LEWISBURG – The 16th Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium attracted 91 women for a series of discussions ranging from leadership to gender and inequality, to diversity, equity and inclusion, to revitalizing community and art as therapy.
The Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the symposium on Tuesday for the first time at the Campus Theater in downtown Lewisburg. Entitled “Flaming trails: following our passions, improving our future”, the event took place in a virtual format and in person. Last year it was digital only due to the restrictions related to the pandemic.
A morning session featured a panel of women from the Valley leading community revitalization efforts: Julia Curtis with Selinsgrove Projects Inc., Ellen Ruby from Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, Kathy Vetovich from Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization (SABER), Amanda Craig-Bradley with The Improved Milton Experience (TIME) and Jody Ocker of Sunbury Revitalization Inc. Jennifer Wakeman, who runs Driving Real Innovation for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE), moderated.
Vetovich said the experience of sharing ideas about efforts in individual communities has proven to be valuable, especially when it comes to potential collaborative efforts between municipalities. The valley could do better if communities take a regional approach to marketing rather than making individual efforts, she said.
“Women tend not to see black and white but grays and colors. Empowering ourselves to all work together really highlights the benefits we can bring to different things, ”said Vetovich.
Another morning session focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI). On the panel were Thelathia “Nikki” Young, Associate Vice-President for Equity and Inclusive Excellence at Bucknell University, Andrea Wary, Associate Vice-President of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Geisinger Health System. , Sarah Farbo, Deputy Director of Service Leaders Program and Career Development Center, and Brenda M. Terry-Manchester, Director of Women’s Health Services at UPMC NorthCentral PA Region.
Cynthia Peltier, director of the CommUnity Zone in Lewisburg, was the moderator. She asked panel members to define diversity and inclusion, its value to their respective organizations and the real benefits achieved through DCI’s efforts.
Terry-Manchester and Farbo explained how diversity inspires a mix of thoughts and perspectives from people from all walks of life. Without it, Farbo said creativity in ideas and approaches would be limited.
Young said that diversity and inclusion are very different from each other. Diversity brings many people to the table.
“Inclusion is the thing that gets someone to express themselves or eat at the table,” Young said. “What would it mean to set the menu?” “
Asked about minorities settling in predominantly white communities like the Valley, Farbo encouraged people to be good neighbors. Hire people from different backgrounds; listen and be curious, she said.
“It’s up to us to take the initiative to reach out and be welcoming,” said Farbo.
Terry-Manchester said she was dismayed to hear from a doctor, a minority, who was leaving UPMC for a new job. The company does well in recruiting, but is not as good at retention, she recalled, saying the doctor.
“It was a sobering experience,” said Terry-Manchester.
Power dynamics evolve inside and outside the workforce, and Young said it’s not always comfortable.
“The dynamic that you feel comfortable in is the same dynamic that shut me down and we’re not going to do that anymore,” Young said.