Chamber completes first year of new professional women's series, Thrive

Thrive: Year One

Thrive was created to be a platform for connection, information and inspiration among female business leaders and rising female professionals; a place where women encourage and motivate one another to continue making positive impacts in our region and the world.

After four sold out luncheons, our first year of Thrive is wrapping up and now we can look back at each event, notable speakers and key takeaways. I, for one, think we are well on our way to accomplishing the things that Thrive set out to do. These luncheons have been filled with such positive energy. It is powerful to be in a room filled with over 100 women and witness connections being made between attendees, speakers eliciting emotional, heartfelt responses from the crowd and women leaving the event with tangible ways to implement the speakers’ advice.

And I’m not the only one.

“Thrive has allowed me to not only connect with women throughout the Charleston community but also to learn and be inspired by them.  I look forward to each event as a way to refresh my professional toolkit as well as engage with professional women in our community,” said Thrive Steering Committee member Amy Bates. “The speakers throughout the series spoke with passion, shared their diverse backgrounds, and allowed for an open dialogue and engagement. I have heard from many attendees who have taken the messages of the speakers back to their workplace to share with others.”

Four speakers, countless lessons

The Thrive series began in May with a luncheon featuring Mary Beth Westmoreland, Chief Technology Officer for Blackbaud. Named one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology by the National Diversity Council in both 2019 and 2017, Mary Beth is a female leader within her organization as well as within the tech industry.

Mary Beth Westmoreland, Chief Technology Officer, Blackbaud

Mary Beth discussed the importance of both company culture and diversity and inclusion in the workplace and demonstrated ways in which Blackbaud has been steadfast in developing both.

“Let’s be good, let’s be together, let’s make a difference,” said Mary Beth Westmoreland.

Mary Beth is passionate about inclusion and the power of a positive culture in the workplace and motivated everyone in the room to feel the same way. She also noted that in your personal and professional life, to always:

  • Be brave
  • Fail fast; Don’t worry about being perfect all of the time
  • Be kind, anyway
Kenya Dunn, Founder & CEO, The Power-Filled Woman

In August, we were joined by Kenya Dunn, an accomplished leader, author and business coach who has started a coaching and training organization, the Power-Filled Woman. Kenya’s message to Thrive attendees emphasized the importance of mentorship. “I wouldn’t have the success that I do without my great mentors,” said Dunn. “They reminded me to not be afraid to ask the tough questions and that it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Empowering them to be bold, Dunn stressed that women should never forget to honor who they are and to be proud of what makes them different, to ask the tough questions, to choose to be both competitive and compassionate and to take the road less traveled.

She encouraged women to find mentors who are investors: individuals who take the time and resources to invest in who you are and what you want to accomplish; exposers: mentors who are invested in the whole person, who extend your knowledge beyond your outlined job description and who take the time to talk about your personal life; room makers: people who will be in your corner and believe in your value.

Deborah Lee James, 23rd Secretary of the US Air Force

Our third luncheon focused on how women can find success and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives. Author and retired Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, shared her formula for doing just that. Deborah illustrated her formula, made up of three pillars, through personal stories and the lessons she has learned along the way.

Secretary James’s personal stories perfectly illustrated the principles she discussed: the importance of connections, the value of mentors, the stability of having a plan, the power of flexibility and the ultimate key to true leadership: finding purpose and leading with it.

The final luncheon of the year challenged women to think critically about the words they choose to use. LB Adams, Founder and CEO of Practical Dramatics, led an engaging session focused on the dynamic power of our words. “The things that we say, the things that we don’t say and the space in between can be amazing and powerful,” LB said, emphasizing the importance of our words and how we use them. Many women in the room related deeply to LB’s presentation, especially when she discussed the potential damage that words and language can have even when we don’t realize it.

LB Adams, Founder & CEO, Practical Dramatics

She also talked about limiting, justifying and padding language – the words we use to diminish ourselves. Words or phrases like “just,” “kind of,” “I might be wrong, but” frequently creep into our sentences and lessen the impact of what we say. LB encouraged attendees to remove these words, and instead use simple declarative statements. “They make all the difference in how you perceive yourself and how the world perceives you,” LB said. Awareness of this behavior is the first step to changing habits and using constructive words instead of deconstructive ones.

Women must consciously choose to build their esteem – take a step back, examine what you do or don’t say, and start thoughtfully changing those patterns.

LB stated that the goal of her session was to do nothing less than change the world – I think this first year of Thrive has demonstrated that bringing women together, validating their skills and experiences and providing them with inspiration and motivation is one step in doing just that.

The first year of Thrive featured four incredible women who are leading in different ways and who had vast knowledge and insight to offer the group. From diversity and company culture to mentorship, from the importance of a network to the importance of your words, each session provided something new to consider and tactics to implement.

Overwhelmingly, the connections between attendees that this series fosters and the opportunity to hear from powerful women in our community are some of the most valuable aspects of Thrive: “It is intentional, engaging and one of the most diverse and inclusive networking events in the Tri-County area geared towards women from all backgrounds and industries,” said Thrive attendee Mamie Bush, Director of Sales and Marketing for Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront. “Whether you are established in your career or just starting, every woman has a voice and a seat at these events.”

As always, we are so grateful to our sponsors who make this series possible:

Presenting Sponsors:
Premier Sponsors:

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