ATIA’s Women in Leadership Conference pushes for more Female Power and Engagement

The 6th annual conference was a sold-out event, starring a well-dressed crowd of mostly power women in fabulous shoes, and a few forward-thinking men who graced the ballroom at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino with their presence.

We received a warm welcome by Michelle De Groot and heard a five-star address by Ronnie van Trigt, saying all the right things in the right tone, but he shared the limelight with two charismatic women, Evelyn Wever Croes and Kelly Ann Tomblin, so while his address was important, my focus was on them.

The MinPres is not a flamboyant speaker, and not a typical politician. So now that I stated what she isn’t, I have to say that she’s easy to listen to, she sounds genuine and un-rehearsed, and she is especially appealing away from prepared materials when she is herself; she reveals a self-deprecating sense of humor and warm compassion.

What she said was also important.

She explained the significance of women’s roles as peace makers, negotiators, bridge builders, and conflict solvers. She urged more women in the audience to join politics, not to leave education and healthcare in the exclusive hands of men. She stated it was the responsible thing to do, with tangible gains for our democracy, to get involved, and be proactive, despite the considerable personal price tag.

She then spoke at length about the need to encourage more women to pick new career paths, in the STEM academic direction — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and asked the members of the audience to encourage the young women in their lives to close the gender gap in the STEM demographics by urging young women to pick non-traditional careers.

An entire campaign will be rolled around it in an effort to bring women into STEM fields.

The MinPres then talked about her own equilibrium and her need to balance Family, Spirituality, Work and Service to the community, her four foundation pillars, and drew considerable laughs when she emulated a flight attendant: In the event of cabin pressure loss etc. the oxygen masks will drop. Her well-taken point was that women should learn to take care of themselves first, in order to in turn be of service to their environment.

She took some questions from the audience and talked well about the dignity of stray dogs, she shared about raising three kids, and having a grandson, experiencing immense grief at a loss of a brother, and the comments she gets about her legendary uncle and how much she is or isn’t like him; she talked about personal changes she made in order to become more approachable as the MinPres of this country, and even though Elmar NV fell apart, and the electricity and sound went on and off, it was an excellent event, and ATIA should be commended for making it happen.

Keynote speaker Kelly Ann Tomblin was a roller coaster of information and emotions and was very well suited to speak in Aruba in front of that specific female audience, because she too came from an obscure little place and made it big in the corporate world.

If anything, I will take her THINK BIG, with me, we often think too small. Otherwise I walked out considerably happier than how I was when I walked in. Tomblin made us pledged to be true to ourselves, have a higher purpose, use our imagination, navigate well, gain knowledge, tap into our innate knowingness, seek novelty and mostly step on it, expedite, Just Do It.

Women in innovation, getting it done, gave us plenty to think about, and a stylish red wrist wrap to remind us to be brave.  

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August 25, 2018
Rona Coster