Women were supporting women at the sixth annual Lead Forward women’s conference and business expo Friday.
The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce hosted the event at Central Alabama Community College, where Katie Britt, the first female president of the Business Council of Alabama, was the keynote speaker.
Britt talked about lessons from her life and supporting other women. Britt worked for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) in various roles and also worked as a lawyer.
Britt said she learned not to prejudge people when her husband, Wesley Britt, played as an offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and she became a part of the Patriots wives’ club.
“They were fierce in not only their support of their family but in the support of community and building out relationships that mattered and impacted those people’s lives who couldn’t impact their own,” Britt said. “That is I think a good message for all of us to take in is don’t look at anybody and think you know their story because you don’t.”
Britt said everyone has peaks and valleys in their lives and other’s high points may be seen, but not their struggles. She talked about how her family had lost their home to a tornado a few years ago, how the community supported them and that one of the Patriots wives, Bianca Wilfork, helped her without asking.
“I will never forget those people who didn’t ask but just did,” Britt said. “(Wilfork) just showed up and she knew. I didn’t have car seats. I didn’t have any of that. Boom, she got it all there within two days.”
Britt said women need to look out for each other and help the next generation be successful.
“We’ve got to look ahead at those people and allow them to inspire us,” Britt said. “I think we need to look around at each other … And then look behind you too. I think it is so important, particularly as women that we are not only ourselves but we mentor those behind us as well.”
Britt told the audience women need to be direct, show grace, find their voices and not be afraid.
“Don’t step on each other to get ahead,” Britt said. “Women have a tendency to do it. Let me tell you ladies, that’s a bad look and nobody who steps on someone to get ahead, that stuff goes full circle. That person will fall. That’s unsustainable. Get somewhere on merit not on meanness.”
After Britt’s speech, the chamber announced Karen Kison, the wellness and recreation director of Russell Lands, as woman of the year.
“I moved here 21 years ago, and y’all loved me and welcomed me in,” Kison said. “And y’all convinced me this is where I wanted to make my home and I did. I met my husband and I have a child here in the school system and it is just absolutely amazing. I don’t think I’m different from most of y’all out there. I love people, I love life and I love serving everybody.”
Kim Dunn, the chamber’s director of marketing and special events, said about 370 women attended the conference and business expo.
“It’s a great opportunity to recognize the ladies,” Dunn said. “We get up and go to work every day and we raise our family. (It’s an)opportunity to encourage us to keep going. We’ve had ladies from this conference who have started their own business or branched out on their own from the current business they’re in. Other groups have been started (as have) other nonprofits and things like that.”
At the expo, women could get professional headshots. About a dozen tables from local businesses and groups attended, such as Brown Nursing and Rehab and Adelia M. Russell Library.