Leadercast Conference Highlights Female Entrepreneurs

The Oberlin Business Partnership, in collaboration with the Office of Innovation and Impact, sponsored the second annual Leadercast Women’s conference this week at the New Russia Township Lodge. The event was designed to promote female leadership in entrepreneurial fields and featured a number of speakers, panelists, video broadcasts, and group discussions.

The event featured a live presidents panel with Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar and Lorain County Community College President Marcia J. Ballinger, sponsored by the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Lorain County. The panel moderator, Tiffany Tarpley from Cleveland’s NBC Channel 3, highlighted the novelty that the two college presidents in Lorain County are women, a rarity in higher education.

It also featured live broadcasts from internationally-known female leaders on how they navigate the business and entrepreneurial landscape.

Participants included daughters of former president George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, the co-founder and board chair of Global Health Corps, and Jenna Bush Hager, the founding chair of UNICEF Next Generation; Celeste Headley, an award-winning journalist, speaker, and author; Julia Landauer, a champion NASCAR driver and motivational speaker; and Marilyn Tam, a consultant, author, and former executive at Aveda, Nike, and Reebok.

The speakers covered a number of topics related to female identity, including the qualities that make effective leaders, the challenges women face in the workplace, and the steps the attendees could take to hone their leadership skills, among others.

Nine students were chosen to attend the conference alongside 250 other attendees.

Director of the Center for Innovation and Impact Bara Watts,, helped organize the event and said she saw it as an important way to empower growing female entrepreneurs.

“I took the initiative because I feel strongly that for anyone to grow with entrepreneurial thinking, you need to be exposed to other leaders and learn how they are solving problems and creating success,” she said. “This is a chance for students to gain important leadership insights from influential women business and political leaders in Lorain County.”

After the presentations, students and attendees had the opportunity to break into small discussion groups. Conversations touched on how to define personal goals and see them through, take pride in your identity, and effectively communicate and overcome personal challenges.

College first-year Lauren Waldman was one of the nine students in attendance and said that being surrounded by so many successful women was inspiring

“Overall, I thought the Leadercast Women event was incredibly inspirational,” said Waldman. “There were several hundred women from the local community present at the event, and it was quite powerful to take part in that while listening to the powerful narratives of the women speaking. The speakers came from a variety of different professions and backgrounds, but their narratives all emphasized the power of embracing yourself as an individual, achieving your goals and never succumbing to challenges along the way, and defining your own definition of success.”

The Leadercast Conference is part of a larger effort to make connections in Oberlin’s business community as well as the larger Lorain County area.

“I have been making very concerted efforts to start connecting with the business community in Oberlin and as well with Lorain County with the intention of finding more ways for our students and faculty — or anybody from Oberlin — to engage in the growth and success of the community,” said Watts. “They can also contribute back to the growth and success of our students.”