By Mike LaBella
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The 20th annual WOW Conference — which stands for Working Opportunities for Women — honored five women from Massachusetts who have forged careers in mostly male-dominated industries. Women in leadership from the region also encouraged younger women to strive for great accomplishments in their own careers.
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
They are heavy hitters in the Merrimack Valley’s professional world, women who have made their mark in the fields of education, health care, journalism, law and finance.
Their daily decisions have a major influence on the region. They affect the education of the community’s next workforce, how criminals pay their debt to society, medical services provided to local families, the news that arrives on people’s doorsteps every day.
On Friday, these women stepped away from their offices and into the spotlight, as the community recognized their achievements.
The 20th annual WOW Conference — which stands for Working Opportunities for Women — honored five women who have forged careers in mostly male-dominated industries. The event was also designed to motivate other professional women, including younger women who were in attendance, to strive for great accomplishments in their careers.
Honored with Pinnacle Awards were: Dianne Anderson, president and CEO of Lawrence General Hospital; Jacqueline Moloney, chancellor of UMass Lowell; Karen Andreas, publisher of the North of Boston Media Group; Judge Patricia Dowling, associate justice for Ipswich District Court; and Janice Morse, president and CEO of Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank.
The sold-out event organized by the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce was held at the spacious Blue Ocean Music Hall at Salisbury Beach.
‘Relationships you build are critical’
The event’s first speaker, successful country music recording artist Jillian Cardarelli of Haverhill, told the crowd of more than 300 women that the best thing they can do for their family, friends, spouse or children is to support them as much as possible.
“I’ve learned that no matter how talented you are, the relationships you build are critical to one’s success,” Cardarelli said.
“Those connections you make every day can really lead to something you’ve never imagined.”
The theme of this year’s conference was “Succeed Like a Girl” — a take on a national marketing campaign by Proctor & Gamble that redefines the phrase “like a girl” as an expression of strength. Organizers of the conference said the idea was to twist the phrase “like a girl,” which sometimes has a negative connotation, to mean succeed because you are a girl. The theme was that females are strong and can become anything they want to be with hard work and determination.
Cardarelli said that to “succeed like a girl” in the music industry means never giving up.
“I was even told that statistically it is easier for a college football player to make it in the NFL than it is for a female to make it in country music,” said Cardarelli, who also performed several songs at the event. “I ask that when you see aspiring women, in whatever they’re pursuing, to support them in any way you can. That one positive comment, that one networking suggestion, that ‘congratulations’ … may just be what they need to help them to continue their journey and never give up on their dream.”
During a pause in the program, Sally Cerasuolo-O’Rorke, who founded the WOW event along with marketing professional Natalie Timmons, said the most exciting thing about this year’s conference is the next generation of professional women who were there to be inspired and to “network” with others.
“This is all about relationships and encouraging women to succeed,” Cerasuolo-O’Rorke said, adding that Timmons named the event so that women walking away from each year’s conference would say “WOW.”
Long-time television broadcast journalist Robin Young, co-host of “Here & Now” on WBUR, delighted the attentive crowd with stories about her struggle to succeed in her career. She told the women to “expect the unexpected.”
Young talked about pay inequity, saying that early in her television broadcasting career a male co-worker was being paid more than three times as much as she was.
“It hurts still just to think about it,” she said.
Motivational speaker, author and adventurer Kara Richardson Whitely talked about her struggle with being overweight and how it didn’t prevent her from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. She said that at one point during the climb, one of her native guides said there was doubt among the other guides whether she would make it to the top. She said she told the guide to bet on her.
“Always bet on yourself,” Whitely said. “Take small steps, which will lead to great things. Take small steps and you will move mountains in your lives.”
The day’s events included a continental breakfast, a marketplace of vendors displaying a variety of products and services, a raffle, CD signings with Cardarelli, book signings with Whitley, and lunch.
Elaine Barker of Haverhill, owner of the Paper Potpourri custom invitations shop, was mingling with the crowd during a coffee break. Barker said she comes to the WOW conference each year for inspiration.
“It recharges my batteries,” she said.
Health comes first
Kathy Porter, a registered nurse at Anna Jaques Hospital, talked to the crowd about the importance of guarding against breast cancer and said her hospital now offers 3-D mammography.
“It picks up on the earliest changes,” Porter said about this latest technology in breast cancer diagnosis. “Early detection saves lives, but it won’t happen unless we have our mammograms.”
Massachusetts First Lady Lauren Baker, honorary WOW chairwoman, told the crowd, “We’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go. We can help each other succeed by doing something we’re naturally good at … and that’s talking.”
Baker urged attendees to “help another woman, especial young women.”
“Give them the opportunity to learn from our mistakes,” she said. “Let’s agree to leave here today and help another woman. Let’s help them figure out what their next step is. Let’s make sure we all learn what it means to ‘succeed as a girl.'”
Following the presentation of the Pinnacle Awards and just before lunch, the award recipients gathered to chat and take photos.
Dowling said she was honored to be in the company of these “very distinguished women who all worked so hard.”
“This is a great event,” she said. “And to bring younger women into this shows that success is there for all of us.”
Baker told the award recipients “you can’t be it if you can’t see it,” explaining that they all are tangible examples of success which younger women can emulate.
“It’s our job to reach out and expose our young people to as many career paths as we can,” she said.
Andreas said the award she received should go to all the people who helped her during her career and have worked with her over the years.
“I feel that every award we receive is a team effort,” said Andreas, who is publisher of The Eagle-Tribune, Newburyport Daily News, Salem News and Gloucester Daily Times. “I’m proud to be here among these accomplished women … to hear their stories and learn from them and know that family comes first.”
This year’s WOW Conference was sponsored by Gold Leaf Fine Jewelry, Merrimack Valley Magazine, Anna Jaques Hospital, Northern Essex Community College, Women’s Health Care Haverhill, Smith Motors, The Eagle-Tribune, Trinity EMS, Haverhill Bank, Pentucket Bank, Lowell Five, Holy Family Hospital, DiPietro Heating & Cooling, Align Credit Union, Wilder Construction, HMF Printing, and McDermott & Company Marketing.