RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — On Thursday, hundreds of women attended the Governor’s Virginia Women’s Summit in Richmond, hosted by the Virginia Council on Women.
The goal of the conference was to inspire women to rise to the top and “get a seat at the table” where they’re often underrepresented — like in business and government.
“Our theme is empowering and engaging women to lead across the Commonwealth,” said Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth. “That’s what’s we’re here to do — to really lift up each other, give people new ideas and inspiration for how they can give back and make a difference in their communities.”
As Secretary of the Commonwealth, one of Thomasson’s jobs is to recruit people to serve on boards and commissions. She’s literally giving them a seat at the table. But she says a woman’s sphere of influence doesn’t have to span statewide to make a difference.
“It’s just as important to be involved in your PTA and your local community as it is to volunteer at the food bank. Having a seat at the table means a lot of things to different people and they’re all important,” she said.
Ashleigh Tillman attended the summit from Northern Virginia. She works in higher education and student affairs in the College of Pharmacy at Howard University.
“Being young, it’s a great way for me to see where I can go and to see the trajectory,” she said. “Also adding in the element of being a wife and potentially being a mother and a community leader and how you juggle all those things together.”
During the summit, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe moderated a panel focused on engaging women to lead.
The panelists were Del. Lashrecse Aird, former Senior Vice President of Dominion Energy Solutions Mary Doswell, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene and YWCA Richmond Chief Development Officer Rupa Murthy.
They discussed how to get a seat at the table, what to do once you’re there, how to keep it and the challenges they faced along the way.
A resounding theme was to be passionate, acknowledge your support systems and help pave the way for other women to lead.
“When you’re moving so fast, when you are juggling so much, it’s so easy to forget to say thank you,” said Murthy.
Governor McAuliffe gave the keynote address at the summit. He highlighted the importance of women running for political positions of power.
“Anything that happens in Virginia should have a woman at the table,” he said.
The governor pointed out that, of the 140 members of the General Assembly, 27 are women. He’d like to see an even balance.
“In order for Virginia to get to the next level, we need more women in executive positions,” he said.
The governor said this year, there is a record number of Virginia women running for the General Assembly.
Virginia Council on Women Chair Meta Braymer says there were 300 registrations for the summit. The team is already working on next year’s event. She says they hope to do it across the state.
“Women’s voices need to be heard,” said Braymer. “We all have a voice. It’s time to use them.”