Last week, on a beautiful Spring-like Wednesday at the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, nearly 200 of Westchester and Putnam Counties’ top businesswomen came together to celebrate women’s leadership at the 2nd annual United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) luncheon. The Council, which launched in 2013 with more than 50 founding members, is part of a national United Way movement designed to harness leadership and philanthropy as catalysts of change to promote financial self-sufficiency, education, and health among women and their families.
Here in Westchester, the Council has been focused on women’s empowerment through programs like Teach Me to Fish, which gives hard-to-place individuals skills training, financial education, and coaching to access better jobs and get out of debt, and SmartStart, which promotes success for at-risk children in elementary school and helps caregivers prepare young children for kindergarten. Westchester resident Nicole Kande spoke at the luncheon to give testament to the impact of the Teach Me to Fish program. The Council-led program helped Kande, a single mother who ended up homeless at one point, develop the career skills she needed to land a job as a dental assistant.
“This program helped me find my self-confidence again, and it changed my life,” Kande said, thanking all the women in the room who volunteer with the Council.
From left: United Way Women’s Leadership Council Steering Committee Members Ruth Mahoney, Angela Brock-Kyle, Kate McDonough, Donna Goldman Hirsch, Bernadette Schopfer, Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, Marissa Brett, Stacey Cohen and Leslie Lampert.
Those women include members like Swati Goel-Patel, who works in human resources at White Plains-based PURE Insurance. Goel-Patel volunteers to help women improve their resumés and job skills, and promote literacy by reading to young children. Making a difference as an “agent of change” is a rewarding experience, Goel-Patel told me. “Plus,” she added, “the Council is a great forum for meeting like-mined businesswomen here in Westchester.”
At the luncheon, which was emceed by News 12 Westchester Anchor and Managing Editor Lisa Salvadorini, two of those like-minded businesswomen—Dee DelBello, CEO and owner of Westfair Communications, Inc., and Mary Murray, manager of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM—were honored as “Women of Distinction” for their leadership roles in inspiring philanthropy and the advancement of women in our community.
After lunch, Stephanie Ruhle, anchor and managing editor for Bloomberg Television and co-host of Market Makers, took the stage as the keynote speaker. Funny and dynamic, Ruhle shared her journey from a kid who wondered why her dad got to work in the city each day, while her mom “had to stay home and hang out with me,” to working among the giants of industry during her 14 years as a Wall Street investment banker. Today Ruhle puts those industry titans to the test on her TV show, and doesn’t back down from going after what she wants—a point she drove home in her talk, which focused on “changing the conversation” about women’s roles and what they can accomplish in the workplace. After having children, Ruhle said, she felt more connected with women’s groups (“You know what it’s like,” she joked about returning to work with a newborn, “we’re trying to make it work and we’ve got the boobs going and the whole thing…”) and became involved with a number of organizations. She applauded the Council for working to “help change other people’s lives,” noting that such an accomplishment is “a greater achievement than running a company or running for office.”