The Accelerator recently hosted its second annual Hudson Valley Women’s Leadership Conference: Leading the Change. More than 800 attendees gathered at the Culinary Institute of America Marriot Pavilion in Hyde Park, N.Y. on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, for the half-day event.

The event included a keynote presentation by IBM Pathways Executive Jennifer Howland, two panel discussions and a networking session with more than 30 regional resources that help support professional and business growth.

“The mission of the team at the time this event’s inception was to have a place where female leaders like myself could come together and talk about the fact that it’s okay to be stressed, it’s okay to cry a little bit, it’s okay to lose sleep,” said Laurie Villasuso, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of the Orange County IDA. “Today, we’re so excited to have such an incredible collection of women and men gathered together to talk about leadership, facilitate meaningful discussions and support each other as we take the next steps in our careers.”

Jennifer Howland, a 33-year engineer, manager and executive at IBM, led an hour-long keynote address on overcoming unconscious bias. During her address, she shared stories about her own experiences, led the audience in activities to help event attendees identify their own implicit biases and shared advice on how to overcome them.

Two panel discussions offered conference attendees valuable insight from regional industry professionals and lessons on how to accept and understand change; use past experiences to propel forward; motivate and mentor to help others to rise to their fullest potential; and nurture an environment that creates success and cooperation.

Michelle Rider, Transactional/Commercial Attorney & Co-Managing Partner at Catania, Mahon, Milligram & Rider, PLLC, led the first panel: Workplace Reinvention. Panelists included Dr. Theresa Hamlin, Associate Executive Director at The Center for Discovery; Mindy S. Kole, Associate Dean of Adult Learning – Academic Affairs at SUNY Ulster; Rafael Salaberrios, Vice President, Economic Revitalization Community Economic Development at Empire State Development; and Marleen Vogelaar, Founder and CEO of Ziel, an on-demand activewear company supported by The Accelerator.

The second panel, The Path to Effective, Authentic Leadership, was led by moderator Lauree Ostrofsky, Founder of Hudson Valley Women in Business, author and coach at Simply Leap, LLC. The panelists included: Annette Brooks, Director of IBM z/OS Development; Michael Catania, Construction and Commercial Attorney & Co-Managing Partner at Catania, Mahon, Milligram & Rider, PLLC; Mariel Fiori, Managing Editor at La Voz magazine and Bard College Co-Host and Co-Producer of La Vox, Radio Kingston; and Sarah Lee, Chief Executive Officer for Think Dutchess Alliance for Business.

Jennifer Howland and Donna Cornell, who served as the master of ceremonies for the conference, were recognized during an awards ceremony at the conclusion of the Oct. 23 event. The Accelerator Awards recognize leaders in the Hudson Valley.

Vincent Cozzolino, Managing Director of The Accelerator, presented the first award to Howland.

“This is based on not just your leadership abilities, which are phenomenal, and the fact that you made it in a very male-dominated industry as an engineer to start. But I watched everyone around just embrace you, and your leadership just blossomed,” said Cozzolino, a former executive at IBM. “But even more importantly than that, the fact that you’re giving back in this way to other leaders, that’s why we wanted to give you this award.”

Lisa Sommers, Vice President of Focus Media, presented Cornell with her award. CEO of Cornell & Associates, Cornell is a highly successful entrepreneur who has achieved remarkable success, becoming a self-made millionaire by age 33. Widely respected for her business acumen, she has devoted countless hours to guiding organizations and to achieve their goals.

“With a long list of accomplishments throughout her career, Donna has paved the way for women leaders, serving as board chair and head of organizations at a time when most women didn’t and couldn’t – in upstate New York no less –in a culture that wasn’t conducive to women taking the reins,” said Sommers. “She has also dedicated her time and efforts to helping other women in leadership roles, so that they, too, could make a difference.”

In case you missed it, check out the news coverage about our Hudson Valley Film Industry Conference:

Mid-Hudson News