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Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and prepare young women for jobs of the future, delivered the keynote at the 29th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference held on September 2 at McCormick Place-West, Chicago.
In her remarks, she said that young women need to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields but instead often go into lower-paying jobs such as education and health care. She told the audience of nearly 2,000: “There’s no question than technology spurs innovation and has the ability to transform our workforce,” she said. “To leave women out of this growth is really, really shameful.”
Saujani continued that schools need to “invite female entrepreneurs and female coders into our classrooms” to share their stories and get girls excited about technology fields. Girls Who Code anticipates introducing some 10,000 girls nationwide to computer programming by the end of 2015.
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Eva Brown, vice president, US Bank; Mark Hands, manager of supplier diversity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Emilia DiMenco, WBDC president and CEO.
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Andrea Brown (left), president and CEO, Midas Auto Service Experts, Chicago Heights, Illinois, received the Woman Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference opening reception. At right is Emilia DiMenco, WBDC president and CEO.
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Mayra Kahn (left), managing director, Nova Driving School, Chicago, who won the Entrepreneur of the Year award, pictured with Marsha Cruzan, of U.S. Bank. U.S. Bank and Allstate co-sponsored the opening awards reception.
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Pictured above (center) is Andrea Sreshta, a co-founder with Anna Stork of LuminAID, in Chicago, who received the Innovation Award at the opening evening reception. She is flanked by Emilia DiMenco (left) and Shaleta Dunn of ManpowerGroup. Dunn and Lili Hall, of KNOCK, Inc., were conference co-chairs.
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At the opening reception, the WBDC announced the first winners of the Hedy M. Ratner and S. Carol Dougal Legacy Award who are Shirley Marx, board chairman of New World Van Lines, and Loretta Rosenmayer, founder and chief executive officer of INTREN. Pictured are (from left) Emilia DiMenco, Carol Dougal, Shirley Marx, Janet Marx, Loretta Rosenmayer, and WBDC board member Sandra Rand.
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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Debra Jennings-Johnson, BP America and board chair of the Women’s Business Development Center, and Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer, Deluxe Corporation.
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Reshma Saujani, founder, Girls Who Code (left), keynote speaker at the 29th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference at Chicago’s McCormick Place-West on September 2, is pictured with Allison Rosati, NBC5 anchor; Debra Jennings-Johnson, BP America and board chair of the Women’s Business Development Center, and Emilia DiMenco, WBDC president and CEO.
Emilia DiMenco, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Center, which presents the annual conference, set the tone for Saujani’s presentation when she said: “Innovation, fueled by technology, has changed the way we approach business and transformed the ways we start and grow businesses.” Strongly encouraging young women to think about technology careers is of paramount importance, she emphasized.
At an opening night reception, the WBDC presented awards to honor successful women entrepreneurs and advocates who have demonstrated a commitment to strengthening women’s business ownership. The honorees included Mayra Khan, managing director of Nova Driving School, who won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Traci O’Bryan, CEO of St. Louis-based architecture design firm Arcturis, won the Woman Business Enterprise of the Year. Midas Auto Service Experts president and CEO Andrea Brown received the Woman Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year. Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork co-founders of Chicago-based LuminAID, were recipients of the Innovation Award. And, CDW, based in Vernon Hills, won the Corporate Champion Award.
At the reception, the WBDC also announced the first winners of the Hedy M. Ratner and S. Carol Dougal Legacy Award. They are Shirley Marx, board chairman of New World Van Lines, and Loretta Rosenmayer, founder and chief executive officer of INTREN.
Designed to accelerate the growth of women-owned businesses, the conference offered attendees a business trade fair featuring an opportunity for women business owners to make connections with supplier diversity leaders and decision-makers. Contract Connections connected certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) with corporate and government buyers, while Lender Matchmaking and Business Matchmaking sessions enabled attendees to meet one-on-one with experts from leading financial institutions.
Five interactive workshops were held on topics that included business financing, securing government contracts and a panel discussion, “Secrets Behind the Fastest Growing Women-Owned Businesses,” moderated by Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., founder the president of Women Presidents’ Organization. Lynda M. Applegate, the Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, led a well-received two-hour session in the afternoon on techniques for successfully scaling up a business.
A closing reception capped off the day, enabling attendees to wind down and network after a high-impact experience.
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