New Orleans set the stage for entrepreneurs to network, share their experiences and grow.
Developing our leadership skills takes time, effort and resources. While there are lots of organizations with workshops and seminars, only a few know how to do it with the insights, style and panache of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council—South under the skillful direction of President and CEO, Phala Mire. On July 5, 2019, over 140 women came together at Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel for the day-long “Women of Color, A C-Suite Affaire,” which was billed as “An Event for Ladies Who Lead in Life & the C-Suite.” This conference combined business opportunities, wellness, mentoring, access to capital and networking. As the first of what is promised to be an annual event, women were encouraged to share their stories and to learn from other female leaders from across the nation.
Anyone who has been to New Orleans during the week of the Essence Festival knows the energy that fills the city creates an unmistakable sense of empowerment. That energy was matched by the goodwill demonstrated by the event’s corporate sponsors; Caesars Entertainment, Electric/Southern Company, WBENC, St. John the Baptist Parish and the Coca Cola Company.
As a presenter at the inaugural event it was wonderful seeing women who mirrored the audience we addressed. My role was to establish the direction for the day by suggesting that we envision the possibilities of the future, conceptualize what we could create that does not exist today and determine who in the room might be able to help us achieve that goal.
Dr. Marcia Lobrano, MD, MPH and founding partner of Second Opinion LLC and Stephanie Osborne, CEO of Meditate New Orleans elevated the conversation by directing attendees to practice self-care and meditation and seek wellness as a priority in life.
Ashlee Ammons and Kerry Schrader, co-founders of the successful tech startup Mixtroz, were joined by Candi Castleberry-Singleton, VP of Intersectionality, Culture +Diversity at Twitter for an impassioned panel discussion about the critical need for women of color to be leaders in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) as it is increasingly used as a decision-making tool touching every aspect of our lives. Castleberry-Singleton gave examples of how AI tools embedded in job search engines reflect nuanced cultural or gender biases which may negatively impact potential job seekers from different cultural backgrounds. She told us we must be players in this space to influence the thinking behind the products and services being created. In turn, technology will reflect our realities and shape the world we want to experience.
Panels addressing public policy provided opportunities for successful entrepreneurs like Sharon Reynolds, president and CEO of DevMar Products, Teresa Lawrence, President and owner of Delta Personnel and Tierra Kavanaugh Wayne, CEO of TKT+ Associates to share their journeys towards success. Candace Waterman, president and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy spoke of the benefits that can be earned by women working together towards a common goal.
I found the networking to be a highlight of the experience—unfettered access to the leaders of the seven WBENC regional partnership organizations. We sometimes overlook the power and expertise of these successful women who each run a multimillion-dollar organization!
The following women all have their own business acumen and brilliance:
Our community of diverse business professionals is fortunate to have the input and participation of these experts and we look forward to seeing more powerful programs resulting from their combined firepower. The energy from the event was contagious and will certainly grow throughout the year as attendees look forward to another round of endless possibilities at Women of Color—A Suite-Affaire 2020!