By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance
The YWCA’s 24th annual In the Company of Women Luncheon took place Wednesday, April 17 at the Connecticut Convention Center. This year’s theme: It’s Our Time to Take the Lead.
Nearly 1,400 (mostly) women attended the state’s largest networking luncheon. As Hartford Mayor Bronin pointed out in his opening remarks, “The women in this room represent every field.” He noted they also serve as an inspiration for young women.
Luncheon attendees met and mingled, engaged with local vendors, learned about the YWCA’s mission, and heard opening remarks from powerful (mostly women) business leaders.
The event’s theme resonated in every speaker’s comments—from Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut Susan Bysiewicz saying, “If women succeed, Connecticut succeeds” to YWCA CEO Adrienne Cochrane emphasizing, “Empowered women empower women. We must be proud of where we’ve been—and proud of where we’re going.”
Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien delivered a powerful keynote presentation, tying in personal stories to share a message about how we enable others to tell our stories.
Karen Walsh, a longtime luncheon attendee and Hartford-area licensed therapist, says her biggest takeaway from the events is the impactful speakers the YWCA brings in. “Soledad O’Brien’s message showed that we all have important stories and our humanness is what connects us,” she said.
O’Brien spoke about her professional ascent—from her first job “removing staples from bulletin boards” to her current role as host of the Sunday morning syndicated political show Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.
She also shared a simple piece of advice she received early on in her career: Whatever you do, do not quit.
Along the way in her professional journey, O’Brien learned she needed to tell stories differently. Her goal became using storytelling to create a new perspective on diverse and current issues to encourage change in others’ communities or organizations.
O’Brien asked attendees to think about how to tell people how to tell their stories. She also asked women in the audience to “Think about the way you’re going to leverage the voices you have,” adding, “The battle we fight is not just for us ... it’s for future women.”
O’Brien’s final request was that attendees “Continue to do what you’re doing, with mentoring etc.—but I encourage you to do more.”