Conference aims to empower women

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Women take part in a table discussion Wednesday during the SHE-E-O Women’s Conference Kick-Off at Rose Hill Conference Center.


Staff Writer

Thursday, October 11, 2018

NASHVILLE — More than 200 women from across the Twin Counties came out Wednesday to the Rose Hill Conference Center for an inaugural Rocky Mount Area Chamber event.

The purpose behind the first-time SHE-E-O Women’s Conference Kick-Off was to help women explore where they can add the most value in the community, at their jobs, with their peers and in their professional lives. The theme of the event was “Re-Imagining the Power of Women” to push women to help empower each other.

The conference featured a message from guest speaker Renee Chou, morning anchor at WRAL, and included a panel discussion from a group of female business leaders that was followed by a table discussion led by Amanda Bell, customer service and marketing manager at Family Medical Center and executive board member of the Chamber, among other women at each table.

Chou, who is marking 14 years at WRAL, talked about her perseverance in working to become a journalist and the importance of women empowering each other in the workplace. Chou said breaking into broadcast journalism after college was tough and demoralizing because she kept getting rejected by news stations because she was seen as looking too young for viewers to take her seriously.

After she started working for a news station, Chou talked about how several of the male reporters became mentors by allowing her to shadow them when going out on assignments and helping her hone her craft as a journalist. Although they were cordial, Chou acknowledged the other female reporters weren’t as willing to help.

As a veteran reporter, Chou said, with WRAL having several female reporters on staff, she feels it’s important to offer praise when they’re doing good work and to try to get to know them beyond the newsroom. Chou said she wants women to understand that it’s better to be a resource for rather than an obstacle to each other.

“The generalization or stereotype is that women tend to view themselves as competition — but rather than compete, why not collaborate instead?” Chou said.

The panel discussion consisted of Dr. Monique Brown, owner of a medical practice in downtown Rocky Mount, Evan Covington Chavez, development manager of the Rocky Mount Mills, Deborah Sperati, partner of Poyner Spruill and co-owner of Koi Pond Brewing Co., Kimberly Thigpen, owner of The Bath Place in downtown Rocky Mount, Tina L. Taylor, CEO and founder of Heritage Leadership Academy-STEM Education for Young Women in Emerging Markets and former CIO of GE and Sarah Hicks, development officer of Nash UNC Health Care Foundation and owner of Bin & Barrel: Wine Bar and Bottles, which is opening next month in Station Square.

Dr. N. Joyce Payne served as the moderator for the panel discussion. Payne serves as the International Affairs and STEAM advisor to the president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which she founded in 1987.

“As women, we multitask and we usually do everything well, but it also means that we need to start getting paid for that,” Payne said. “We need to look at those issues about gender equity, and we need to make sure we aren’t segregated where policies aren’t being made. We also need to make sure we hold politicians and our colleagues accountable at getting promotions for upward mobility and recognizing our skills and our talents by giving us an opportunity to play that game as well.”