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June 18, 2014

Sharing the wisdom: Former politician gives advice to businesswomen in Jeffersonville

Anne Northup spoke Tuesday at One Southern Indiana’s Pearls of Wisdom event

JEFFERSONVILLE — Raising six children in Louisville while working for the Kentucky General Assembly in Frankfort is not an easy task. That’s why former Congresswoman Anne Northup made sure she had a support team to help keeps at home running smoothly.

“At times when your career is very demanding and you need to be there, do everything you can to in a sense replace yourself or back up the support you have so that you are not taken out by family emergencies,” said Northup, who spent a decade in the Statehouse and another 10 in the U.S. House of Representatives. “There will always be family emergencies. There will always be a child that needs somebody.”

Balancing motherhood and a career was one of the many topics of discussion Northup presented Tuesday morning at one of One Southern Indiana’s Pearls of Wisdom event, a series of conferences focusing on women in business.

Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of 1si, said inviting guest speakers helps guide women in Southern Indiana in their professional lives.

“As we can start telling this complete story, it really does provide inspiration for many of the other women who are facing the same things day in, day out,” Dant Chesser said.

Northup’s talk at Kye’s II was followed by multiple roundtable discussions among the approximately 100 people in attendance, and Dant Chesser said Pearls of Wisdom fosters important dialogue.

“Most business environments don’t give women an opportunity to share all of the aspects of the balance of work, career and family,” she said. “So it’s nice to give us an opportunity to come together and talk about that because it’s very important to understand that we’re not blazing a trail that no one else has been through. We can learn from each other.”

Another pearl of wisdom that Northup offered Tuesday was remaining headstrong and fearless in the face of challenges.

She said she wanted to run for the Kentucky General Assembly seat held by Fred Cowan when he ran for attorney general in 1987. As soon as Cowan won the primary election and his seat became vacant, Northup filed for the election and won — joining an assembly that only had three women out of 138 seats at the time.

“Don’t be afraid to take a chance, to challenge yourself, to reach for a position that you’re qualified for that maybe has not been a traditional women’s job,” she said. “ ... Mostly in those days, men stood around and decided who should run for a particular seat.”

She said she has learned a lot about women’s natural behavior in taking leadership positions, remembering back on her days as a parent-teacher association board member.

“I noticed that all the women’s organization that I was a member of, there were very few head-to-head contests,” she said. “... Women tended to more often wait to be invited.”

Instead, she encouraged the audience to do the opposite.

“Don’t be afraid to reach for a higher rung and to prepare for it and figure out a strategy for it,” she said.

Many of the businesswomen at the event said they were inspired by Northup’s talk.

Renee Brooking, from True Colors Tanning Salon, said she can’t imagine raising six kids and accomplishing what the former congresswoman did.

“The biggest thing that I took from her is that ... as long as you have the passion and you accept the challenge, you can do anything,” Brooking said.

Pamela Bennett Martin, of Bennett and Bennett Insurance, said she’s glad there are more female mentors in the business community than there were when she was entering her field.

“There weren’t any women that were willing to step into these kinds of roles,” Martin said.

She said she admires Northup’s willingness to take risks despite being a minority in the political world.

“Once she recognized that she felt like she could make a difference, she stepped up to the plate and did it,” Martin said. “A lot of people sometimes would still continue not to take that next step.”

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