Feature: 4th Annual W.I.L.D. Conference


From the president of a regional architectural firm to the head of a local manufacturer, there are plenty of examples of women who truly “mean business” in today’s competitive business world.

According to recent statistics, women-led businesses account for $3 trillion of the U.S. economy and provide for one in six jobs. Research also indicates that these employers will create more than 5 million new jobs in the United States over the next seven years, more than half of all emerging new small-business jobs.

“This growing business segment is one of the many reasons that on Friday, March 25, an estimated 600 professionals and entrepreneurial minded women, from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and as far away as Indiana, will attend Gannon University Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) fourth annual Women in Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.) Conference at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, Pennsylvania. “The event is a professional development conference, as well as a celebration and recognition of the national entrepreneurial trend and growth of women-led businesses.

W.I.L.D. Conference Chair Donna Zariczny, president of Inscale Architects in Warren, Pennsylvania, has been a licensed architect for more than 20 years, working on such projects as the Chautauqua Suites and Expo Center in Mayville, New York, and Trip Hammer Forge in Rochester. She has been a frequent figure at the W.I.L.D. conference every year since it began and is motivated by the support it offers.

In addition to networking and educational opportunities, “this year’s conference is centering around you being the resource of your job, your life and your destiny,” she explains. “I’ll be looking to see how I can better fit into my work life, family life and extracurricular activities, whether it’s volunteering for an organization or just helping out with the kids, because today we’re all multitasking.”

W.I.L.D. Committee Member Robin Scheppner, vice president and managing owner of Erie-based manufacturer American Tinning & Galvanizing, views the conference as an opportunity for participants to both learn from their peers and to mentor others.

“I have traditionally worked in a lot of unique work environments for women, so any time there is a chance to mentor women and empower women to reach their true potential and encourage them to step up, I’m all for it,” she states. “I think women can be excellent, very efficient, capable leaders in any kind of business … and I’ll support any woman who wants to get out there.”

Debra L. Steiner, director of the Gannon University SBDC that serves northwest Pennsylvania, has founded and led the W.I.L.D. conference since 2008. Steiner believes that this educational event has been an instrumental resource for women business owners and professionals in building and accomplishing their business goals. A variety of entrepreneurs have become annual attendees and volunteers from the health care, manufacturing, education, technology, retail and service industries.

“The W.I.L.D. Conference is about teaching other skill sets, techniques, and tactics to incorporate in their workplace,” notes Steiner. “It’s also the stories that they these professionals share to feel like they are not alone — there is a commonality, no matter what state, what industry or how big their business is.”

Learn more about the Women in Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.) Conference on March 25 in Erie and why an estimated 600 professionals and entrepreneurial-minded women will be attending this fourth annual event, designed as both a professional development conference, and a celebration and recognition of the growth of women businesses in the March 2011 edition of the Business Magazine.