2019-03-15 / Front Page

“Count Me In” event features women in leadership in the Midlands

By Anita Baker

Sarah Chamberlain believes “every issue is a woman’s issue.” Chamberlain founded the Women2Women National Conversation Tour to provide opportunities to hear from women in local forums across the country and to take their voiced concerns directly to national leaders in the United States government. The grassroots organization listens to and empowers women on the local level and represents their voices on the national level. Chamberlain continues to travel the nation holding forums and growing her nonprofit’s reach in representing women’s issues nationally.

On Thursday, March 7, Midlands women gathered at the Capital City Club to hear from Chamberlain and a panel of featured local speakers. The Columbia “Count Me In” event panel included Tameika Isaac Devine, Jabber & Isaac, PA partner and mayor pro tem, City of Columbia; Lou Kennedy, president and CEO, Nephron Pharmaceuticals; Ann Warner, Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network ( WREN); and Cheryl Holland, Abacus Planning president and founder.

The panelists were asked to share thoughts on issues such as women in politics, working conditions for women, communicating with employers, and finding a “work-life balance.”

To start off the discussion, Chamberlain asked each panelist to identify the issue she is most passionate about. Devine said working for the financial empowerment of the citizens of Columbia and working to grow the wealth gap in our city by helping individuals and families with asset building and accumulation.

Kennedy said she is most concerned with helping individuals find affordable medications to reduce the rising cost of healthcare and with solving the opioid crisis. She has given much attention to the growing opioid crisis through her leadership position at Nephron Pharmaceuticals and advocated for using alternative medications for pain management in place of opioids. She said she wants to be part of the solution, not the problem, and is working to develop alternative ways to treat pain without creating addictions.

Holland shared she is most passionate about resolving the income gap for women. She said when women earn lower incomes, they often do not have the means for medications, quality food, or other necessities for themselves and their families. She said, “I do not understand why that gap exists.”

Warner wants to help young girls maintain and expand their voices as they go through the preteen and teenage years. She also wants to see young boys grow to be kind and confident and for all young adults to grow to become ready for a power- ful adulthood.

During the rest of the panel discussion, ideas were shared to help all women at any stage of their lives and experiences.

Warner shared the power of journaling in her life and the benefit of writing down life experiences including what was learned from each experience. She said to the younger women in the audience, “Don’t be so afraid of failure. Take the hard classes you might not make an A in, take big adventures, have fun, take risks, and take note of what you learn from your risks.”

Kennedy shared her wisdom on succeeding in the workplace, “You will never receive what you do not ask for.” She advocates for income equality for women and encouraged the audience to communicate more with employers. She said don’t be hesitant to ask for time off from work to take care of a child or family member. She reminded the women in the audience employers are always watching and can see when an employee is working to do their best.

Holland encouraged the women in the audience to take risks outside the work environment, such as earning another academic degree, and to take risks inside the organization you work for to move to management or gain new skills. She advised all women to learn the language of finance and not become discouraged if facing financial difficulties, but to be more hopeful and confident for a financial recovery.

Devine spoke about “work-life balance” or “work-life integration” and how she seeks every day to balance her role as a mother and wife, a local political leader, and the owner of a new business, “The Possibilities Institute.” She strongly suggested women find a sponsor or a mentor to help them through life’s decisions.

“We have to be our own cheerleaders and surround ourselves with other amazing women. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up.”

The Women2Women Conversations Tour can be followed on their website at w2wtour.com/events.

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