Brooklyn businesswomen talk empowerment for young women

What began as a networking event for Brooklyn businesswomen and community leaders to form a Women’s Initiative with the Brooklyn borough president’s office quickly turned into a call to action to empower, train and inspire the next generation of young female leaders.

“Let’s bring [young women] to Borough Hall with women leaders to shake hands, talk and be inspired,” suggested Borough President Eric Adams. “To be able to meet with professional women, to get tips on how to shake hands and make eye contact, how to dress for success – it’s a simple action, but a big action.”

With that prompt, the conference room in Brooklyn Borough Hall filled with rapid-fire brainstorming and personal experiences.

Denise Arbesu, chairperson of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, suggested a day of breakout sessions with experts on topics such as financial education, employment opportunities, and education and scholarship opportunities. “If we involve small businesses, we can engage them while also giving them exposure to what they can accomplish or pursue,” Arbesu said.

“We can teach them social media skills, too. I am afraid this generation is losing its ability to interact in person,” Arbesu added. “Etiquette is a part of getting a job and into school.”

“Many young women are brilliant, but in order to be taken seriously, they have to look the part,” said Ama Dwimoh, special counsel to the borough president.

Iphigenia Romanos, head of school at Adelphi Academy, noted that her school provides courses in oral presentation skills and does community service hours. “We need to think about creating some type of curriculum or program to educate young women about how to deal with the academic and professional worlds,” she said.

Speaking about her experience starting her own company, Zenergy Marketing, Zenobia McNally said she decided to be an entrepreneur once she realized that she had “set up the accounting, billing, name and client lists” for the agency she was working for.

“I thought, I can do this myself,” chuckled McNally. Her advice for young women thinking of striking out on their own? “Learn the trade and then do your thing,” she said.

Similarly, Stephanie Ferdinand of Bedford-Stuyvesant said that when she started her accounting company in 1991, “as a minority business owner working with minority businesses, it was challenging to get resources to help them,” but by utilizing the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and other resources, she was inspired and shored up her courage to keep going.

Organized by Adams and Victoria Schneps, co-publisher of the Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator News, the “Star Network: Getting to Know You” gathering is just the beginning of what will hopefully be a movement, said Schneps.

“This was spectacular. Woman power was on display. It was a call to action to be a force to help young women and give them a chance to be mentored by successful women,” said Schneps, the founder of a successful newspaper company beginning with The Queens Courier. “Talk is cheap; we have got to act on this. We will have another meeting in November and potentially launch a mentoring event.”

Victoria Schneps, Camille Loccisano, Borough President Eric Adams and Iphigenia Romanos.
Victoria Schneps, Camille Loccisano, Borough President Eric Adams and Iphigenia Romanos.

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