Who we saw at the 2016 Women of Excellence Unplugged luncheon

On Tuesday, September 20, Women’s Business Council invited back its 2016 Women of Excellence winners for an unplugged session, led by moderator Benita Zahn and featuring a live Q&A from audience members

Hon. Helena Heath, Albany City Court (Excellence in the Professions), Fran O’Rourke, KeyBank, and Chelly Hegan, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (Excellence in Management), Denise Horan, Integrated Management & Sales Consulting (Excellence in Business Development), and Meredith Oakes, The Bank of New York Mellon (Emerging Professionals) took the stage in a living room style conversation to answer questions on how they dealt with adversity, what advice they would give their younger selves, and many other interesting topics that they could share with us as only women of excellence can!

The WBC communications committee members had the opportunity to speak with some of the people in attendance. Here is what they had to say about why they came to the WOE Unplugged event or what inspiration they came away with after the program.

“I missed the 2016 Women of Excellence luncheon sadly, so I’m here today to get to know the winners and hear their stories of what steps they took to become successful.”
– Sarah Johnson, CDPHP (pictured below with Wes Burton)

Wes Burton, left, with Sarah Johnson pose for a picture
Wes Burton, left, with Sarah Johnson pose for a picture

“I’m new to the Capital District, moving here from Alabama. I want to meet people who support women in business and I came to this event today to show my own support of women who have excelled in their fields of work.”
-Wes Burton, The Food Pantries of the Capital District




-Marsha Lazarus, Director of Workforce Development, Mental Health Association in N.Y.S., Inc

“I appreciated the honesty, the sharing by panelists that teaches us all that
Women of Excellence have their struggles and challenges too… I truly believe
that this kind of openness is a real strength of women who take on
leadership roles!”

“Benita Zahn was wonderful.  Her warmth and insightful follow-up questions
facilitated a very worthwhile discussion!”


“It’s inspiring to hear the stories and triumphs from the Women of
Excellence.  We have a strong community of women business leaders and I am
grateful to the Women’s Business Council for providing a platform for us to
gather, support, and learn from each other.  We have the power to shape our
region and if we work together we can achieve our vision.”

-Natasha Pernicka, The Food Pantries (Natasha asked the great question about the strengths of our region during Q&A)

“It’s wonderful to hear from so many successful women in our community and find the inspiration to keep moving forward in my own career.”
Shaina Kaye, Center for Donation & Transplant (on right in photo below)

“It’s very inspiring to hear about not only these women’s accomplishments but also the passion they have to achieve them. It’s also motivating to see that these women who’ve accomplished so much face the same kinds of challenges we all face.”
Lauren Quinn, Center for Donation & Transplant (on left in photo below)


fullsizerenderSarah Hansen, Esq. (right, in the green dress) is an attorney with Sunmark Federal Credit Union. She related to what Meredith Oaks had to say when she talked about planning ahead in order to prioritize. “Learning to say no is OK in order to create structure in my life”.

Audrey Stone (left) attended the Women’s Unplugged event to represent the Sunmark Foundation. Every year, the foundation raises approximately $30,000 to support local nonprofit organizations. Writing a check is not the only focus of the foundation. Volunteering for nonprofits and helping with tangible needs is their primary interest. Audrey says, “I took a piece of wisdom from each of the women today.”

6 Reasons To Attend Bold In Business

Have you ever attended an event that was so powerful it made you immediately want to save the date for the following year in your calendar? If not, maybe you have never been to our signature event Bold In Business, an annual forum sponsored by the Women’s Business Council. This year the event is going to be held on October 28 at the Glen Sanders. The event begins at 8 a.m. and will make your neurons fire so much you’ll be ready to blaze back to work as a new person by 9:30 when the forum ends.

Before you start reading about our 2016 speaker Aimee Cohen and her book Woman Up, check out our list of six reasons you won’t want to miss the 2016 Bold In Business (or any future BIBs for that matter!) and believe me when I tell you this, the first question you’ll ask when the forum ends will be “When is next year’s date!?”

