SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 100 women attended a networking event Wednesday centered on informing attendees about programs aimed at training women about business leadership skills.

Women for Economic and Leadership Development, a nonprofit based out of Columbus, Ohio, held the event, which included remarks from U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Frances Henry, Central Ohio market president for Fifth Third Bank.

WELD President and CEO Barb Smoot said the organization focuses on developing leadership through local and national initiatives.

“Part of the reason we are here is to partner with the women of Charleston to bring some of the programs to this community that other chapters have in locations like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus and Tulsa,” she said.

“This are programs that focus on core leadership competencies such as personal brand, personal savvy, building strong teams and crucial conversations, and then some around building strategic networks.”

According to Smoot, WELD also holds corporate board training exercises and assists members in getting onto board of directors. A study by Deloitte and The Alliance for Board Diversity found around 20 percent of board seats on Fortune 500 companies are filled by women in 2016, an all-time high.

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U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Capito recalled learning about WELD through her daughter-in-law, Katherine, who is an attorney in Charleston.

“There is a great network of young women, entrepreneurs and professionals in the region,” she said. “When I heard she was doing this, I said I think I want to come.”

Smoot said women face challenges balancing their professional and personal lives, and they often put their personal needs last in order to help co-workers and their families.

“They don’t have or make the time to invest in their own leadership development,” she added. “Being a member of WELD and participating in WELD gives you guilt-free permission to take that time and invest in your leadership development. You know the story that if you take care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of those who surround you.”

Capito added there is a hunger among women to understand how to better manage one’s business and personal goals.

“I’ve been lucky enough to serve with some pretty powerful women,” she noted. “I think generally speaking we approach problem-solving differently. We multi-task better than men do because we have so many things in our lives, whether it’s family or professional, that we’re dealing with every day.”

When Capito began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001, there were 75 women serving in Congress. In the current 115th Congress, 109 of the 535 lawmakers are female.

“It’s slow, but it’s progressing,” she said.

Smoot said WELD will hear feedback from the event and use the comments to assist in bringing programs to the area.

“This isn’t WELD coming from national saying, ‘You are going to do this,'” she said. “This is something we are willing to support.”

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