Photography by Michael David 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.


The first night of SJ Magazine’s Women’s Empowerment Series was an enormous success. Nearly 150 women gathered at The Mansion for an hour of networking (and delicious food) before sitting down to enjoy a conversation among six highly successful SJ women. The first in a three-part series, the evening’s topic was “Achieving Success: How to get to the top and what it’s like when you get there.”



JoAnne Epps
Dean, Temple University Beasley School of Law

Mindy Holman
Chairman, Holman Automotive

Elizabeth Ryan
President/CEO, New Jersey Hospital Association

State Senator Diane Allen

Linda Rohrer
President, Rohrer & Sayers Real Estate

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


audience_DSC6965On opportunities…

All of us are presented with opportunities every single day. Some people recognize them, and some don’t. Some people seize them, and some don’t. Some people see their lives evolving. If you say, “This is where I’m going to be in five or 10 years,” you’re going to let a lot of opportunities fall by the wayside. As each opportunity comes, let your life unfold.  –  Sen. Diane Allen

There were wonderful people in my life who lit a step right in front of me, so I took one step. And then somebody else lit another step right in front of me, and I took that. I have been the beneficiary of others who have said, “Keep walking.”  –  JoAnne Epps


2-panelists_DSC6893On emotions in business…

You’ve got to separate your feelings from the rational side. It’s hard, like when you have to fire someone you really like. That can be terrible. But you have to think about the business as a whole. You’ve got all these other people involved in the business, and if somebody’s not doing their job, it’s not fair for all these other people. It helps to look at the whole and realize no matter how hard that decision might be, if it’s right for the majority, it’s what you have to do.  –  Mindy Holman

Business is business. I have to set priorities in business. Whether it’s banking or the charitable trust or Rowan or real estate, I’m always focused on what is best for that entity. You have to train yourself to think that way.  –  Linda Rohrer


On being a woman in the workplace…

Like it or not, we’re seen as women leaders – not just leaders. That puts a special burden on us, but it’s one that is solvable.  –  JoAnne Epps

I have a support system of friends from a group of state hospital execs across the country who I will call on both personally and professionally. I gravitate to the women, and I’ll call them and say, “Did you ever have this happen? What did you do?” Relationships in business are key.  –  Elizabeth Ryan

There’s this wonderful thing called the “Old Boys Network.” It works very well, and I’m not going to tell you it’s a bad thing. It’s a great thing if you’re an old boy.

When I work across the aisle, I’ll often choose to work with another woman, because there’s a good chance we can quietly get things done. If we can have lots of relationships with other women – and clearly we need them with men, as well – but if we can really work on those relationships with other women, it can be a great help to ourselves and to everyone around us.  –  Diane Allen


On hard work…

I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any question I didn’t know the answer to. So I made sure I worked hard.  –  Mindy Holman

I spent extra time studying and reviewing and documenting things so I didn’t look stupid or look like the blonde bombshell. You have to know what you’re doing.  –  Linda Rohrer


2-panelists_DSC6976On sexism…

About 10 years ago, I was out to dinner, and I’m sitting next to an institutional colleague. All of a sudden, his hand is on my thigh. So I’m trying to figure out what to do about it.

I move over, and he slides his chair over. So I started backing away from the table. At one point, my dinner was about three feet away from me. I’m almost in the other room! I was trying not to make a big scene; this was an important alum.

I share this with all of you because even these many years later, I don’t know that I handled it properly. I’ve asked some of my friends, and we’ve bantered back and forth, but there’s no right answer.

I do think that sometimes the choices we face aren’t always easy. It annoys me so much – I just don’t think women are feeling up all the guys. I don’t think they have to confront the many things we have to confront, so it adds to the challenge.  –  JoAnne Epps

I’ve dealt with sexism over and over again. I still do; it’s just one of the realities of life, and because it’s a reality, I don’t go and curl up in a little ball in the corner when it happens. I just keep moving forward. Youhave to power through, and try to make it better for the next wave coming along.  –  Sen. Diane Allen

When I first started in commercial real estate, it was male-dominated. I went to a professional association meeting, and it was all men there. I went with a salesperson from the office, Glen. The men said, “Oh, Glen, did you bring your secretary?” So I walked in and I didn’t say anything to anybody, I just did my thing. Two years later, I was elected president of the organization.  –  Linda Rohrer


On confidence…

My mom gave me the best advice ever. It was early on, and I was going to dealer meetings where it would be all men. I was so nervous, and she said, “You walk in there and you put your chin up, you put your shoulders back, and walk in like you own the place.” And I did that. Did I feel it inside? I did not. But then I went to another meeting and I did it again, and it was better. Then I did it again and again and again. Confidence is not something you earn; it is something you practice.  –  Mindy Holman


audience_DSC7068On joining the family business…

My father’s way of teaching me about real estate was to throw me into the fire and see if I would come out alive. He did it all through my life, and I accepted the challenge. That’s how I learned. Of course I cursed him most of the time.

It took me years to understand why he gave me those challenges. But the key is to accept the challenge. If you walk away, you’re not learning.  –  Linda Rohrer

My dad – both my parents really – never talked about the business. I think they wanted to make sure we didn’t feel pressured. I never really considered it. I went to college and got a teaching degree. I taught a little bit, got my master’s in psychology and applied for a doctoral program. I got wait-listed. So my dad said to me, “You’re going to be the owner of this business someday. I want you to do what makes you happy, but I want you to learn about the business.” So I thought: “Well, I’ll move home for one year, learn about the business and then go get my doctorate.” That was 29 years ago.  –  Mindy Holman


On accepting help…

I had help along the way. Before I had this position, I had heard my predecessor was making changes. I had just had my son and was still in the hospital. I had a morphine drip going into my arm. But I called my predecessor and asked if he would consider me for the job. I still blame my position on that morphine drip.  –  Elizabeth Ryan

Women aren’t very good at accepting help often. They’re used to taking care of everybody else, making sure everything gets done. I’m not great at accepting help, but I’m getting better. I realize – first of all – that I need it. But also it’s a gift for someone to feel they’ve done something good for you. I try and think of that when someone offers me help.  –  Mindy Holman

I think sometimes we, as women, don’t recognize when people are actually reaching out. There has to be a mindset that when there is a helping hand, you take advantage of it.  –  Diane Allen


marianne_DSC7087What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Don’t worry about what’s going to happen with your life. Seize every opportunity; move forward and it will be a great life.  –  Sen. Diane Allen

Relax and enjoy things along the way. I tend to worry and obsess about things, and maybe that’s part of what has made me succeed. But I think I could have stopped along the way and enjoyed it more.  –  Elizabeth Ryan

You don’t have to have it figured out. I was thinking about that, and I realized that’s the same advice I would give to my 54-year-old self.  –  Mindy Holman

Dream. Imagine you’re actually like the guys and you just might be running things one day.  –  JoAnne Epps

Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Be true to yourself. If you really believe in something, don’t change your beliefs because someone else has swayed it.

But always be true to yourself.  –  Linda Rohrer

November 2015
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