Women in Leadership Roles Address Crowd at Ohio University Eastern
Whether they achieved success in realms of law, government, education, or business, those speaking during the Tuesday Women in Leadership event at Ohio University Eastern said they hope to continue progress toward equality in the workplace.
“The people of this valley are good people,” retired Belmont County Court of Common Pleas judge Jennifer Sargus said in delivering the keynote address. “And the leadership potential is so great it cannot be measured.”
Other speakers Tuesday included President and CEO of Belmont Aggregates Kelly Bettem; Diana Crutchfield, a lawyer with, Berry, Kessler, Crutchfield, Taylor & Gordon; Liz Hofreuter-Landini, head of school at Wheeling Country Day School; Leia Hunt, a senior at Indian Creek High School who is the founder of Leia’s Kids; and Denise Penz, executive director of wealth management at Home Savings Bank.
Sargus said that there was enough leadership in the room to “float a fleet of ships,” and that leadership seems to emerge from hardship and give people the tools they need to change the world around them. She added that leadership is not gender based.
When Sargus got a job with a law firm in 1981, the firm realized that because she was a resident of Ohio, she could not sit for the West Virginia Bar exam. Recognizing the Mountain State was discriminating against non-resident lawyers, Sargus sued the West Virginia Board of Bar Examiners. She prevailed, establishing that the Constitution prohibited discriminating against lawyers simply because they lived outside the state. This case became a precedent the U.S. Supreme Court cited in other cases around the country dealing with the same issue.
Bettem grew up in St. Clairsville, and is an OUE alumna. In 2016, Bettem and her husband decided to purchase a local business, and looked for someone who was able to run the day-to-day operations. At the urging of her husband, Bettem decided to give it a try, and is now President and CEO of Belmont Aggregates.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” Bettem told the audience. “You are your own greatest enemy, and your biggest ally.”
Crutchfield has been an attorney for 35 years, and has also taught women’s studies courses at West Liberty University. She said failure is sometimes a reality, but all that means is that you can’t be discouraged, and have the strength to get up and try again.
“If you’re lucky, you’re going to succeed,” she said. “If you’re not, you’ll have to work harder, but you’ll succeed too.”
Hunt was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer at a young age, and although treatment stopped the spread of the cancer, it left her unable to see in her left eye. Leia’s Kids was established in October 2017, and although a little new, Hunt is determined to help anyone she can.
“I love every moment of it,” she said. “I don’t do it for myself — I do it for the other kids.”
Penz joined the military right out of high school, serving two tours in the Navy. In a predominately male-dominated field, Penz said that she was never treated differently, helping build her confidence. She said a mentor of hers encouraged her to always walk into a room acting intelligent and confident, allowing her to help control the scenario.
“I always have my eye out for opportunity, and I think that if you do that it will find you,” she said.