Central Florida business executives, professionals and city leaders convened at the Citrus Club this morning to celebrate women’s leadership. The women’s breakfast, “Lighting the Path – Women Shaping Orlando,” was sponsored by Akerman Senterfit and Grant Thornton.
Attendees enjoyed a continental breakfast and networking segment followed by an hour-long panel presentation. Panel members included Linda Chapin, former Orange County mayor; Sibille Pritchard, president of Hart Communications and senior vice president of Brooksville Development Corporation; and Kathy Ramsberger, president of the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center. Stephanie Segalini, Of Counsel at Akerman Senterfitt, and Sonya Dixon, Audit Partner of Grant Thornton, served as panel moderators.
The panel members shared lessons learned from their experiences in politics, business and civic activities. They also spoke about the role of women in shaping the Orlando community and the importance of volunteerism. Attendees were able to participate in a question/answer session following the panel presentation. In addition, three audience members won raffle prizes sponsored by the Citrus Club and Neiman Marcus.
All three panel members traveled frequently as children. Chapin’s family moved often due to her father’s many promotions. Her grandparents lived in Orlando, and Chapin said that she enjoyed visiting Central Florida as a child. When her husband proposed to her, Chapin told him that they had to live in Orlando. Today Chapin lives in the same house her grandparents lived in when she was a child. Chapin served as the first elected mayor of Orange County, Florida, from 1990 to 1998. In addition to leading on numerous boards, Chapin also raised four children.
Pritchard was born and raised in Guyana, and studied in Europe and the Caribbean. Pritchard and her family moved to Florida so that her husband, Peter Pritchard, a leading turtle zoologist, could pursue his Ph. D. at the University of Florida. Pritchard began her career as a journalist, and soon got involved in commercial development. Pritchard serves on boards for the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Museum of Art, and Florida State Medical School, to name a few. Like Chapin, Pritchard is also a mother. She raised three sons.
Ramsberger comes from a Naval family, and learned to make friends quickly as the new girl in school. Her family moved to Central Florida so that her father, an aviator, could lead simulation projects at the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD). Ramsberger served as a film commissioner, senior vice president of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC), and as director of Arts and Entertainment for the City of Orlando. Ramsberger also raised two children.
Words of Wisdom
Chapin described her first year as mayor of Orange County as “wicked.”
“Change is always a challenge,” she said. “And change in politics can be formidable.”
Chapin says that the second year was fabulous, as she got to cut ribbons and celebrate all of the projects she worked so hard for in the previous year.
She spoke about the connection of passion and integrity to success.
“I will never forget the response I got from Kathy, when as a mentor, I asked her where she wanted to be in 10 years,” Chapin said. “She told me, ‘I just want to be sure that I’m a good person.’”
Chapin encouraged women in the audience to stop being so hard on themselves.
“There is no such thing as super woman,” she said. “We all take chances. We all sometimes play things by ear. Don’t wait for the time that you think you’re ready.”
The room erupted in laughter when Chapin shared a personal story. Her mother-in-law was less than enthused about Chapin’s decision to work. When she came to visit, Chapin was eager to impress her. She worked a full day at work, performed her shift at the Little League concession, made a trip to the grocery store, and returned home to cook a great meal. While Chapin was preparing the meal, the phone rang and Chapin’s mother-in-law answered the phone. It was Chapin’s 7-year-old daughter calling to inform her mother that she left her at the grocery store.
“Don’t expect perfection. Be adaptable and flexible,” Chapin said. “Seize opportunities when they come.”
Chapin also made it clear that women should not discount men.
“Men gave me some of the greatest opportunities in my life,” she said. “It’s not about gender.”
Pritchard described the importance of relationships in Florida’s international trade with countries like Japan. They are also important in business and personal life.
“In some Asian countries, they do business by a handshake,” Pritchard said. “And relationships are what you turn to in the end.”
Pritchard encouraged the audience to think outside the box.
“Take a risk. Often it is worth it,” she said. “Never say, 'I would never do that,’” she said.
Ramsberger said that having a performing arts center in Orlando can foster a sense of community, ownership and pride among residents.
“When you gather people, you build community, and you get great ideas when you build community,” she said.
Ramsberger believes in being flexible and taking chances.
“Never underestimate what you can do,” she said. “If you really want it, go after it. Surround yourself with people who want to help you. You can have everything, just not all at once.”
-- By Ashley Cisneros