“Your Time is Now” was the theme of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Stressing that women have a great deal of power, Leslie Stiles, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, a co-sponsor of the conference, welcomed conference attendees by saying that the conference addresses issues that matter most to women reminding that, “Now is our time to lead with intention and go after what we want.”

WHAT A TEAM— Yvonne C. Cook and Karen Farmer White pause before the efforts of their labor come to life during the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women.

Also co-sponsored by Governor Edward Rendell, the conference had an attendance of more than 3,000 women from across the state and featured dozens of experts leading seminars on the issues that matter most to women, such as professional development, business and entrepreneurship, health and work/life balance. “The Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women continues to be the state’s premier leadership forum for women across the state,” the Governor said. “This year’s theme captures the Conference’s investments in the future of Pennsylvania by helping provide the opportunity for women to make positives changes in their own lives and communities.” He thanked Stiles and the other Conference Board Members, Susan Anderson, Special Assistant to the Governor in the Office of Health Care Reform; and Karen Farmer White, the managing director for the Pittsburgh office of Mesirow Financial for their long time commitment.

The Governor also expressed thanks to the Conferences’ honorary chair Elsie Hilliard Hillman, its co-chairs, including Yvonne C. Cook of the Highmark Foundation and the 41 member host committee.

The keynote lineup of speakers included Katherine Center, author of the Bright Side of Disaster; Mae Jemison, Ph.D, founder of the Jemison Group Inc. and the first African-American woman to go into space; Jessica Herrin, founder and CEO of Stella and Dot; and Kelly Corrigan, best-selling author of The Middle Place.

Luncheon presenters were Diane Holder, president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan; Sheryl WuDunn, best-selling author and the first Asian-American to win a Pulitzer Prize; Ellen Aleman, chairperson and CEO of Citizens Financial Group and RBS America; and Troy Johnson, founder and CEO of Women for Hirer and Workplace Contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America. Sally Wiggins, WTAE-TV news anchor, served as conference emcee.

Jemison said she always assumed she would go up in space. “As a child, I continuously had dreams,” she said, revealing how she often stared at the stars growing up on the South Side of Chicago. To an attentive crowd she pointed out that it is important to have an explosion of new ideas. “It’s about actions and choices.” Jemison also mentioned the significance of sciences and arts in the lives of young people. Through her organization, she says she is working with Bayer, a company based in Pittsburgh.

Her technology consulting firm is known for integrating the impact of social-cultural issues when designing and implementing technologies. NASA’s first Science Mission Specialist to perform experiments in material science, life science and human adaptation to weightlessness, Jemison flew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-47 Spacelab mission in 1992.

Ranked by Forbes Magazine as 57 on its annual list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and ranked 17 on U.S. Banker’s list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, Alemany advised the mixed aged audience to be accountable, to act responsibly and to be curious. “Integrity and respect are important and don’t let people identify you,” she advised.

The head of the 11th largest bank in the United States, Citizens Financial Group Inc. and RBS Americas, the North and South American operations and subsidiaries of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc., Alemany labeled integrity as a “most vital asset.” In her presentation she suggested taking advantage of opportunities in front of you by being open minded and flexible, leading with strengths, sticking to things by being patient, defining what works for you and your situation and focusing on doing the best job you can do. “Women are vital,” she ascertained. “We all have something to contribute and we have to support one another.”

Other highlights of the day included the scholarship program recognition, the gubernatorial candidate interviews with Susan Corbett, the wife of Tom Corbett and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, an extensive exhibit area and workshops with leaders and panel speakers sharing a vast range of expertise.

The conference partnership with Johnsons’ company enabled attendees in various stages of their career the opportunity to seek advice and information on a face-to-face basis with top level local and national employers and, to network with peers and other professionals. There were power sessions, resume reviews and mentor matching and a meetup with Jonson that consisted of a one-on one-conversation with the expert.

The aim of the conference was to assist the participants in writing the next chapter of their life, Stiles said the one-of-a kind event was designed to invigorate women with a renewed sense of self and inspiration to overcome obstacles, set new goals and fulfill lifelong dreams.

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