“If you can build a strong foundation for a family, you can certainly do that for a business,” said Helen Dragas, President and CEO of the Dragas Companies during her keynote address at The Glass: Evolving the Business Woman on September 27. The event was hosted by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce at the Kroc Center in Norfolk and was the second session of a two-part women’s leadership series. “We all owe the chamber a debt of gratitude for hosting events like these,” said Dragas, “[events that] encourage women to take control of their careers.”
Dozens of women and a few men took part in the day-long event aimed to encourage the enrichment and development of local women leaders. After a brief welcome from Chamber CEO and President, Bryan Stephens, attendees were lead through a morning yoga stretch session before local women leaders took to the stage to participate in a panel discussion and question and answer session. The panel members Dawna Ellis, Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate; Karen Spencer, Virginia Eye Consultants; Leslie Doyle, Bank of America; and Kim Mallory, William & Mary Mason School of Business, detailed their career history and shared their insights to leadership and career advancement as they answered questions and engaged in a dialogue with the crowd. “You have to take ownership of your career,” said Doyle, “You have to work hard and you have to ask for it.”
After the panel discussion, breakout sessions on personal branding, style, and career development were presented by Courtney LaLonde, Atlantic Bay Mortage Group; Kim Wadsworth, Wadsworth Style; and Carletta Waddler, Talent Curve; respectively. “What I took away from [Wadsworth’s presentation] was her passion for what she does and it is the same thing I took away from the panel discussion,” said Tami Burke of Virginia Eye Consultants. “When you are surrounded by passionate people it inspires you to be more passionate about what you do.”
Helen Dragas closed the event with a fabulous keynote address discussing the importance of taking risks and developing mentors and sponsors in business. Dragas remarked on the many influences and inspirations of her business life, and the challenges she has faced in her career. “When you stumble, that’s when you develop the true core of who are you.” Dragas also reiterated the panel discussion on the importance of volunteerism, mentorship, and sponsorship. Attendees took the message of volunteerism to heart, over 50 people signed up with Volunteer Hampton Roads during the event. “We are no longer at the bottom looking up,” Dragas said, “as we long as we dare to fail, [and strive to] mentor each other, we can move past the glass ceiling.”
Thank you to our sponsors: Bank of America (Presenting Sponsor); Kroger Marketplace, William & Mary Raymond A. Mason School of Business, and CoVaBiz Magazine (Gold Sponsors); Sinclair Communications (Media Sponsor); The ESG Companies and the Virginia Beach Convention Center (Silver Sponsors).