EAST GOSHEN — The Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry hosted its annual Women Influencing Business event this week — an event that celebrates the accomplishments of women in the community.
The chamber recognized the 2021 Female Business Leader of the Year as well as the recipient of its new WIB Spotlight Award. The awards recognize women “for their professional achievements, initiative in the community, and leadership for other women in business,” the chamber said.
The June 29 event was a hybrid event — an in-person breakfast and awards program at the Whitford County Club in West Whiteland, which was able to be viewed virtually. In welcoming the guests, Guy Ciarrocchi, president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry said the chamber has hosted some live events in recent months, and many Zoom meetings. This year’s event, he said was the largest event since the pandemic began. About 100 people attended the in-person event.
The 2021 Female Business Leader of the Year was presented to R. Lorraine Bernotsky, executive vice president and provost at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
In accepting her award, Bernotsky said she was “humbled and grateful” to the Women Influencing Business committee for the “unexpected honor.”
“I am fortunate to live and work in a wonderful county filled with opportunity and incredible resources. I am passionate about higher education — and believe it’s the great equalizer. By that, I mean it is still the surest way to change someone’s life outcomes,” she said. “I am grateful every day I have gotten to make a career out of doing what I love — working in higher education to provide students with access and opportunities.”
She added that her job also gives her the chance “to encourage women faculty and staff, to realize their full potential and be change agents for the students they serve.”
The 2021 WIB Spotlight Award was presented to Reece Turner, owner of Reecies Soaps & Natural Products in Coatesville. Turner is a 13-year-old entrepreneur. Her experience began in 2017, when she was struggling with eczema and finding products to support her.
“We were looking for ways to soothe it but none of the products were helping as we expected them to. We decided to make our own,” she said. After doing research, she developed a bar of soap that helped her eczema. “We decided to sell it so people didn’t have to go through what I went through.”
She now has about 26 products which includes eight different varieties of soaps.
Turner, who turned 13 in May, told attendees at the breakfast that her goals are to have multiple brick and mortar stores and have a Reecies Soaps truck to take to events.
For information about Reecies Soaps visit Reeciessoaps.com.
Claire Mooney, president and CEO of Jennersville and Brandywine Hospitals, part of Tower Health, was the keynote speaker for the event.
Mooney told the attendees that in 2020, nearly 3 million women in the U.S. dropped out of the labor force — either by choice or because they lost their jobs.
“Everyone in this room has the ability to support our fellow women displaced from the workforce or unsure about rejoining the workforce,” she said.
She said as the economy recovers and jobs come back, schools re-open and health situations improve, women are returning to work.
“We are a long way from recovery,” she added.
She cited a report by McKinsey & Co. and Lean In — the sixth annual “Women in the Workplace 2020” study — which surveyed 317 companies employing 12 million people.
The study found that one in four women is considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to COVID-19.
Mooney said that statistic “leaves us at risk of losing women in leadership and future women leaders.”
Mooney said companies that make significant investment in building a more flexible and empathic workplace, can retain employees and create opportunity for women to succeed in the long-term.
“So I leave you with a little summer school homework — be a mentor, be a guide, be a sounding board to those around you. Reach out to a colleague today that might need human connection with your influence, your guidance, your mentorship and savvy,” she said.
In his closing remarks, Ciarrocchi reminded attendees that the chamber was created 30 years ago with a mission of helping the economy grow “by bringing people together from diverse backgrounds, diverse regions and diverse sectors of the economy.
He said over the last year-and-a-half, the chamber has faced a new challenge.
“And that was helping an economy that was at a standstill come back. We committed then we would not stop lifting our voices until every business was fully reopened and everyone was back to work,” he said. “We are almost there, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. but we’re not quite there. So our work is still going forward.”