfort and guilt of saying “No.” This is an ideal session for any individual wanting to use more discretion when assuming new professional roles and responsibilities.

Millennials in the Workplace: A Cross-Generational Discussion (2:00 p.m.)
Jessica Mitsch, Executive Director, Iron Yard
Kate Helin, Associate Attorney, Williams Mullen
Sharita M. Whitaker, Associate, Smith Anderson
Gracie Johnson-Lopez, President and Principal Consultant, Diversity & HR Solutions
Leslie Patterson, Southeast Talent Leader, EY

You’ve heard the stereotypes, but do they actually reflect reality? Learn more about the millennial mindset in the 21st century workplace, and hear from millennials themselves about how professionals of all generations can help bring them along in their journey to leadership. This session should be engaging for all individuals, regardless of your generation, who aspire to mentor or sponsor others in the workplace.

Exhibit Hall & Pop-Up Sessions

The 2017 Women’s Event will include a robust exhibit hall offering a wide range of activities, pop-up sessions and exhibitors showcasing products and services meaningful to women.

2017 Exhibitors

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
Campbell University
Cardinal Innovations Healthcare
Carolina Partners in Mental Healthcare
Carroll’s Kitchen
Connected Women of NC
Diversity & HR Solutions
Dress for Success
Elon University Office of Graduate Admissions
FSI Office
Make-A-Wish Eastern NC
Meredith College Graduate Programs
NC Courage
NC Football Club
North Carolina Community Foundation
North Carolina Girl Scouts – Coastal Pines
Potential Essential
Raleigh Yoga Squad
Real Estate Associates
SEPI Engineering & Construction
UNC Rex Healthcare
University of Mount Olive
Wells Fargo

Exhibit Hall Schedule of Activities

9:00 a.m. Exhibit Hall Opens

9:15 – 10:15 a.m. Pop-Up Sessions

Crafting Your Digital Brand (9:15 a.m.)
Ann Marie Taepke, Director of Digital Media, Walk West

It takes less than two-tenths of a second for someone to form a first impression online.  This makes building your personal brand more important than ever.  Learn how to set the right tone and be memorable on LinkedIn, Twitter and more.  Ann Marie will provide you with a checklist and quick consultations.

The Woman in the Mirror: Your True Well-Being (9:35 a.m.)
Becky Jacobs, Chief Engagement Officer, Simple Change

Crucial to our success professionally and personally is a healthy lifestyle; learn how to keep your finger on the pulse of your health in this short learning burst.

Over-Mentored and Under-Sponsored (9:55 a.m.)
Dawn Ohaver Moyer, Co-Founder, Potential Essential
Jenny Casagrande, Co-Founder, Potential Essential

Mentoring is a term that is used a lot. Over time it has come to mean somebody who shows you the ropes, guides you and provides advice. But the connection to actually getting promotions and opportunities isn’t always there. A sponsor will fight to get you a promotion and make sure you get great assignments. In this quick, pop-up session, you will learn why women are over-mentored and under-sponsored and how you can build that all-important sponsor relationship.

1:30 p.m. Networking Break (Exhibit Hall Open; Pop-Up Sessions)

Recharge and Revitalize to Improve Your Performance/Energy for Performance (1:30 p.m.)
Brooke Kelly, Manager, Client Health Promotions, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina

One’s energy level must be managed properly in order to thrive in a professional environment. In this quick session, learn how to use your energy most efficiently.

3:00 p.m. Networking Break (Exhibit Hall Open: Pop-Up Sessions)

Pop-Up Session: Yoga Led by Raleigh Yoga Squad (3:05 p.m.)
Raleigh Yoga Squad

Join us for a brief yoga session where you will participate in breathing exercises and standing poses. You will learn relaxation and breathing techniques to help you relieve stress and re-energize.  No special clothing or equipment is required.

4:30 p.m. Power Hour

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your peers and the event speakers during this networking reception.

5:30 p.m. Exhibit Hall Closes

2016 Testimonials & Video Highlights

Today, I’m walking out of here as a superwoman who is not afraid to say no.
Janelle Bailey, Town of Cary

Truly an empowering event. I didn’t realize how much I needed this event until I came. I thought I was confident and empowered before but hearing the speakers helped me to realize how much more I can do.
Heather Retzalaff, BB&T

This conference was a transformative experience for me. If we want to see more women get ahead, more events like this need to happen to give us the chance to encourage each other.
Pat Andrews, EY

This was a very empowering event and I look forward to returning next year. I have several pages of notes to share with other women in my organization.
Cheron Gilchrist, Town of Cary

Gold Sponsors


Silver Sponsors

 Duke Energy co sponsor logo 

Reception Sponsor

Bronze Sponsors

AT&T North Carolina
Red Hat
Ward and Smith, P.A.
Williams Mullen

Supporting Organization:

LeadingAge North Carolina
North Carolina NAACP

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