  1. National talent right here to the 518

Often times the authors brought in are writing about their experiences working for recognizable companies or have written for or been touted by big name publications. That’s huge for Albany! Why does bringing a nationally recognized author to upstate NY women matter? Because you can learn about trends in business you may not have ever heard about otherwise.

  1. Not Your Average Forum

The microphone really does go both ways. How often do you get a chance to have an interactive conversation with a trendsetter in women’s business topics? Look no further than BIB to speak up and talk about real issues in a true forum setting.

  1. Leave Feeling Motivated, And Supported By Your Peers

Year in and year out, the Bold In Business event draws in women who genuinely want to support other women’s professional growth. Of course the event is open to men as well, but specifically at BIB, the speakers provide audience members with ammunition to go back to your professional and personal lives with a purpose.

  1. If Nice Guys Always Finish Last Then Where Do The “Too Nice” Gals Wind Up?

At Bold In Business, women are encouraged to break the mold of being too nice by being challenged to be bold. Too often being “too nice” gets you on the slow track for upward movement and the speakers BIB brings in can give it to you straight.

  1. The “B” Word You Want To Be Known As Is…

Bold! Yes, bold is the other “b” word that more and more professional women are recognized as being in order to be taken seriously. This year’s speaker will specifically talk to the benefits of being bold by battling social norms and corporate barriers.

  1. Leave With Your Homework Assignment

While there isn’t a pop quiz given out at the end of the Bold In Business, you will receive a copy of the speaker’s book. Your homework assignment is easy to follow if you were inspired by what you just heard. Go home and read the book!

Fall In Love Again With The WBC At Our Membertini

Picture yourself on an early fall day, wondering if there’s a place you can go after work where everyone will know your name (or at least want to learn it!) and be happy you came. No I’m not talking about the bar Cheers coming to the Capital Region!

However, you will get that similar sense of euphoria if you come to the Women’s Business Council’s annual Membertini event. Our Membertini is the WBC’s only night time networking function and it’s a chance to wind down your work day with old and new friends and have some fun. This year we are inviting you to check out Schenectady’s hottest new wine bar on Tuesday, October 4 from 5:30-7:30. Capoccia Wine Lounge is located at 508 State Street in Schenectady and this evening is one not to be missed. If you are a new member wanting to get more involved, or someone who is looking to strengthen their current membership, come join us. We will discuss the work our committees do and help you discover how you can get involved in this impactful, regional network. What’s one of the best part of the coming to our event? Knowing you are supporting our 2016 Adopted nonprofit, Capital Roots.

For more information or to sign up go capitalregionchamber.com/events/womens-business-council-membertini.

Voices in the Crowd: C-Secrets from the C-Level

On Tuesday, April 12, the Women’s Business Council hosted an armchair conversation with three powerful and influential women sharing their “c-secrets” from the C-level. Thanks to Denise Gonick, president & CEO of MVP Health Care, Audrey Zibelman, commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission, and Dr. Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, for sharing their insights with us. Here’s what our Voices in the Crowd had to say about the program:

What did Denise Gonick, Audrey Zibelman, and Dr. Nancy Zimpher say today that will stay with you?

“One of the top takeaways for me today was ‘You have to bring your authentic self.’ I’m going to take that statement to heart as I lead my organization forward.”

-Ashley Jeffrey Bouck, Girls Inc.

VITC-4 (2)
Natasha Pernicka of The Food Pantries and Meredith Chimento of United Way of the Greater Capital Region

“I really loved Denise’s comment about ‘You don’t have to master something before you put yourself out there.’ It really resonated with me and reminded me of my father’s advice to go for it when I wasn’t 100% sure I could do it.”

-Meredith Chimento, United Way of the Greater Capital Region

“I came to today’s event looking for inspiration and camaraderie. The speakers definitely inspired me and gave me confidence to reach out to people that I wouldn’t necessarily think of as a natural resource.”

