Networking, awards and workshops highlight 2018 Women’s Leadership Conference

The characteristics of a good leader include offering support, asking for help, listening and providing feedback, according to speakers at the Women’s Leadership Conference held on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.

More than 525 people attended the event despite the inclement weather that prompted keynote speaker Ashley Biden to wear her snow boots on the dais. “My mother would kill me,” confided Biden, the daughter of former Vice President Joe Biden and educator Jill Biden.

It was the 28th year for the conference, which began as the Entrepreneurial & Business Women’s Expo.

“We felt a rebranding was in order to reflect the key role that women play in leadership roles in business, in education, in entrepreneurship, in the nonprofit arena and in every level of government,” said Bob Chadwick, president of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

As in the past, the all-day event included workshops, as well as an exhibitor showcase. “It’s a great event for networking,” said Mario Rideaux, operations manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Stacy Inglis, director of sales and marketing for Tilton Mansion, home of the University & Whist Club, agreed. “It offers attendees an opportunity for both personal-professional growth with the breakout panel sessions, as well as networking moments with the vendor tradeshow,” she said.

Inglis, however, was on hand for another reason. Club member Dr. LaVerne Harmon received the Women’s Leadership Award at the event luncheon.

The award was one of three that Chadwick presented in the ballroom. Patricia Rivera, founder of Hook PR & Marketing, received the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year Award, and Marilyn Monahan, an educator and board member for the Ministry of Caring, accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I’m privileged to be part of an event that offers women a chance to support each other,” said Harmon, who is the university’s fourth president and the first African-American woman to lead a Delaware college or university.

Female leaders can be assertive and collaborative, she maintained. “All women can learn to advocate for themselves, to speak up and to use their talents to serve their organizations,” she said. “We can create inclusive environments where women and men can ask questions and challenge the status quo. We all have something worthwhile to contribute.”

Patricia Rivera and Bob Chadwick

Patricia Rivera of Hook PR & Marketing in her acceptance speech emphasized the importance of mentorship. “We’ve all heard the saying that behind every great man is a great woman,” Rivera said. “I say that behind every successful entrepreneur is a tribe. My tribe is made up of fierce warriors … who identify strengths you may not even realize that you have. They challenge you to stretch. They pull you—sometimes kicking and screaming—outside your comfort zone.”

Rivera, who moved with her family from Bolivia to the U.S. when she was 7, is based in Sussex County but has clients statewide, including the Delaware Higher Education Office, $tand By Me, Telamon Corporation, NCALL Research and Perdue Farms.

Brother Ronald Giannone, founder and executive director of the Ministry of Caring, nominated Marilyn Monahan for the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Monahan, an educator, is the former secretary and treasurer of the National Education Association. For six years, she worked for the MBNA Foundation, where she managed such programs as the Campaign for Education. Monahan was also the executive director of the Reading Assist Institute. She joined the Ministry of Caring in 2010.

“It has been said that you cannot do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and its depth,” she said. In part, that means widening and deepening the lives of others. While the award was for lifetime achievements, her life has not stopped, she quipped. She will continue to help make a difference.

Ashley Biden, executive director of the Delaware Center for Justice, felt compelled to help others at a young age when she witnessed the socio-economic inequality across the United States while with her father on the campaign trail. The center is a nonprofit committed to transforming the equality of justice through advocacy, policy reform and direct-service programming for youth and adults.

Her mother, as well as her father, served as an early role model. “It was clear to me early on that my mother, Jill, would not be defined as somebody’s spouse,” Biden said. “She was the writer of her own destiny. She was passionate about her career.” Jill Biden has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education.

Jill Biden also had businesses, and Ashley is now following in her mom’s entrepreneurial footsteps. In 2016, she started Livelihood, which sells American-made hoodies to benefit underserved communities.

When starting the clothing company, she relied on other businesswomen for advice. “Behind a successful woman are other successful women who have her back,” she said. “I’m grateful to all the women in this room who have each other’s back.”

The 2019 event is scheduled for Nov. 14 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.

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