Two months to go until the ATHENA Awards Luncheon at the Westin Convention Center on September 19, 2011!
SWSG Founder and President Lindsay Hyde will be the Keynote Speaker at the ATHENA Awards Luncheon in Pittsburgh! This award recognizes women who demonstrate excellence and creativity in their profession, provide valuable service to the community and serve as a mentor to other women. This year, an award will also be given to a young professional who exemplifies these traits.
The event is hosted by the Allegheny Conference and is led by two strong women: Chair Maris Bondi and Vice Chair (and SWSG Advisory Council member!) Beth Marcello! We recently caught up with these two strong women for some Q&A about the ATHENA Awards:
Q: Maris, what is the impact of the ATHENA Awards in our community?
A: The ATHENA Awards provide a way for us to properly recognize women in the Pittsburgh region that truly make a difference in our community, not only through what they accomplish in their chosen career paths, but also through what they do to help those in our community who are in need and how they help other women achieve their full leadership potential.  The ATHENA Award is different than any other award in the city because it has the focus on mentoring.  It’s important to make our community aware of all the great things that so many women are doing.  It also gives them a chance to be rewarded for their activities in the hopes that they continue to do what they do every day and encourage others to follow in that path.
Q: How did you get involved with ATHENA Awards?
A:  Originally, I became involved with the ATHENA Host Committee when my company, UPMC Health Plan, became a lead sponsor of the event.  My interest grew each year as I became more aware of what the ATHENA awards promotes for the women of our community and how important it is for our region.  In addition, getting to know and work with the women that have received the ATHENA award and the people who serve on the Host Committee make it a wonderful opportunity both personally and professionally.
Q: Beth, why do you think it is important to recognize women publicly?
A: Despite the tremendous achievements and general acceptance of women in leadership, women still face discrimination in the workplace. Women business owners still tell me that men often mistake them for administrative assistants when they answer the phone in their own place of business! And even when they’re amazingly successful, women often still suffer a personal crisis of confidence. So by recognizing successful women who are giving back and bringing other women up, the Athena awards inspire women to continue striving and remind both men and women of the essential role that women play in the economic health of our community.
Q: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?
This is the inaugural year for the Athena Young Professional award, which will recognize for the first time in Pittsburgh a woman under 35 who serves as a role model for other women. In connection with this award several Athena sponsors have graciously donated a few seats at their tables so college and high school men and women can attend the event and soak up all the inspiration that the nominees’ stories represent. Exposing the future generation of business leaders to successful women is critically important. Recently I read that mothers still do twice the housework and child rearing that men do, and even the next generation of males say they won’t sacrifice work for home. In addition, only 40% of women who step out of the workforce to become mothers ever return to full-time work. This means, according to the survey, that the next generation of girls will have even fewer female role models. So I’m very excited that through Athena we have an opportunity to demonstrate to other women, including mothers, that it’s not only achievable to be a successful business and community leader, but it’s enriching and fulfilling as well.
Maris Bondi is Senior Project Manager Public & Community Relations for UPMC Health Plan and Beth Marcello is Director of Women’s Business Development for PNC Bank.