-Natasha Pernicka, The Food Pantries

Kelly Klopfer of ENVISION Architects

“Today’s panel was very dynamic. I walked away feeling really motivated and energetic, especially having been surrounded by this amazing group of women who spark change. Hearing these successful women leaders talk about putting the right team in place, how to manage people appropriately, and empowering the growth and development of women in the workplace, are all topics that I think about constantly – and specifically how to deliver results effectively.”

-Kelly Klopfer, ENVISION Architects

Women In Business Wednesdays: July 8, 2015

Women's World Cup Final
Fans show their support of Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach (apasciuto / Flickr)

Unless you live under a rock, you have surely heard by now that the United States Women’s National Soccer Team has coveted the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Considering the quality of talent on the roster, the U.S. women certainly went into the competition with several advantages. However some advantages that you may not have considered include our country’s success in gender equality, as measured by a United Nations index of women’s health, political empowerment and economic status. Read more on the comparisons of a nation’s soccer success in contrast to its women’s movement in a recent article published in the Canandaigua, NY based Daily Messenger: Our view: A team’s trophy, a nation’s success.

Rock the Vote for St. Paul’s Center

We just voted for the WBC Adopted Nonprofit St. Paul’s Center (there are many deserving organizations on the list!) and we hope our WBC friends will join us. Please Vote Now!

The Give A Chance poll is now open. Each vote cast gives the charity a ticket into our raffle to be held in July, and the winning charity will receive $10,000. Poll closes July 10th and you can vote once per day!

Voices In The Crowd


“I am here to celebrate all of the women being honored today, but especially Denise Gonick, our leader at MVP, who we are very proud of.” – Sarah Wiseman, MVP Health Care


“I came to the event today as a representative of the Girl Scouts and brought along some of the girls to help them see what kind of inspiring women we have in our area.” – Courtney Moore, Secretary, Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York


“I come to the Women of Excellence event every year because it’s motivational and it supports the women in our community.” – Nancy Gonzalez, MicroKnowledge, Inc.


What brings you here today?
“I’m so inspired by the winners. Last year I was nominated and I didn’t win but I love sitting in a room with the most amazing women.”

Maybe you’ll win next year.
“I know if I keep rubbing arms with some of the most interesting women it’ll happen. I just want to keep learning. I don’t want to miss a thing.” — Desiree Kelleigh, Alliance Worldwide Investment Group, Inc. 


What brings you here today?
“This is one of the first events I came to many years ago. I was actually part of the committee at one point for the Women of Excellence, so it’s one of my favorite things.”

Have you ever won?
“I have not won. They don’t have a category for ‘goddess.'” — Debby Goedeke, Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Women of Excellence: Barbara Smith

Every week leading up to our Women of Excellence luncheon on May 28, we’ll be featuring one or two of our Women of Excellence winners. (You can read the full interviews with each of the winners here.)

Congratulations to our winners! And don’t forget to register for the luncheon!

Barbara Smith. (Colleen Ingerto photo)

Barbara Smith, City of Albany
distinguished career

“My major challenge is being born as a black person in the United States in the era of Jim Crow. But my major challenge has been to negotiate the very, very troubled waters of race and racism in the U.S. and I have devoted my life through my work in trying to help to find better ways and solutions for the negative context in which race continues to show itself.”

Women of Excellence: Trudy Hall

Every week leading up to our Women of Excellence luncheon on May 28, we’ll be featuring one or two of our Women of Excellence winners. (You can read the full interviews with each of the winners here.)

Congratulations to our winners! And don’t forget to register for the luncheon!

Trudy Hall. (Colleen Ingerto photo)

Trudy Hall, Emma Willard School
excellence in the professions

“You have to always make the choice that will make the story a more interesting one. There’s a great speech that I heard someone make a long time ago:. She said, “I have only one goal: I want to be an interesting old woman.” The only way to be interesting is by making interesting choices and the only way to be old is to make prudent choices.”