There were over a thousand women in the room at the Atlantic City Conference Center. We came in every possible size, shape, age, stage of life, career, etc. We were all there to attend the 2011 New Jersey Governor's Conference for Women.
I ate my continental breakfast with two women I was meeting for the first time because I had not yet located the five work colleagues I was meeting up with at the conference. We shared information and chatted about what had brought each of us to this event. In a lull in the conversation, I marveled at the sound of all of those women's voices. It was such a beautiful sound to me. Women are so powerful and strong, I thought. I smiled.
Our speaker at the breakfast was Kim Guadagno, Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey. Her message for the day was "wear pink". I'm still not sure what she was getting at. She also told us to wear high heels. Apparently when she was a Sheriff, she was told that she really shouldn't wear pink or heels and it got on her nerves. Maybe she was trying to tell us to be true to ourselves and to be feminine, even if we were in traditionally male roles? Anyway, she was cheerful for an early morning speaker!
I found my colleagues and we spent a few minutes looking over the program, deciding who would go to what session and chatting about work. All five of these women are strong and caring people. We all have very different personalities. But we all care about our students and are very loyal to our company. It was a joy to spend even a little bit of time with them. I know that they would do anything for me and I would do the same for them! What a wonderful feeling!
My first session was entitled, "Release the Entrepreneur Within". There were three speakers and a moderator. The speaker who REALLY stood out was Barbara Smith O'Neal, Regional Director of the New Jersey City University Small Business Development Center. Barbara clearly knows what she is doing and did a marvelous job outlining some of the more important aspects of starting your own business. (Full disclosure: I really misunderstood the intent of the workshop, probably because I did not read the description! I was expecting a talk about keeping your entrepreneurial spirit alive despite the fact that you may be working for someone else. Clearly, I was mistaken! I have no desire to open my own business!!! That is hard!)
The best speaker of the day, at least for me, was Trisha Meili. She is the woman who came to be known as "The Central Park Jogger" in 1989 after she was brutally attacked while out for a run in Central Park. This session was entitled, "Resilience". Every chair in the room was filled and many people (including me) sat on the floor or stood along the walls. Trisha started us off with some breathing exercises, which was an interesting touch. (It made me want to investigate meditation.) After that, she simply told her story and the many blessings she had encountered along the road to recovery from her injuries, both physical and emotional. Hers is an incredibly inspiring story. She tells it in a soothing voice that is very easy to listen to.
Our luncheon speaker was the amazing Star Jones. I was prepared to dislike her based on how she has been presented on this season of The Apprentice. I should have known better than to trust any edited image on television. She was very humble, but she made it clear that she has high standards for herself and for others. Star spoke about reinventing yourself when the need arises to do so. She called it "Plan B". She spoke about women's remarkable ability to bounce back from adversity or disappointment. She used examples from her own life. I really appreciated her message. And yes, she alluded to the troubles she had with NeNe! It was pretty funny, actually.
My last session was "Retirement Can Work For You!". Again, I should have read the description. This session was about NOT retiring!!! People are living to be much older these days and often start whole new careers after they retire from the first one. I cannot imagine anything worse!!! I didn't stay the whole time.
All in all, it was a great experience! I hope to return next year.
There was one embarrassing moment. (How could I avoid it???) I caught the heel of my right shoe on the hemline of my left pants leg and fell on my butt in front of my colleagues! Leave it to me. They hoisted me to my feet and I shook it off. But hours later, I am really feeling where parts of my body made contact with the sidewalk. Ouch! I'm worried that I am going to be even more sore tomorrow. Time will tell!