Women leaders tell Lauralton students how to be 'game changers'

Female leaders from a broad spectrum of careers converged on Lauralton Hall recently with one goal in mind: To inspire the young women there to be bold, take risks and make a difference in their future professions.

Lauralton's program is called Game Changers Day. It drew a panel of 14 women who shared their experiences and offered insight into the career paths they chose, including the arts, law, athletics, politics, architecture, education, finance and engineering.

Keynote speaker Teresa Younger, executive director of the Connecticut General Assembly's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) was recently identified by the Hartford Business Journal as one of their Eight Remarkable Women in Business. Younger is the first woman and the first African American to serve as executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut.

“What we need is a change of perspective,” she said. “We have the numbers, we have the brains. The windshield wiper, the circular saw, leukemia drugs, maritime signal flares, vitamin D and insulin were all invented by women. Girls must learn that we are just as valuable as boys.”

Following the keynote speech, students met with presenters in smaller groups. All the presenters are highly accomplished women from throughout Connecticut who encouraged students to not hesitate to reach for the top-to not be afraid to “change the game.”

Katherine Wiltshire, executive director of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, said, “Know your value; use your voice-that's how you create change. You don't need other people's permission to be a leader.”

Kim Healey, executive director of the New Alliance Foundation, was impressed not only by the students’ questions but by the amount of community service that Lauralton students do and the type of projects and organizations they volunteer for.

“I focused my presentation on helping them see the complexity of the nonprofit organizations as well as the career paths that exist in the non-profit sector,” she said.

“Programs like Game Changers Day are so valuable,” said Mary Lou Aleskie, executive director of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven. “They help young women envision a future where anything is possible. Inspiring young women to think of themselves as leaders creates a better world for everyone.”

Other presenters were:

Alice A. Bruno, executive director of the Connecticut Bar Association; Barbara Chesler, senior associate athletic director at Yale University; Sandi Kahn-Shelton, author and journalist; Deborah Kellogg-Van Orden, president of the Society of Women Engineers; Tricia Lin, director and professor at Southern Connecticut State University; Suzanne Lyons, associate director of New Haven Promise; Laura Pirie, principal at Pirie Associates Architects; Linda Spoonster Schwartz, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans' Affairs; Betty Sternberg, professor of Educational Leadership at Central Connecticut State University, and Janna Wagner, co-founder of All Our Kin.