Encouraging excellence in women

In order to promote and support successful women, The South Brunswick Commission on Women will hold its annual Leadership Conference, Saturday, Feb. 25.

By: Stephanie Brown
   The annual Women’s Leadership Conference sponsored by the South Brunswick Commission on Women will bring together students and adult women leaders next week.
   "Basically, its purpose is to promote leadership in women and aid young women in developing skills for leadership roles," said Denise Avrutik, chairwoman of the Commission on Women.
   About 300 eighth-grade and high school students will have the opportunity to hear women from the community and beyond speak of their successes during the conference, scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Feb. 25 at the South Brunswick High School.
   The conference will feature keynote speaker Claire Hart, president and CEO of Factiva, a Dow Jones and Reuters company.
   "We are happy to have her because she is a wonderful speaker, very accomplished, and an excellent role model," said Ms. Avrutik.
   In 2005, Jen Maxfield, an on-air reporter for ABC Eyewitness News, was the keynote speaker. Others keynotes have included the publisher of The Newark Star-Ledger, an executive with Nassau Broadcasting, an author, college professor and actress, a federal official, a New York television personality, a politician and an editor from Seventeen Magazine.
   Each participant will get to attend two workshops, selected prior to the event. Taught by women in various career fields, the workshops encourage "the old-girl network," according to Ms. Avrutik.
   "We look to mentor," she said. "They may have an idea about what they want to do in the future, but not have it totally figured out. Maybe if they sit on in a session it will give them a chance to make an educated decision."
   This year’s conference will offer a variety of workshops, including musical arts and theater, law, communications and journalism, engineering and many others.
   "We’re always trying to expand the careers that are available," said Ms. Avrutik. After all, "we want women to be more involved in alternative careers."
   During the conference, at least two high school seniors will be awarded scholarships based on academics and their demonstration of leadership skills, according to Ms. Avrutik.
   For a student to qualify for one of the scholarships, she doesn’t necessarily have to be president of a school club, explained Ms. Avrutik, but rather must have shown initiative to reach out to the school and community.
   "You don’t have to be a president to be a leader," she said.
   In addition to the scholarships, the commission recognizes women from the community for their contributions to the township.
   "The community recognition award is generally given to women who are nominated by organizations from within the township," said Ms. Avrutik.
   Last year, the committee gave its Star Award to high school counselor Carol Lindy Mandy.
   "The Star Award was something special for someone who has really gone out of way to help us," said Ms. Avrutik.
   Since the conference is run strictly on a volunteer basis, Ms. Avrutik said, the committee is grateful for the women who dedicate their time.
   "Beginning with that first conference, hard working volunteers have donated many hours to ensure that our annual Leadership Conference is a success," said a statement from the commission. "The planning starts six months in advance and is still run with sweat equity and not much more."
   Young women who wish to attend the conference may do so by filling out a registration form, which can be found at the South Brunswick Municipal Building or Senior Center.