Awards highlight female business leaders' contributions

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Female business leaders are coming together and motivating one another to make a difference in the community.

The 21st annual ATHENA International Awards banquet took place at the Kimball Ballroom on the campus of Stephens College Thursday. The banquet looked to celebrate the accomplishments of female entrepreneurs. A record crowd packed the ballroom to see Stephens College President Dianne Lynch honor two women with an ATHENA Award. ATHENA International is a non-profit organization that encourages women to reach their leadership potential.   

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Women's Network presented the ATHENA Leadership Award to Janice Schuerman. Schuerman has helped women in both the job recruitment and career advancement processes. She has also served in many organizations including Meals on Wheels, which delivers nutritious meals to people who are unable to shop or cook or are recovering from a recent hospital stay.

The ATHENA Young Professional Award was given to Billie Connally. Connally was honored for her volunteer activities through organizations such as Special Olympics and United Way.

Business owner Krista Kippenberger said the Women's Network serves an important function.

"There is just a non-threatening community to talk to other women, to go to coffee with other women and just to be able to talk about business in a non-threatening environment," Kippenberger said. 

Deputy Director of Services for Independent Living Jessica Macy talked about how different generations of female leaders are learning from one another.

"A lot of women are really heavily involved in our community now or run banks or run huge companies and corporations and have the opportunity to network with those of us who may be younger, and we have a lot to learn from them," Macy said. 

Lynch said today's female entrepreneurs are "ready to rock and roll." She pointed out a Pew Research Center study that showed positive trends for the number of women in many sectors. The sectors included representatives in Congress as well as Fortune 500 CEOs.