Some of America’s top business leaders were in costume, dressed for the job they want, or already have, at PINK’s 18th annual Fall Women’s Empowerment luncheon on Oct. 31, at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta. More than 200 guests attended in-person and another 270 participants, a group comprised of ambitious women, emerging leaders, and male advocates, chose to livestream the showcase.
To illustrate the event’s superhero theme, Aprio Wealth Management CEO and managing partner Richard Kopelman appeared in a pink mask and cape as the only male on the “power panel.”
Local celebrity, poet, and former TV anchor Cynthia Good, who started and nurtured the PINK platform, served as the event’s emcee and was energetic, speaking with clarity, emphasis, and passion. She began by quoting a Mc-Kenzie study, citing that there is still one woman for every four men in leadership positions, and one person of color out of 20 in C-suite, or executive level, positions.
The bi-annual event concentrated on diversity and inclusivity in the workplace by sharing the experiences of top leaders who have moved into C-Suite roles.
“We have an extraordinary group of leaders who are willing to share their success secrets,” said Good. The panel, in addition to Kopelman, included: Julia Houston, chief strategy and marketing officer, Equifax; Chris Robins, business unit CEO, home appliances, Newell Brands; Julienne Smith, chief development officer, IHG Hotels & Resorts; and Brandi Thomas, group VP, chief audit exec, General Electric. The event moderator was Courtney Bryant, a news anchor for Fox 5 Atlanta, WAGA-TV, where Good formerly anchored the weekend news.
Featured leaders addressed pivotal changes in the workplace, how those changes affect organizations and women in particular, and how women can get more of what they want at work.
“This is key today as we grapple with the protracted pandemic which has overhauled the way we work and want to live,” said Good. “With workplace disengagement at record levels, women especially are overwhelmed. According to a small PINK poll this summer, 56 percent said workplace engagement has declined. We can all use new tools to create the career and life we want.”
Kopelman, who serves on the boards of Alexander Muss High School in Israel, Israel Bonds for the Southeast and The Weber School, was the lone man on the lively panel. He held his own by sharing about his upbringing by a single mother in Miami Beach, for whom, at age 13, he made cold calls to set up her job selling funeral packages.
She showed Kopelman how strong and capable women can be. He added, “Now, at 87, she still gives advice.” Kopelman commented on the female employees who didn’t return to work coming out of the pandemic for various reasons. Later, all the panelists agreed on the positive role of virtual work models while also agreeing that being in-person in an office is very important for creativity and being seen for advancement.
One of the strongest panel topics was the importance of diversity. Kopelman cautioned when dealing with coworkers or employees who are not sold on the benefits of diversity, and said, “I tell them they need to get with the program.”
Others echoed measurable reasons of dealing data, in that companies which value these differences have higher revenues to show for it. Also agreed upon was the importance of being respected versus fretting over being liked. “Be yourself” were the code words.
Kopelman teased the audience that, on the following day, Aprio would make a major announcement; and on Nov. 1, Aprio did indeed reveal their merger with the Washington, D.C. firm Aronson LLC, combining $325 million in revenue with both these historic and complementary business advisory and CPA firms.
Good then took questions from the virtual watchers and the live audience before she awarded raffle prizes of stays at the new Nobu Hotel in Buckhead and Canyon Ranch.
Local PINK supporter Martha Jo Katz summarized to the AJT, “The outstanding panel shared valuable advice that provided the audience with ideas for career advancement. They said they try to pass their ideas forward to help others be successful. We all have to have mentors. I also believe we have to believe in ourselves and be our own advocates!”
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- PINK’s 18th annual Fall Women’s Empowerment luncheon o
- InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta
- Cynthia Good
- PINK platform
- Julia Houston
- Chris Robins
- Newell Brands
- Julienne Smith
- IHG Hotels & Resorts
- Brandi Thomas
- General Electric
- Courtney Bryant
- Fox 5 Atlanta
- Alexander Muss High School
- Israel Bonds for the Southeast
- The Weber School
- Aronson LLC
- Nobu Hotel
- Martha Jo Katz
- Richard Kopelman