SOMERSET, NJ - Hundreds of women and a handful of men gathered Friday at the Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, to find out the secret to unlocking the C-suite. 

"Does anyone here doubt for even one minute that gender differences in communication and leadership styles have a strong impact on the way that men and women succeed in the workplace – whether in the corporate world or in the nonprofit community," Sally Glick, Principal and Chief Growth Strategist, at Sobel & Co., LLC said. "I know you have heard this old refrain before – but today we are going to talk about how to change that tune."

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According to, C-Suite, or C-Level, is a widely-used slang term used to collectively refer to a corporation's most important senior executives. 

During the New Jersey Business and Industry Association's (NJBIA) "Women Business Leaders Forum" attendees networked, listened to lectures and broke into small groups to learn tactics to add to their overall strategy of breaking the glass ceiling.  

Michele Siekerka, President, and CEO of the NJBIA chose Somerset to hold the forum because "the NJBIA is a statewide organization, and we usually try to identify a location that would be convenient for people to come from all across the state, the last two years, we held this event in North Jersey, and we thought this year it would be important to bring it a little closer to Central Jersey and that is why we are here."

"The value of the women business leaders network is bringing women together in order to focus on hardcore leadership skills, build those skills and then get the women with those skills visibility so that they are ready for their entry into the C-suite or the boardroom," Siekerka said. 

Attendees gathered in small groups around the coference room for 25 minutes of "speed networking" after Siekerka gave her opening remarks, the hope was for all participants to make new connections with other professionals. 

Anne Evans Estabrook, Owner, and Chairman of the Elberon Development Group, as well as Chair of David O. Evans Inc., a property and construction management company, received the first-ever Caren Franzini Leadership Award. 

“Like Caren Franzini, Anne’s leadership has made a lasting impact on business leaders in New Jersey, especially women business leaders," Siekerka said. “We are proud to honor someone with such a long and impressive track record of stimulating professional growth through mentorship and encouragement while making her own important contributions to the New Jersey business and education communities.”

Estabrook is a member of the New Jersey Business Hall of Fame and was the first women to serve as chairman of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce. 

Franzini joined NJBIA’s Board of Trustees, which she served until her death on Jan. 25.

“We thank Michele Siekerka and NJBIA for creating this award honoring Caren’s legacy of leadership,” said John Franzini, Caren’s husband. “The award memorializes not only what Caren did in the field of economic development but how she did it – with unfailing passion and grace.

“And Anne Estabrook is a fitting first recipient. She has long been a leader in the business community in New Jersey and she and Caren had a warm personal and professional relationship that spanned more than two decades.”

After the awards ceremony attendees broke into three different sessions moderated and paneled by statewide business leaders. 

Session 1: The Non-Profit Board

Moderator: Sally Glick, Principal & Chief Growth Strategist, Sobel & Co.

  • Amy Klein, Executive Director, Volunteer Connect
  • Amy B. Mansue, President, Southern Region, RWJBarnabas Health
  • Sherise D. Ritter, CPA, The Mercadien Group

Session 2: Say It with Style 

Moderator: Jill Myra, New Jersey 101.5, Townsquare Media

  • John Hardiman, Public Affairs Director, NJM Insurance Group
  • Krishna Powell, President, HR 4 Your Small Biz, LLC
  • Anita Zinsmeister, President, Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern NJ

Session 3: Getting to the Win/Win

Moderator: Angelo Mendola, Chief Operating Officer, Priority Payments

  • Nancy Glick, MBA, Chief Operating Officer, Broker, Newmark Associates
  • Angela Harrington, Assistance Vice President, Communications and
  • External Relations, Berkeley College
  • Christine A. Stearns, Esq., Director, Government Affairs, Gibbons PC
  • Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss, Esq., Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, P.C.

At the conclusion of the breakout sessions, attendees gathered for a panel titled "Unlocking the C-Suite" moderated by Emmy Award-winning Anchor, Steve Adubato, Ph.D. Adubato can be seen on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) & NJTV (PBS), and he recently authored, “Lessons in Leadership.”

The panel was comprised of four C-Suite level executives, Michellene Davis, Esq., Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs RWJBarnabas Health, Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, Vice President, Stakeholder Relations and Customer PAC Support, Coca-Cola North America, Vince Maione, President- Atlantic Region, Atlantic City Electric, and Kevin Cummings, President, CEO of Investors Bank.

The leaders shared their personal experiences and gave attendees ideas on how to raise their profile and break into the C-Suite.

New York Times best-selling author, noted television personality and inspirational speaker Chef Jeff Henderson gave the closing keynote speech. 

Henderson, whose story has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show and Oprah’s Life Class discussed how he climbed the ladder of success. He went from "cooking cocaine to cooking Foie Gras."

Event partners include Elberon Development Group, Executive Women of New Jersey, Gibbons PC, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Investors Bank, Johnson & Johnson, Jackson Lewis P.C., New Jersey Resources, New Jersey Manufacturers Group, Newark Regional Business Partnership, RWJ-Barnabas, Verizon-NJ Shares.

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