“When one of us wins, we all win” stated Captain Michele Naughton, the first African American Female Police Captain in the Norfolk Police Department.
On October 2nd, the Hampton Road’s Chamber held The Power of Women, a conference dedicated to empowering women in business within the Hampton Roads region. The panel featured some of the 757’s top female professionals including Christen Faatz, Senior Vice President Corporate Finance & Accounting for The Franklin Johnston Group, Georgie Marquez, Founder of Andre + Marquez Architects, Inc., and Captain Michele Naughton, Captain, Norfolk Police Department. The panel was moderated by Delcino Miles, President & CEO of The Miles Agency.
Rhonda Bridgeman, Chair of the Hampton Roads Chamber Regional Board, kicked off the event by delivering an inspiring speech about the women who have paved the way for success in industries, and the women who are currently blazing their own trails. “With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are reminded of all the women who made it possible to be where we are today. And we see that another female is being nominated to fill her seat. We also are seeing a record number of women running for congress and being promoted to leadership roles within their companies” said Bridgeman.
The panelists had the opportunity to share their stories and experiences with their careers, mentorship, work-life balance, the “me-too” movement, and how to pave the way for others to follow their lead.
“It’s funny you start a career path in something you love, you don’t think about ‘who else is doing this?’ It didn’t occur to me I was doing something different. When you know who you are and where you want to go, it protects you from the naysayers.” said Marquez when asked whether or not she saw herself as a trailblazer at the time.
Each panelist stressed the importance of mentorship, and bringing in women behind you, to guide them and lift them up. Captain Naughton recounted how after she aced her sergeant and lieutenant’s exams, she united the women in her precinct to encourage them to fill those roles. “Now we are showing up and showing out! There is enough success to go around. When I help someone up, I don’t say they owe me anything, I say it’s now their job to bring someone up with them”.
When asked how to reach out to those who may be seeking mentorship, Faatz suggested that just checking in with someone virtually right now could be easier than in a traditional environment. “It might be easier to reach out to people virtually. They may be less busy or have some free space in the calendar, reach out to someone you’ve been wanting to connect with for a while, don’t keep putting it off to do ‘tomorrow’” stated Faatz.
Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber addressed the panel and asked what they believe are action steps the Hampton Roads Chamber can take to promote equity in the business community. “I’m a firm believer that there are systemic and unconscious biases against women in the business community. Issues like the pay gap – are what the Chamber wants to take on. So, I need help. What are some actualized items that the chamber can take to help close those gaps?” asked Stephens.
“White men are in a position of being real transformers if they embrace it. So, thank you Bryan for encouraging these conversations and asking these questions” expressed Marquez. She went on to explain that she hopes men who want to usher in this change are also having these conversations behind the scenes with their male counterparts. “Have those conversations behind the scenes. Say ‘this Is what I believe in and I challenge you, do you have any women in your org that should be encouraged to rise through the ranks’”. Miles answered Stephen’s by saying, “The chamber can take a bigger role in mentoring women-owned small businesses. Do an audit to see where the needs are.”
Katharine Bond, the keynote speaker, gave an empowering speech to the audience about the struggles she endured during her childhood and how her mother inspired her to create the career she desired. She detailed the mentors who believed in her and how she hopes that she is passing that mentorship to those who are coming after her. “Mentors come in all forms. Mentorship comes in these moments that are day-to-day, the time they spent believing in me.Be intentional with your everyday actions”.
The Hampton Roads Chamber would like to thank our sponsors, Dominion Energy, Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Centura College, AIM, Virginia Beach Convention Center, and The Port of Virginia. Thank you for making this event possible.