As both a woman and a women in business reporter, I made a few observations while attending the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce's 80th annual Walk to Washington and Congressional Dinner last week at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C.
Hundreds of New Jersey business owners and leaders in the nonprofit, corporate and political sectors board the train each year to network and promote their businesses. So, naturally, each woman I met on the train was an expert in kicking some serious tail in their respective field.
However, not all of them were necessarily “known” to the New Jersey community just yet. In fact, I had multiple conversations with women simply about their experiences starting out as an entrepreneur, as a small business owner or as a working mother in demanding corporate jobs.
Those conversations helped to further my connection to those asking if NJBIZ would be interested in learning more about them and their business.
If I was thinking, “Why don’t more women sign up for this? And why don’t more women’s organizations promote this opportunity?” — what were some of the women on the train thinking?
Here’s what I found out:
“I enjoyed the event and was so happy to see many women legislators, business and association leaders. I believe the number of women grows every year. It is a great way to connect and reconnect with some amazing women.” — Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association
“I very much enjoyed meeting some powerful women on the train and made a few quality connections. However, I did not see many female legislators on the train or at the event, and there were no female legislative speakers!” — Marilyn Schlossbach, CEO of the Marilyn Schlossbach Group and owner of Labrador Lounge in Normandy Beach and Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park.
“I have been attending the chamber train trip on and off for almost 25 years. The event has certainly changed over the years for women and their participation at all levels. Back in the day, a fair amount of women attended the train trip to Washington, D.C., but were not part of the face of the event. Today, the chair of the chamber is Amy Mansue; the hottest hospitality event was hosted by Trish Zita, a partner in a prominent government affairs firm in Trenton; Anjalee Khemlani, a reporter from NJBIZ, served on the reporter’s panel; and, for the first time, four state trade associations all led by women were invited to sit on the dais with the chamber board and congressional delegation. Overall, the state chamber trip is a showcase for female business leaders to take a seat at the table.” — Linda Doherty, CEO and president of the New Jersey Food Council
“We did notice that the overall train trip attendance was predominantly male — with most of the visible elected officials being male, as well — however, our Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce contingent had a significant number of females in attendance (with) close to 50 percent. We also loved how a younger female was on the breakfast panel. Anjalee Khemlani, deputy managing editor for NJBIZ, was the youngest and only female who articulated an objective perspective on the topics discussed.” — Jennifer M. Costa, director of the Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization, and Yasmin Fisher, membership and events director for the Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce.
“The misbehaviors of years past have faded into lore, but there still is an awful lot of alcohol brought onto and consumed on the train. It’s a long ride in high heels and I am grateful that, when the train lurched, at least I fell into someone I knew. I find the networking in the hotel lobby bar to be at least as important as that done on the train. And, while I usually skip the dinner in favor of entertaining clients, this year I attended and saw (U.S. Sen.) Cory Booker’s best speech ever. That was a real treat.” — Lori Grifa, partner at Archer & Greiner P.C.
“It is a 24-hour networking event, with men in suits outnumbering women four to one. However, at the end of the trip, many women continued networking, while many men seemed to take the time to rest.” — Rachel Anevski, CEO and president of Matters of Management LLC