Photos by David Michael Howarth 


Don’t miss our 2017 Women’s Empowerment Series! Click here to find out more about this year’s panelists and take advantage of early bird pricing.


Last month, nearly 200 women gathered for the final panel of our successful Women’s Empowerment Series. Five women at the top of their careers shared their personal stories and hard-earned insight on the evening’s topic, “Women in Leadership: Making Your Mark in Today’s World.”


Following the frank and interesting discussion, panelist Linda Rohrer announced that her foundation, the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation, had approved a $250,000 grant for The Food Bank of South Jersey, led by fellow panelist Val Traore. It was an amazing moment of women helping women that we’ll never forget – and the perfect way to end our series.


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Linda Rohrer
President, Rohrer & Sayers Real Estate

Stephanie Fendrick
Senior Vice President, Virtua

Val Traore
President/CEO, The Food Bank of South Jersey

Dr. Catherine Piccoli
Women’s Imaging Specialist, South Jersey Radiology Associates

Marianne Aleardi
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, SJ Magazine



On time management…

I write down notes every day – what I want to accomplish and what I haven’t accomplished. I get the biggest joy out of crossing off something I’ve completed. And if I get it done the day before I’m supposed to get it done, I get a glass of wine.  –Linda Rohrer


I’m very focused when I’m at work, so a lot of my day is scheduled. I also know what I’m looking to accomplish in a week, down to the day. I had a boss who taught me to take out a Post-it Note in the morning and write down two priorities for the day. If I have free time, I can look at that Post-it and automatically focus on what I’m going to get done.  –Stephanie Fendrick


I hate to see staff hang out at work. At 4:30, 5 o’clock, I go office to office and tell employees, “Shut it down. Shut it down, and get out of here.” The goal is to not overwork our employees. We want them to have a good personal life, because we believe happy employees are productive employees.  –Val Traore


On being a leader…

Rising up in leadership as a woman in nonprofit has been easier for me than being an African-American trying to rise in leadership. Talk about being a double minority and having double challenges. That’s been the struggle for me – trying to prove I can run a department or an organization just as well as someone else, perhaps even better.

Sometimes it was being in the right place at the right time and doing my job at 200 percent. It’s not: be as good as, it’s be better. You must make sure you have all the tools in your toolkit that make you competitive. –Val Traore


On guilt…

There’s guilt no matter what age you are, whether you’re a parent or a grandparent. You want to do what’s best for your child. That doesn’t go away – the guilt doesn’t go away.  –Linda Rohrer


There’s always guilt, because you look at your child and feel an enormous amount of responsibility for their formative years.  –Val Traore


I didn’t have any guilt, even when I decided to go back to work. I thought I would be better if I worked. And if I’m better, my kids are better. There have been situations where I’ve made choices I felt guilty about, but I haven’t felt guilty about the choice to work.  –Stephanie Fendrick


Guilt happens all the time. My kids always had games or things going on at school that I couldn’t go to. I always felt really bad about that. But I don’t think my children thought much about it at all. Maybe they just didn’t miss me, but it was normal for them.  –Catherine Piccoli



On family time…

As a family, we always sat down to dinner together. I think that was the best thing we did. It was rare that somebody wasn’t at the dinner table. It was a late dinner usually, sometime between 7 and 8 o’clock. I would rush home, and I would make dinner. But we all sat down together. It just happened naturally.  –Catherine Piccoli


I was fortunate in that my mother lived with us. If I had meetings in the evening, I knew my mother was there and could get my daughter to sleep. They loved one another. Occasionally I had babysitters, but my mother was there a majority of the time, and it was very comforting to me.  –Linda Rohrer


On addressing sexism in the workplace…

As a leader of an organization, I must make sure I have created a very comfortable and safe work environment for every employee. If I see that the women in my organization are being mistreated or being disrespectful, it’s my job to cut that out and to address that – and I do.  –Val Traore


I would go on appointments, and people would say, “Instead of a commission, how about I take you out to dinner?” And I would say, “Does it look like I eat a lot?” Or they’d say, “It’s 5 o’clock; I’m really thirsty. Do you want to get a drink?” And I’d say, “No, I have to go home to my daughter.” There was a lot of that going on, and I just had to have the right answers at the right time.  –Linda Rohrer



On finding fulfillment…

I have people say to me all the time, “What do you want your next job to be? What else do you want to do?” My honest answer is I want to keep learning and growing, and that has always been my answer. Whatever position I have had, if I’m learning and growing and stimulated and I feel like I’m contributing, that’s success for me. That feels very fulfilling for me.  –Stephanie Fendrick


I’m now trying to reimagine life and define success as “How do I personally feel about myself?” instead of trying to fill in some “type” that I need to be. That’s been a big struggle for me.  –Val Traore


I feel like I’m finally finding myself, because I have the time to do it. I now get to do the things I wanted to do when my kids were growing up but couldn’t.  –Catherine Piccoli



Advice to young women…

Talk with many people. Get second opinions. I think it’s crucial when you’re making decisions. I like to get second and third opinions, to talk to someone else – especially if you’re 18. But don’t talk to somebody who’s 18; talk to somebody who’s older and has been there, done that.  –Linda Rohrer


In all that you search for, try to search for your authentic self. Be true to that.  –Val Traore


Just relax. Enjoy your life, and enjoy the people around you.  –Catherine Piccoli


I have a 20-year-old who is very much like me. The advice I give to her is to relax a little bit. I try to tell her it’s all going to be OK. Worry less, enjoy more.  –Stephanie Fendrick



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