America’s Top Corporations, Women of Distinction Recognized.
Celebrating Together Again and the 25th Anniversary of WBENC was nothing short of exhilarating. National Conference Co-chairs, Accenture, Accel, AT&T, Alom, the Coca Cola Company, BoldHaus, UPS, and Ampcus were recognized by WBENC for contributing to the 75 sessions of industry-specific topics, facilitating connections, and assisting with the planning of the celebrations that spanned the three-day event.
Women business owners streamed into the Georgia World Congress Center in early June looking eagerly for familiar faces, clearly excited about attending the first in-person WBENC conference in nearly three years. It was an atmosphere mixed with excitement, hope, and positive expectations. Pamela Prince-Eason, President & CEO of WBENC, welcomed the thousands of expectant WBEs, supplier diversity managers and various attendees, then honored the 14 Regional Partner Organizations along with other strategic partners. A new award was presented to 63 America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises: 2020-2021 Resiliency Edition for demonstrating an intensified commitment to supporting and working with women-owned businesses throughout the pandemic, despite the ongoing challenges that the world has faced.
WBENC offered a plethora of resources to attendees to aid them in navigating the all new WBENC arena. Prior to the conference, WBENC offered virtual training along with an extensive layout of stages and halls in easily accessible applications and in printable versions. Every attempt was made to be as paperless as possible.
Much in supplier inclusion changed during the three-year COVID break. Some WBEs made it through to the other side, some did not. While many women-owned businesses closed, WBEs showed their resilience by founding new businesses, filling the needs of corporations with products and services born out of the pandemic.
The conference itself was reimagined by the stalwart WBENC team. While the pandemic was largely over, WBENC ensured the health of the almost 3,000 attendees by restructuring the WBENC arena to provide for less crowding at booths, doing away with 1:1 Matchmakers, and providing a daily health check-in throughout the length of the conference. Masks were optional, allowing WBEs to find their personal level of comfort.
Business opportunity generation boasted over 300 exhibitors for the 2022 National Conference. Keynotes created learning opportunities for attendees. James O. Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America, kicked off a series of fireside chats that included Kellogg’s CPO Shelly Van Treeck and Kelley Cornish, EVP and Chief Administrative Officer for Diverse Segments, Representation, and Inclusion at Wells Fargo. The conference also boasted the largest WBENC meet-and-greet in its 25-year history, hosting approximately 1,000 WBEs each day to meet with 181 corporations, and featuring a series of 25-minute rotating sessions broken out of industry groups.
Thursday night remained awards night for the newly designed 2022 conference but because of the three-year delay and the WBENC 25th Anniversary, the celebration went above and beyond any of the previous 24 awards nights. Awards were presented to Debbie Hurst, President & CEO of WBEC Southwest (retired 2021), who accepted the William J. Alcorn Award and Michael Robinson, Program Director of Global Supplier Diversity with IBM (retired), accepted the Arnice Lamb Supplier Diversity Professional Excellence Award.
WBENC recognized America’s Top Corporations for 2021-2022 Hall of Fame, companies that set the highest standards and a sustained commitment to leading practices and innovation in their support for women-owned businesses.
The highlight of the evening was the 25th Anniversary of Women of Distinction—women leaders who have demonstrated a deep commitment to WBENC and breaking down barriers for women-owned businesses in the corporate and government supply chains. In an unprecedented move, all the Women of Distinction gathered on stage for a once-in-a-lifetime group photo.
As WBEs left Atlanta for home, the excitement of the first day was barely reduced, even after long hours of connecting, learning, and pitching. Former relationships were rekindled, and new relationships were formed between WBEs and corporate supplier diversity managers. A promising note and looking forward to the 2023 WBENC National Conference, which will be held March 20-23, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee.