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‘Empowerment’ leads Chamber discussion on women in leadership

LAPLACE — Women shouldn’t let fear deter them from pursuing career opportunities and taking leadership roles.

That was the takeaway from panel discussion on Women in Leadership Thursday at Belle Terre Country Club in LaPlace.

Panelists included Raj Pannu, CEO of Pannu Enterprises, which operates seven Subway restaurants in the River Region and New Orleans area; Rhonda Hotard, CEO of Louisiana Federal Credit Union; and Rodney Greenup, president of Greenup Industries, a multi-state, multi-service organization that provides industrial maintenance, land surveying and more.

The discussion, part of the River Region Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly general membership meeting, was the brainchild of moderators Katie Klibert, of Reserve Telecommunications, and Aspen Murphy, of Marathon Petroleum Company.

Klibert and Murphy also serve on the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

Female leaders figure heavily in all three of the companies represented, with Louisiana Federal Credit Union boasting an all-female executive team.

River Region Chamber of Commerce members gathered Sept. 13 to hear a panel discussion on women in leadership. From left are 2018 Chamber Board Chair Kim B. Bourgeois, moderator Aspen Murphy, panelists Raj Pannu, Rodney Greenup and Rhonda Hotard, and moderator Katie Klibert.

Topics ranged from the perception of strong female leaders in the workplace, to the #metoo movement, work-life balance and the importance of mentorship.

Hotard, a military veteran who served as an electrician, said she started her career needing to show that she could do the job in more male-dominated fields.

“We had to work a lot harder to prove ourselves,” she said. “I say let your execution, performance and results be your testimony.”

The panelists agreed that fear of failure sometimes holds entrepreneurs back, regardless of gender. But their advice was that failure is inevitable along the journey. It’s OK to fail but fail fast and keep going.

“You have the power to make the change – use it, don’t abuse it,” Pannu said. “We need to understand that we are all equal. Use your knowledge to become more productive.”

Greenup also pointed out that women businesses are currently growing at a faster rate in all sectors.

“At some point, if you want to grow, you have to decide to get out there,” he said. “Don’t be embarrassed or afraid – you can stand up at the head of the room and be in charge.”

“With the advent of #metoo and women’s issues continuing to represent a huge part of national discourse, we thought hosting a wide-ranging discussion on this topic would serve our membership well,” 2018 Chamber Board Chair Kim B. Bourgeois said. “One of our top priorities is to be responsive to the needs of our members with regard to current business topics.”

Anyone interested in starting their own business is encouraged to contact the River Region Chamber of Commerce at 985-359-9777 or riverregionchamber.org. The Chamber offers resources for entrepreneurs, including workshops, ribbon cuttings and more.