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Progressive Voice: When Women Succeed

Krysta Jones

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s organization or of

“When women succeed, America succeeds.

Women play an instrumental role in the U.S economy. Forty percent of American households with a child under the age of 18 depend on a woman’s salary as the sole or primary source of income.  Women are estimated to make more than 70 percent of all retail purchasing decisions, and women investors are the fastest growing sector making investments on Wall Street.

Just-released findings by McKinsey and Company note that efforts to advance women’s economic equality could improve global Gross Domestic Profit by $12 trillion. Since the 1970s, female labor participation has accounted for fully a quarter of the United States’ total GDP growth.

Yet, nearly a century after women earned the right to vote, America still has a gender pay gap. Women of all races and ethnicities working full time, year round in the United States earned an average of only 78 percent of what white men earned in 2013. For black women, it was 64 percent. For Latina women, it was 54 percent. These disparities have a detrimental effect on our families and communities.

On Oct. 10, Rep. Don Beyer will host his first “Women Driving the Economy” conference, aimed at helping women in Northern Virginia acquire the skills needed to succeed professionally, build critical relationships with their peers, and learn valuable lessons from leadership experts.

The event’s keynote speaker is U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, a pioneer in establishing women in leadership roles in the economy as a public and private sector manager and philanthropic champion. As of 2014, it is estimated that there are nearly 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.9 million people.

Administrator Contreras-Sweet’s keynote delivery will be followed by a plenary panel moderated by Megan Beyer with Judith Warner from the Center for American Progress and author of the 2005 New York Times best-seller “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety,” local small business owner El Brown and Rebecca Shambaugh, a leadership trainer for women in the workforce.

Following the panel discussion, participants will choose leadership training sessions on a number of topics, including:

  • Interview skills with Mary-Claire Burick, President of the Rosslyn BID;
  • Image and Branding with Sonya Gavankar, Journalist and Co-Founder of;
  • Resume building with Sonja Henderson and Virginia Lyon of the HR Certification Institute;
  • Social Networking and Career Advancement with Dagny Evans, a senior operations and technology leader;
  • Strategies for Financial Security with Laurie J. Blackburn, CFP® and First Vice President – Investments with the Speck Caudron Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors;
  • Salary Negotiation Strategies with Barbara Mitchell, Managing Partner of The Mitchell Group;
  • Mindfulness Exercises with Patrice Winter, Assistant Professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University.

This event is free to the public and will be held at George Mason University-Arlington campus, from 8 a.m. to noon.  The address is 3351 North Fairfax Drive and public transportation to and from the Arlington campus is available. Child care is also available. Attendees must register online at

Although it is important to cite statistics and talk about the barriers facing women’s economic empowerment, it is even more important to try to do something to help women overcome those barriers. By providing a forum for discussion, fostering networks and developing key skills, we can help women — and America — succeed.

Krysta Jones is founder and CEO of the Virginia Leadership Institute, and in 2014 was named by Leadership Arlington as a Top 40 Leaders Under 40 awardee.

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