Women’s Leadership Conference Centering on Tools to Success in Careers

HYDE PARK – More than 800 people, mostly female executives and community leaders attended the second annual Hudson Valley Women’s Leadership Conference to learn about “Unconscious Bias” as well as work-life balance and other tools to help them succeed in their careers.

The conference, sponsored by The Accelerator powered by the Orange County Industrial Development Agency, was established to “help women lead the change in the workplace, understand how to handle the role of leadership positions and leave with the tools to thrive, succeed and continue your growth” according to Laurie Villasuso, chief operating officer of the Orange County Industrial Development Agency.

The keynote address, “Overcoming Unconscious Bias,” was presented by Jennifer Howland, the executive of IBM’s Pathways Program, that is tasked with increasing representation of women and under-represented minorities in IBM’s technical executive positions.

Howland said that “unconscious bias is everywhere” and it affects just about all decisions in the workplace. She had two take-away messages.

“Definitely the understanding that unconscious bias impacts every single one of us and there is something you can do about it,” she said.

Howland said the subconscious stereotyping of an individual based on race, gender, ethnicity and others “influences just about every decision you make.”

Through training Howland intimated that in order to be an effective leader you need to learn what unconscious bias is along with discovering what your personal biases you have in order to address them and become a successful executive. Howland recommended the Harvard Implicit Association.

Sarah Lee, chief executive officer of Think Dutchess Alliance For Business, was a panelist at the conference and was addressing “The Path to Effective, Authentic Leadership.” Lee also serves as the executive director of the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency and stressed the need for those wishing to be successful to “understand the importance of finding a work-life balance”.

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