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Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Women Business Leaders Forum aims to help women build the skills they need to pursue leadership roles as well as serve as mentors for the next generation of women in business. This year’s event, titled “Owning Your Success,” will be held at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch on Sept. 19 and 20, and provide more than 500 female and male attendees with the opportunity to network and share ideas, develop leadership skills, and identify innovative ways to help women make headway in the corporate world.
With breakout sessions focusing on topics ranging from networking and branding, to switching careers and taking professional risks, NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Forum is designed to provide businesswomen from all over the state with access to advice, support and inspirational success stories to help advance their careers, whether they’re just starting out, climbing the corporate ladder, or launching a business of their own.
“The NJBIA Women Business Leaders Forum is focused on helping women cultivate new skills, avoid missteps, and develop confidence,” explains Mariel J. Giletto, shareholder and corporate department chair at Parker McCay in Mount Laurel, who will be participating in a panel about executive presence to help women excel in leadership positions. “Women’s conferences are intended to inspire women with stories of success, but also to empower them by providing practical solutions and new approaches to the issues they find most challenging.”
In her position at Parker McCay, Giletto acts as general counsel for clients and works alongside business owners and their C-level employees to develop efficient business processes to protect, prevent and solve the challenges businesses face. “Executive presence is crucial for women leaders because society has a perception of what a leader is – and, often, that perception is not female. Cultivating that ‘it’ factor will get more women a seat at the table and open more doors,” she explains. “Without a solid executive presence, women can miss important opportunities to advance their careers.”
Dr. Kim Ann Mink, chairman, president, and CEO of Innophos Holdings, Inc. in Cranbury, adds that the annual NJBIA conference brings together a diverse group of women and men from a wide array of industries, disciplines, demographics and regions. In addition to being a great opportunity to network and make new connections, she says it can also provide women with the motivation they need to start a new enterprise, make a change in their career, or present new ways of thinking about specific work-related opportunities or challenges they are currently facing.
“The Women Business Leaders Forum provides an opportunity to reaffirm, emphasize, and celebrate the vital role that women play in the business world, because although we’ve made immense strides, we still have a great deal of work to do,” she says. “It provides a platform for us to use our collective voice to honor the legacy of those who paved the way for us while encouraging, educating and inspiring the next generation of female business leaders to follow their passion and aim for the high-hanging fruit.”
After receiving her PhD in analytical chemistry from Duke University, Mink began her career as a senior scientist at Shell before moving on to Rohm and Haas, where she served in multiple positions over a period of 20 years and ended her tenure as corporate vice president and global general manager of Ion Exchange Resins. In 2009, she joined The Dow Chemical Company, serving in a number of senior executive management positions before joining Innophos as president and CEO in 2015. Named chairman of the board in 2017, today she leads a global workforce of more than 1,500 employees committed to delivering versatile benefits for the food, health, nutrition, and industrial specialties markets. Mink will be participating in the “Knowledge is Power – Why Knowing Your Leadership Style Can Help You Succeed” panel at this year’s conference.
“I hope attendees leave the event inspired and motivated, and truly understand that there’s immense opportunity for women to achieve and advance at all professional stages, and that regardless of the challenges that they may have faced or are currently facing in their careers, women are just as smart, just as driven, and just as capable for leadership, whether it’s in small business or at the top of the Fortune 500,” she asserts.
Marissa Shorenstein, president of the northern region for AT&T, has spent most of her career working in strategic and crisis communications, primarily as a spokesperson for political candidates and elected officials. For the past eight years, Shorenstein has overseen external affairs, including legislative and regulatory agendas, for AT&T in 17 states. She also supports the communities AT&T touches through foundation and sponsorship opportunities, and serves as chair of the board of Girls Who Code, an organization that prepares the future generation of women to learn the skills they need to pursue careers in technology.
At the conference, Shorenstein says she will discuss her own personal journey, the struggles she has faced and the lessons she has learned throughout her career, as well as some of her advice for fellow women in business, such as how to develop confidence, take risks, and not be afraid to change course. “I think it’s important for women to hear one another’s stories, learn from each other, and engage in a dialogue that they may not feel comfortable having in a different setting. Women can speak to one another about what it’s like to balance work and family, how to overcome a lack of confidence early in their careers, how to be effective managers, and more,” she says.
New to the conference this year, Sarah Krom, managing partner at SKC & Co. CPAs, LLC in Boonton, will be moderating a panel discussion in the breakout session titled “Ask for Forgiveness Not Permission – Learn How to Take Smart Risks in Your Professional Life.” After joining her first firm in South Jersey right out of college, she came to SKC & Co., now a 25-person firm with three partners, a decade ago. Krom made partner at SKC in 2015, and the following year, she took over for the founding partner at the age of 33. She was also the third female and youngest president of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. She completed her term on May 31.
“My biggest goal has always been to say ‘yes’ to whatever opportunities come my way, even if they scare me. What I want to convey in this segment is to have confidence, first and foremost, but also to help women learn to effectively use that confidence in a way that allows them to take appropriate risks in the business world or within their own individual careers,” she says. “A lot of times women wait to be asked instead of volunteering for opportunities that come their way, and take a passive role when it comes to their career … and this panel is comprised of women who have cleared that hurdle to some extent and built their careers in various industries with the philosophy of not being afraid to take some risks.”
Krom advises local businesswomen to take the time to find what makes them tick, and seek out opportunities to nurture their internal growth in order to develop their confidence as leaders. “As women, we’ve been taught to be polite and proper in a different way than men, and one of the biggest issues facing women in the business world is a lack of confidence,” she says. “But as a woman, you have to take risks and push yourself because nobody else is going to be an advocate for you. You are in the driver seat of your own career.”
Above all, NJBIA’s annual conference serves as a prime opportunity for women to meet and network with other professionals who are facing similar challenges and experiences as women in the workplace, from earning the respect of male colleagues to juggling motherhood with their careers. Filomena Lepore Taylor, co-founding partner and head of the private client practice for Lepore Taylor Fox, LLP in Paramus will be speaking on the networking panel titled “Networking Can Be Thrilling!” She will provide practical tips for networking, engaging people, and being memorable, but perhaps more importantly, share insight on how women can learn not to fear networking and instead embrace it as a meaningful – and even fun – way to advance their careers and make connections with like-minded professionals.
“Many people I’ve met have told me that they hate networking, but you have to develop strategies for actually enjoying networking, because at the end of day, it won’t be effective unless it’s enjoyable,” she says. “Whether you’re growing your business or taking that next step in your career, networking is indispensable, and there are ways to motivate yourself, make it fun, and learn to network successfully.”
An immigration attorney for the past 15 years, Taylor began as an associate at a prestigious boutique immigration firm in Philadelphia before moving on to a larger firm in New York City to handle corporate immigration matters before co-founding her own firm. In her current role, she helps companies with a wide array of services related to immigration law, such as applying for visas and completing employment authorization documents.
Taylor credits a large part of her success to the fact that she learned how to overcome her fear of networking early in her career. She advises fellow businesswomen to find activities they are passionate about, whether it’s wine tasting or golf, and seek out opportunities to network surrounding those activities.
“Ultimately, you will meet people who can help you every step of the way. I actually had a network of people to call to ask for advice when I was starting my own business, so it can open up so many doors for you in ways that are specific to your personal career path,” Taylor concludes. “These types of conferences are just one way for women to build meaningful relationships with each other and remain connected to other professionals. It’s proof that networking can be done while having a good time.”
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