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Celebrating strength, resilience, and support with our community’s women leaders


Those gathered at the White River Conference Center on March 10 were there to honor the 2022 recipients of the ATHENA and Rising Star awards. But the event was more than just the celebration of two outstanding individuals; it was a celebration of women’s strength and resilience in our community – and the importance of supporting and recognizing each other.

This year’s recipient of the Virginia Fry Rising Star Award was efactory Director Rachel Anderson. Rachel talked about the example set by Virginia, a legendary beacon in the world of law and in the Springfield community.

She talked about how support from United WE and its founder, Wendy Doyle – the keynote speaker for the day’s event – helped her when she co-founded Rosie, a network of advocacy and mentorship, business and professional development and board training for women.

And she talked about how support from others helped her in her professional journey.

“It’s easy to not do anything for fear of not doing it right,” she said. “But experiences, opportunities and people supporting me directly led to why I believed I could – and why I believe I can.”

Attendees heard Wendy talk about the work her organization is doing to tackle barriers to women’s professional and personal growth. Her organization has made trips around Missouri to hear from women about what keeps them from success and growth – issues like inadequate access to affordable childcare and lack of representation in positions of authority.

“I hear stories of perseverance, strength and resilience from so many women who are facing challenges daily in our society and our economy,” she said. “These stories are what drive me to advocate for women whose voices are not being heard.”

And attendees heard from this year’s ATHENA Award recipient: Crista Hogan, the executive director of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association – a woman that 2019 recipient Morey Mechlin called “a narwhal; an awesomely unique combination of genes that will never happen again.”

For her part, Crista said she greatly admires the goddess Athena, and not just because of her power but also because of her flaws.

“She’s mighty, and she is a hot mess,” she said. “And I can relate. I am not here because I am either mighty or flawed. I’m here because I am both. It’s the lessons learned and humility earned that have made me mighty.”

She talked about the need to destigmatize mental illness in our society. “We must embrace mental health as we do physical health,” she said. “I am proud to be a patient of Burrell, and I am proud for what they are doing in this community.”

And Crista said our community – and our world – need more women leaders. And she encouraged the women in the room to step forward and take the reins.

“Stick with it. Be mighty. Be flawed. And when you are, don’t let guilt and shame shrink you,” she said. “We all have skeletons in our closet and embarrassing moments. And I am here to say those are the things that make you more interesting and people will like you better because of it. Don’t make yourself small.”

Thank you to the sponsors of this year's event!

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