PARKERSBURG - Balancing life and work was the focus of a business conference for women on Wednesday in Parkersburg.
Around 120 people representing big business, local entrepreneurs, not-for-profits and up-and-comers gathered for the Women in Leadership Luncheon at the Blennerhassett Hotel. Participants met, discussed and shared ideas about women in business and the challenges they face, said Jill Parsons, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, which organized the event.
"I have heard a lot of great feedback from people about having the opportunity to interact with people who are in similar situations," Parsons said. "We thought this would be a good way to tap into the female executives and CEOs we have in this area."
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Sandy Austin Feltner, market director for Pepsi Co. for West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, was one of the keynote speakers at the Women in Leadership Luncheon held Wednesday at the Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg.
The theme of the event was Balancing Your Teacup to find a balance between life and work.
Keynote speakers were Sandy Austin Feltner, a market director for Pepsi Co. for West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and Lynne Schwabe, director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation.
Austin Feltner talked about women in leadership, their struggles, pitfalls and successes.
"I have been with Pepsi for 29 years," she said. "I started as someone who handed out coupons and samples in grocery stores. Now I am in charge of 14 locations with 650 employees. If you are willing to step up into these leadership roles and you are successful in these roles, the sky is absolutely the limit."
The biggest problem women face in business is finding balance, Austin Feltner said. A bigger leadership role means it can take women away from things like family, home, church and more.
"It is very difficult for women to see themselves in those roles, because they can't understand how they can do all of that and be successful at any of it," she said.
However, women are uniquely positioned to be successful in business.
"Women in leadership definitely brings something to the table," she said. "They can be very successful, very feminine and still be a very strong mother, wife and leader."
Women think differently, Austin Feltner said. They think more in the longer term and how decisions affect people. They are also good leaders in being able to show empathy with others.
Finding balance depends on what the woman wants and what kind of support systems she has in place to accommodate the different aspects of her life.
"There is no one silver bullet that is the solution," she said.
Austin Feltner talked about having to work out with the company being able to bring her son and daughter with her to work at 5 a.m. in the morning when they were little. She would conduct a meeting with her delivery drivers in one room while her kids were eating their breakfast in the next room.
She admits that there has been times she has had to miss games and other things because of work, but also she made sure there was time to do things for her kids and where work wasn't always a priority. Women need to be honest with their families about the sacrifices that may have to be made.
"The biggest thing is finding balance," she said. "That is the hardest thing that women face.
"The most important thing is having some kind of structure to your life. Women need to understand what your key priorities are and understanding the boundaries to those priorities as well as making those clear to yourself and the people you work with."
Because of the need for two income families, Austin Feltner said many fathers are stepping up and taking on more responsibilities at home so women in business can concentrate what they need to do at work.
Schwabe said many women have a conflict between work and family.
"Too many companies don't allow enough flexibility to allow women to be able to do what they need to do to take care of their families well and do the business part of their lives well," she said. "Either women end up sacrificing everything to a career, not having children and a family or they have a family and feel torn in 8 million different directions. It is very difficult."
Companies should be more accommodating for women in coming up with alternatives that will make things work better for everyone. Marissa Mayer, who was named the new CEO of Yahoo, immediately took maternity leave to have a baby, she said.
"She has that kind of flexibility that comes from what she achieved," Schwabe said. "I thought that was very courageous and the company is allowing her that flexibility."
Schwabe said many women need to make sure what they are doing is what they want to be doing.
"Women are care givers. We learn to be so accommodating in so many areas of our lives that we tend to do that no matter what," she said. "My advice is to put yourself first. You can't take care of anyone else unless you are in good shape. Make sure that when you make a decision that what you are doing is something you really want to be doing. It is a question of what works for you and what you want out of your own life."