The 2005 Women’s Leadership Conference, “Thinking Globally, Leading Locally,” focused on the difference the leadership of one woman can make. Natalie Ludaway, chair of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, opened the conference with a keynote address. She spoke on how she draws on her leadership skills in each aspect of her life and turns to childhood memories of her grandmothers for inspiration, strength, and motivation. Ludaway believes an essential quality of women leaders is a caring and nurturing nature. Women approach issues differently than men, she noted, and the sooner they are comfortable doing that, the more successful they will be. Encouraging participants to reflect on their personal mentors, Ludaway emphasized, “We have a duty to support each other and prepare each other for local and global leadership.”
The author of Thereafter Johnnie and the acclaimed and controversial Nappy Hair, Carolivia Herron has been a professor and visiting scholar at numerous prestigious universities, including Harvard and Brandeis. She discussed the difficulties she faced growing up in urban Washington, D.C. and how she fed her hunger for epic poetry to go on to an illustrious literary career. “I never called myself a leader,” she said, “I’ve just done what I want to do.”
A panel discussion was moderated by professor Allida Black, director and editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at the George Washington University (GW). Drawing on Roosevelt’s accomplishments, Black illustrated how the former first lady was a “mentor in absentia” for each of the following panelists, who all have varied backgrounds. Laura Neuman, a self-made business leader, who was once named one of the Top 100 Women in Maryland by the Daily Reporter. Forced to abandon her native home when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1962, Gina Hamrah provides education, food, shelter, and medical care to Afghani widows and orphans. A beautician by trade, Hamrah began raising money in her kitchen and has sent over $8 million dollars in aid to her homeland. Cissy Fry Wilson relayed her journey to become the first female mayor of Granbury, Tex., the fastest growing community in America in the 1980s. Wilson’s passion to protect the character of her quaint community during years of unparalleled growth motivated her to enter into public service. Finally, Tu Dang, who was born in Vietnam and fled to the United States, followed her passion of helping others. As a Peace Corps volunteer in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, she started an Internet training program that put technology in the hands of hundreds of children and, in doing so, taught them about important health issues such as HIV prevention.