Speakers Highlight Successes, Challenges Of Women In Workplace

By Lisa Kashinsky The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas was just one of several high profile female leaders who gathered for a recent "Women in Business Conference." Tsongas identified equal pay for equal work, childcare affordability and equality in health care as key issues affecting women in the workforce.

HAVERHILL

Morgan Goldstein knew she wanted to work in the sports industry since she was in high school, despite knowing she would be a minority in a male-dominated field.

Now she's the marketing and new media manager for the 2017 U.S. Senior Open Golf Championship to be held at the Salem Country Club in Peabody, Massachusetts.

Terry Cappuccio launched two companies -- Cranney Companies, which provides commercial HVAC, plumbing and electrical services; and My MAD Packers, which provides moving management and packing services.

These are just two of the many success stories shared by local women leaders at the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Conference, an annual event bringing together businesswomen throughout the Merrimack Valley and beyond. This year's featured speaker was Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, D-Massachusetts.

Approximately 200 people registered for this year's event, filling tables at Michael's Function Hall in Haverhill and mingling and networking with each other during the luncheon before the speaking program.

Among them was Sherly Jean-Baptiste, a senior account manager for the Boston-based Neighborhood Health Plan, who came up to Haverhill for the conference.

"I'm always interested in hearing from other accomplished businesswomen -- what they deal with, their experiences," Jean-Baptiste said. "Hopefully I'll be able to take away something that can impact my work."

The event featured a panel of women speakers including Tsongas, Cappuccio and Goldstein, as well as Joanne Conroy, MD, executive vice president and CEO of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center; Amy Lovasco, director of Suites A, B of Pfizer Global Supply; and Sgt. 1st Class Lena Breuer, a U.S. Army recruiter.

Andrea Luppi, manager of communications and community relations for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, served as moderator. The Eagle-Tribune was among the sponsors for the event.

Michael Bevilacqua, assistant vice president of member services and programming for the Chamber, said the conference is "all about women providing leadership and providing inspiration as well."

Tsongas kicked off the panel by talking about how women have broken barriers in government, the military and in sports. She said it was "particularly evident this year" how women had changed the corporate and political landscape, with Hillary Clinton being the first female candidate for president from a major political party.

Tsongas then delved into her own experience, including the special election in 2007 that made her the first woman to serve in Congress from Massachusetts in 25 years.

She identified equal pay for equal work, childcare affordability and equality in health care as key issues affecting women in the workforce. She also spoke of important issues affecting women in the military, including sexual assaults and securing gender-specific body armor.

Tsongas said it is "critical" to have women in power both nationally and internationally, in government roles and beyond. "It's about bringing women's perspectives to the debate. Women need to be at the table," she said, joking that "if you're not at the table, you're part of the meal."

"It's heartening to see so many women in the Merrimack Valley in leadership roles in organizations and as business entrepreneurs," she added.

Later in the panel, Breuer, the Army recruiter, built upon Tsongas's comments on women in the military by providing a timeline of how women's roles in the service have changed, from being cooks during the American Revolutionary War to now being generals and commanding officers.

Breuer comes from a military family. She enlisted straight out of high school, was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and has served as a transportation management coordinator and now a recruiter.

"Since I joined back in 1999, I've seen the Army grow a lot, too, especially for women. You see a lot more women in leadership positions," she said.

While the women spoke of their successes in their respective fields, they also spoke of challenges that remained.

For instance, Conroy, of Lahey Health, said that even though health care has a "disproportionate number of female employees," the field is "still not immune from the challenges of women in the workplace."

Conroy gave an example of female employees saying they'd been told by their supervisors that they were "too assertive." "That doesn't exist in my book. I think that's an asset. We have to be assertive in what matters most to us, and that's taking care of our patients," she said.

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