It was a day of celebration, breaking bread, networking and providing solid professional advice and career development for executive women at the pinnacle of their careers during the annual Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by The Daily Record on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the University of Maryland’s SMC Campus Center. The event’s theme was Being a Working Woman Navigating Life.
More than 100 attendees were a part of a fireside chat and breakout sessions that focused on critical issues impacting women in the workforce: how to effectively handle career interrupters, paths to power on corporate boards, gender bias and legislative issues.
Statistically, women are just over 46% of the U.S. workforce and must navigate their careers as well as other aspects of their lives including family, community and how to use their influence to elevate and help others.
The fireside chat featured a conversation between host Heather Eckles, market executive, Baltimore & Associates Market, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and featured headliner Allison Lawrence, president, Black + Decker, Stanley Black & Decker. The focus of the discussion was how to grow to a C-suite role as a diverse woman in the 2020s.
Lawrence, who is Black, is the first person and woman to hold that role in the Maryland-based company’s 200-year history. She talked about her humble beginning at the company where she started working from the ground up in a local store in 1996 learning everything she could as she was promoted through the ranks, all the way to serving as the company’s first chief of staff.
Ultimately, she assumed the role of president in 2022. She compared her ascent to her current role to running a marathon. “I think about it like an obstacle course or a marathon where you have to keep pressing towards your goal. As women leaders, a lot of factors impact us, missed promotions, kids, empty nesting. Being resilient is how I navigated my way through. Sometimes you must use grit and digging your heels in along the way to meet challenges.”
Developing and maintaining relationships has also served Lawrence well. “Relationships matter. Fifteen years ago, I maximized relationships and stayed connected to those I worked with or beside. It was so important to do that as a black woman and it allowed me to take advantage of other opportunities,” she said.
Along with sharing stories of accomplishments, there were poignant moments that were impactful. The workshop about career interrupters was especially memorable. Several women served on the panel to talk about how they dealt with life-changing personal events and how they impacted their careers and personal lives.
One speaker introduced herself by name and then described herself as an alcoholic, telling her story about how addiction impacted her ability to do her job as a prosecutor and as a mother of two young children. It was the love of her family, an empathetic employer and a stay in rehabilitation that allowed her to recover and resume her career and transform her life.
A different panelist spoke of her battle with the early onset of Parkinson’s during the height of her career in finance. Her disability ultimately changed her career completely when she formed a nonprofit, turning her into an advocate for others who also suffer from the disease. Each speaker talked about how their issues changed them on every level and what it taught them.
All encouraged listeners to reach out for help when the tables turn and reinforced how relationships with other women are so vital. One described having a group of friends she described as her own “personal board” where she could bounce ideas, get support and hold her accountable when something needed to be addressed.
For more information about the speakers and the summit, see here.