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Power-packed Conference Inspires Women in Leadership

Purpose, professional development, and the pursuit of entrepreneurship were all takeaways from the 5th Annual Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by Helen Giddings, businesswoman and former State Representative.

Photo and Story
By Sylvia Dunnavant Hines

Helen Giddings WLS Photo
DeMetris Sampson, Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, and Helen Giddings

Purpose, professional development, and the pursuit of entrepreneurship were all takeaways from the 5th Annual Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by Helen Giddings, businesswoman and former State Representative.

“Basically, we just wanted women to come together,” said Giddings, adding that it is easy to build confidence at such gatherings. “In coming together, we share stories of other women’s accomplishments and how they have overcome challenges.

She continued, “It is important for women to share successes. We realize that by working together, we can accomplish a great deal. When we do things that uplift women, we uplift families.”’’ said Giddings, who D Magazine listed as one of the Top Power Brokers in 1980.

A trailblazer in her own right, Giddings brings to the conference her experience of being a human resource executive with Sears, Roebuck & Company, with responsibility for 11 states. She is also the former board chairman for the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the founder of Multiplex, Inc., a specialty concessions company.

“I came up with this idea for the original conference because I wanted to help empower women. I wanted to do it intentionally,” she said, explaining how she sat down and drew up a one-page plan. “I invited 14 women to come and have dinner with me. I shared the one-page idea with them. They all agreed that it was crucial for African American women to come together and to be able to have transparent discussions.”

According to the Federal Reserve, Black women are the only racial or ethnic group with more business owners than their male peers.

“We came up with topics that we thought that women were interested in and they could benefit from knowing more about. For instance, this year, we added a session on cryptocurrency. Even though Cryptocurrency is not doing very well now, many of us don’t know enough to make intelligent financial decisions with it,” said Giddings.

She said she was very selective in topics to be covered during the two-day conference. Her team’s goal was to help level the playing field for women in all areas. Crypto has a higher participation rate among younger adults than older adults: 15% of those 18 to 34 own cryptocurrencies, compared with 11% of those ages 35 to 64 and 4% of those 65 and older.

According to CNBC, only 4% of crypto investors are Black women.

Kristin Rattler, a business owner who has also founded a non-profit organization, said she attended the conference to recharge her battery.

“The inspiration and energy I received from the conference were irreplaceable. However, my biggest takeaway was from Judge Vanessa Gilmore, who reminded us that our care and concern for others measures success,” said Rattler.

According to Forbes there is a pronounced gender discrepancy in American mentorship; 82% of men have had male mentors, while just 69% of women have had female mentors.

Giddings said it is so essential to elevate women.

“So often, we are disrespected and disregarded. We have to build our confidence to say I have a voice and a right. I have the right to hear, and my voice should be heard.

We need to create a culture where our granddaughters come of age and they realize they can have it all.

“They might not have it all at once, but they can have it all. That is very important to me. I wonder to what height I might have climbed if I had been able to see her. In too many cases, I was the first at what I did. I wonder what it would have been like if I had been able to start on somebody’s shoulders instead of on the ground floor,” Giddings concluded.

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