By Dulcy B. Hooper
The loud, percussive beat of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” might have been a bit much for most people to handle so early in the morning. But it resonated loud and clear for more than 500 women and smattering of men who poured into the ballroom at Lansdowne Resort and Spa on December 1 for the ninth annual Virginia Women’s Business Conference.
Once the attendees were seated and the music turned down, the group was welcomed to the conference by emcee Sophia Nelson, an NBC News journalist and author of “The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life.”
Nelson’s remarks set the tone, with themes that would be interspersed liberally throughout the conference: togetherness, the strength of women and the imperative to lift other women in all avenues of life, professional as well as personal. Speakers did not shy away from addressing the political and cultural issues of the day head on.
“We, as women in the workplace, are in a place of transition,” said Nelson. “We will be the voice to make America great again.” Her comments drew resounding applause.
Taking the stage, Tina R. Johnson, president and CEO of JP Events & Consulting and founder of the conference, began by quoting Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
“We are one community,” Johnson said. “And we are not alone. Use today as a platform to support others and to be inspired.”
The morning’s keynote speaker, Tammy Darvish, offered rhetorical questions pertinent to the theme. “What if we were to join forces?” she asked. “Our combined morals, ethics, talent and skill? What if we started with us to get our country back on track again?”
Darvish spoke also about the need for “purpose-driven leadership in which we never put profits before people.”
Along with inspiration and motivation, the day was full of practical advice in the form of eight personal or professional tracks, including Leadership, Business 101, Wellness, Personal Development, and Tools for Success, among others. Throughout the day, women made presentations regarding personal health, lifestyle, business development, marketing, social media and personal development.
One of the sessions within the Personal Development track was Operation Confident Journey, presented by Monica Marusceac, who spoke about the experience of being bullied as a child in a Catholic school. She developed skills she later used to become the second female to pilot an AV-8B Harrier jump jet in combat as a member of the Marine Corps.
“I had to transcend fear and develop a confident mindset,” she said, “and that included a mindset of living my own values: curiosity, ethics, integrity and fairness.”
The keynote speaker during lunch was Faye Lane, a New York-based writer and performer whose comments were entitled “Fireworks From Above: Five Ways to Cultivate Gratitude and Joy.” ML