By Kim Hasty The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
Even when the going was difficult, uncomfortable and frightening, Angela Martin was inspired by a simple motivation.
She knew she was right.
"Shining a light in the darkness," she said, "is always worth it."
Martin will tackle the subject of gender discrimination when she serves as keynote speaker at the second annual women's conference Oct. 9 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
She's addressed the subject before -- in front of a congressional committee in Washington.
Martin, a former Sanford lawyer who works as senior enforcement attorney with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently settled her gender discrimination complaint against the bureau after a two-year saga punctuated by an investigator confirming her charges.
Members of the House Financial Services Committee described her as a whistleblower last spring.
Though she was the subject of discrimination herself, she was motivated to speak up when other women were targeted.
"When I saw someone else crying, I said, 'That's it,' " she said. "Even when I was little, I just wanted people to be nice to each other."
Martin earned her law degree through the Army after enlisting at age 19.
She served as deputy chief of legal assistance with the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg from 2005 to 2008. Under her tutelage, the 18th Airborne Corps' Legal Assistance Office operated the only consumer law program in the Department of Defense.
She entered private practice as a consumer attorney in Sanford, leaving in 2011 after being recruited by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a consumer lawyer.
"She's just amazing," said Sanford lawyer Sara Harrington, who helped enlist Martin as this year's speaker. "I'm amazed that she'd been going through all this."
In 2012, Martin charged that a supervisor mistreated her and other female employees. After she filed a complaint, she was given the lowest possible performance rating and was removed her from supervisory duties.
After the congressional hearing, she was returned to her previous role at the bureau and her responsibilities were reinstated.
"She was very well respected in her field," Harrington said. "The hallmark of her whole career has been trying to get fair treatment for people."
Registration is still open for the conference, which offers professional networking opportunities for women, as well as the chance to hear Martin's amazing story.
"I was honored to be asked," she said. "My ultimate goal is to tell them something that will inspire them to have courage and to know that when you take a stand against something that's wrong, it's always worth it."
Tickets cost $50 and include a light breakfast and a buffet lunch, as well as a kickoff address from Sindy Martin of Smartin International Inc. Martin is a speaker and professional etiquette expert whose talks include "the secret to conveying charisma and confidence" and "the hidden rules and expectations in the world of business."
Graphic designer Leslie Byrd, owner of Adesso Design, will offer communications and design advice, and a panel discussion will feature businesswomen Lauren Parker, marketing manager for Triangle Transit; Leslie Cox, owner of Oakleaf in Pittsboro; Ashley Thomas, executive director for BridgeIISports; and Tina Gross, owner of Gross Farms.