Photo by Tessa Marie Images
Berwyn’s Eileen Connolly-Robbins knows her way around a boardroom. Her experience ranges from General Electric to Unisys to being the executive vice president and COO of the Main Line Chamber of Commerce. Throughout her career, she’s found time to give back, most notably to gender and racial diversity in business. Connolly-Robbins is a board member of the Women’s Resource Center, the founder of MLCC’s Society of Professional Women, a regional adviser for Vision 2020, and, most recently, the co-founder and CEO of the POWER of Professional WoMen.
MLT: What made you want to start POWER?
ECR: I wanted to provide a program that will focus on the next generation of leaders, with attention to the importance of diversity and gender equality in the workplace. I spent months meeting with all-size companies and organizations, and asked their biggest fears and challenges and how I can help. There was one common thread: Their biggest challenge was talent attraction, and their biggest fear was retention of emerging leaders and having enough qualified employees to fill their leadership pipeline. The experience gap is a real problem for many companies.
MLT: Did you always want to be involved in empowering women?
ECR: My first full-time job at 22, I worked as a marketing assistant for a large corporation and was told by my boss that when he wanted coffee, he would leave his cup on my desk so I could fill it for him. I found out that all the women thought this was normal and OK. From that day forward, I knew I would do whatever I could to help bring attention to the need of gender equality.
MLT: Is there a women’s rights advocate you most admire?
ECR: Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, changed the role of the first lady through her active participation in American politics and became one of the most outspoken first ladies in the White House. She became politically active by writing a newspaper column, giving press conferences, and, after his death, she served at the United Nations and focused on human rights and women’s issues. Her commitment to gender equality included her campaigning for 40 years to advance women politically, economically and socially.
MLT: How can women help empower other women?
ECR: As women, the most important power we have is to share our experiences with the next generation of leaders. Women should never look at each other as competition. We need to make positive contributions to the next generation of women. We need to provide mentoring, education and assistance to connect emerging women leaders to trailblazers that can help them build strategic partnerships that will lead to success.