By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Expo is bringing women of all backgrounds together to support each other.
The event, which is in its second year, is scheduled for this Friday at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont’s I-79 Technology Park and is open to the public. Like last year, the theme is “Shattering the Glass Ceiling.”
“The event is geared toward all women, whether you’re a working woman, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, whether you’re an employee of a business, whether you own a business,” said Tina Shaw, president of the chamber. “We plan this event to reach a very broad range of women in every aspect of life.”
The organization’s Women’s Network, which is made up of chamber members and employees of chamber members, is organizing the expo.
Shaw explained that the Women’s Network was created in August 2011 with the goal of engaging, educating and empowering women, and now has about 100 members. When the group meets ever quarter, or more often if needed, they bring in successful women from the local or tri-city area to speak about their achievements in life and the obstacles they have overcome.
“We are trying to reach all the women in our area and let them know that we can empower each other,” Shaw said.
In addition to the expo, the Women’s Network has held other public events, including a special shopping occasion for women last Christmas and wine and cheese gatherings, she said. It also has a book club that meets on its own.
The second Women’s Expo will begin at 11:15 a.m. Friday with first lady Joanne Tomblin as the keynote speaker for lunch.
Shaw said this if the first time Tomblin has been in Fairmont to speak to the chamber. The first lady was scheduled to be the guest at a Women’s Network event last October, but had to cancel due to flooding in the southern part of the state. Since then, Tomblin has been trying to reschedule, and she is thrilled to come to the expo, Shaw said.
“She’s not only the first lady, but she’s a very busy woman in her own job as a president of a community and technical college in the state,” Shaw said. “She’s very passionate about women’s issues. We thought she would be a perfect lunch speaker.”
Following lunch, the expo will continue with eight breakout sessions until 3:30 p.m. Participants will get to choose three or four of the sessions to attend.
Ace Hardware will hold a class called “The Do It Yourself Woman” in which attendees will learn how to do a small project, and people can also attend sessions called “The Healthy Woman,” “30 Minute Meals” and “When ‘IT’ Happens, Be Change Resilient.” Other classes will be offered on how to get organized and stay organized professionally, how people can market themselves and stay presentable, decorating to de-stress, and empowerment.
Once the sessions are over, the expo will conclude with a wine and cheese reception and a fashion show sponsored by Aspire Uniqueness Boutique.
“It’s going to be a wonderful event,” Shaw said. “There is definitely something for everyone.”
The cost of the conference is $75 for chamber or Women’s Network members, and non-members pay $100. Everyone who attends will receive a special gift, and door prizes will be given out throughout the day.
Persons who would like to come should call the chamber office at 304-363-0442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday to register.
Jessica Julian, director of human resources for the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, is a member of the Women’s Network and has been helping with some of the logistics of the expo.
“It’s a great networking opportunity,” she said of the event.
Attendees will have the chance to meet other professional women from the area who they may not typically run into during their day-to-day job duties, Julian said.
“I think we’ve got some neat breakout sessions,” she said. “It should be a fun event.”
Melanie Thompson, Huntington Bank’s mortgage sales manager for West Virginia North, is also part of the Women’s Network and serves as chair of the chamber’s events committee, which supports and helps organize the expo.
She said she’s really looking forward to listening to Tomblin speak during lunch and also for many of the breakout sessions, especially the ones on quick dinners, marketing yourself and managing change.
The expo should be a very energizing and good event for the chamber and its Women’s Network, Thompson said. She encouraged women, whether they’re retired or still working, to come out and support one another.
“It is very important for women to support each other, not only within the workplace that they’re in as well as within the community,” Thompson said.
Email Jessica Borders at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.