The second annual conference held by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce’s Women MEAN Business Committee drew more than twice the audience that participated in its first session.
“We need to create a safe and empowering space where we celebrate successes, offer guidance during challenging times and uplift one another when we need it most,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Heather Bell-Meyer told the audience of more than 220 women and men, at the June 1 event in in Middletown. “This strengthens our individual journeys and paves the way for our collective growth and progress. It’s through this that we break down barriers, shatter stereotypes, and create a more inclusive and equitable society.”
With the theme “Her Seat at the Table,” the conference was presented by the committee to honor, inspire and support women in non-traditional business roles. (MEAN is an acronym for Mentoring, Empowerment, Authenticity and Networking.)
Participants in the conference attended panel discussions covering corporate and small businesses, and engaged in “fireside chats” addressing key questions and topics women face in the workplace.
Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership, delivered the keynote speech, describing her professional journey and offering advice.
“I’ve had a fabulous journey because so many women before me worked so hard to pave those roads,” she said. She advised women to “stop, look, listen. Grow in your position.”
Having served in her position since 2002, Halahan is the longest-serving economic development specialist in the Mid-Hudson Region, according to the Orange County Partnership, a private, nonprofit office of economic development that serves as a marketing agency to draw businesses to the county.
“It’s an opportunity to show that it can be done, it is being done and it will continue to be done,” she said.
The Orange County Partnership was one of many event sponsors who have advanced women to non-traditional leadership roles. Another was the Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, whose vice president of retail banking, Nicole Tompkins, serves as co-chair of the chamber’s Women MEAN Businesses Committee.
“Three years ago, Heather Bell and I had an idea to create a space designed for women in Orange County by forming the chamber’s first Women MEAN Business Committee,” Tompkins said. “Over the years, we have evolved into a strong group of women focused on building opportunities and seminar content around mentorship, empowerment, authenticity and networking. Seeing our vision come to life at our second annual event with more than 200 attendees was outstanding! We are excited to continue building content in efforts to enhance the experience of women in the workplace and motivate the next generation of women leaders in the Hudson Valley.”