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Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, 2021 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn supports Latina entrepreneurs at 2021 WEES 

Latinas in Business is honored to welcome Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn as a guest speaker at tonight’s 2020 – 2021 Latina Leaders Awards Ceremony as part of the THRIVE! 2021 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit. 

Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, 2021 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit

Assemblywoman, Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn

Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn is the Assemblymember and State Committee Woman/District Leader for New York State’s 42nd Assembly District representing Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood and Ditmas Park in Brooklyn. She is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs), which serves to promote economic diversity in New York State.

A champion for small minority and women owned businesses

Assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn is an accomplished leader, a former Wall Street banker, engineer and small business owner who has leveraged her experience in the free market to push public-private partnership initiatives across the state. She has sponsored legislation in the Assembly which reauthorized the MWBE program for five more years under article 15-A; raised the personal net worth cap for MWBE applicants from $3.5 million to $15 million, making more businesses eligible for the MWBE program; increased discretionary purchasing thresholds from $200,000 to $500,000; and created mentorship/workforce development programs as well as a pilot program that expands contracting opportunities for small/MWBE businesses with a total value of up to $20 million. Bichotte Hermelyn has established relationships with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS), Dept. of Design and Construction (DDC), School Construction Authority (SCA) and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY); and all have set MWBE hiring goals. 

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, surrounded by fellow Assemblymembers and members of the Women’s Builders Council, speaks about MWBE legislation and opportunities that exist for women. December 6, 2017 (Image source)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she championed bills to jump start the economy and improve equity for minority and women-owned small business owners. Bichotte Hermelyn hosted a webinar and participated in several panels with MWBE stakeholders to help them navigate the Coronavirus crisis and access resources, including grants and loans, and helped with strategies to reduce the spread of the virus. She provides annually, a platform that promotes networking, education, and resources for existing or potential MWBEs through a series of workshops at the National Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Conference. Under her leadership, the number of certified MWBE firms in New York State has more than doubled. The state has also set a goal of utilizing MWBEs for 30% of all state contracts, the highest rate in the nation. 

Her lifelong commitment to public service

Assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn is also incredibly committed to public service. Since her election in 2010 as District Leader, she has used her position to facilitate and sponsor a number of community events in Flatbush, such as the first voter’s forum, which promoted fair elections, voters rights and voting demonstrations with the Board of Elections; the largest candidate forum in Brooklyn; annual senior luncheons; safe streets initiatives; and the largest Brooklyn funding forum to help non-profits learn how to access government funding.

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn and other community members gather together for a food distribution at the Flatbush Garden Community Center, June 12, 2020. (Image source)

Her advocacy centers on providing resources on affordable housing and home ownership, financial literacy of her communities, public safety initiatives and better relationships with law enforcement, affordable healthcare, high-quality public and private education, and economic development, especially for individuals seeking to open small businesses. She has lobbied in New York City, Albany and Washington as a District Leader for affordable housing and healthcare, against cuts for special education programs, an increase in the minimum wage, and growth in the small businesses and tech sector.

Now in her fourth term, it is Bichotte Hermelyn’s mission to continue to help those underrepresented and underserved in the business world recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, gain access to capital, access mentorship programs and business networks, and get opportunities to develop their business skills.

2021 WEES

Last chance to REGISTER for today’s must-attend event for all entrepreneurs, business owners, and career oriented professionals. Get the tools you need to THRIVE! post-pandemic.

Professionally, Assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn has worked in a number of different capacities such as a New York Math teacher in the public school education system; an engineer in the telecommunications industry where she traveled to Japan and China on assignments; and an investment banker in the financial services industry structuring corporate finance deals. Assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn was an MIT Fellow: Mel King Co-Lab Project. She earned and holds an MBA from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, an MS in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, a BS in Electrical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo, a BS in Mathematics in Secondary Education and a BT in Electrical Engineering both from Buffalo State College.

women in charge

Women in Charge: An ongoing human quest for equity

Pilar Avila and Ashley Hayes of Renovad discuss the role of women in leadership throughout history and today in the ongoing human quest for equity. 

As we organize our upcoming Renovad retreat in Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa in Costa Rica, co-hosted by Latinas in Business, we cannot help but notice the variety of leadership roles held by our group of women travelers from the U.S., and the wide representation of industries and sectors. Their roles range from chief executive officer to president, founder, doctor and director; they are entrepreneurs, corporate, and foundation executives – they are leading and effecting change in the world. 

Ocean Tree at parque Nacional Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. (Photo by Luiz Cent on Unsplash)

Coincidentally, when researching about matriarchal societies, at the top of the list is a small indigenous society called the Bribrí, in Costa Rica. The Bribrí culture is matrilineal, meaning that women inherit the family property, generating great respect for those women in charge. It feels that we are literally heading in the right direction. 

Looking back at world history, we are normally directed towards learning about the great patriarchal societies of the Byzantine and Roman empires. During ancient times in most of Greece, women were separated from men and were not permitted to participate in government or appear in public. The gender separation was so stringent, that men even played female roles on stage. 

By contrast, in Sparta, women were seen as equal to men. Spartans believed strong intelligent women would bear strong intelligent children, therefore, women were educated and trained to fight. 

Spartan running girl. (Caeciliusinhorto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

An extraordinary example of matriarchal societies in Mesoamerica, Mayan women were highly regarded for their ability to bear children. They were also as equally active as men in farming and leaders in political and economic discussions. 

Women in charge

As we consider the role of women in charge around the world today, there are some who continue to ponder why nations led by women have been most effective in reducing the coronavirus spread and protecting lives during the ongoing global pandemic. 

Women in charge, women in leadership

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern (Ministry of Justice of New Zealand, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been successful at eradicating the virus through stringent life-saving lockdown measures. President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen has led one of the most successful efforts in the globe to contain the virus through testing, tracing and isolation measures.

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, leads the country with a coalition of four female-led parties and the nation is coping far better than its neighboring Nordic countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not only been successful at navigating the epidemic and faring much better than most European and world nations, but she has dominated the political scene in Germany for the last 16 years.

There may be some answers in the findings of a study conducted by researchers at Lehigh University, Maastricht University in the Netherlands and University of Antwerp in Belgium. It found that institutions seek more change and less risk when women are in top management teams. 

Women in charge of making company decisions are more likely to look beyond the decision and also take into consideration the effect on company performance. Having women in top management positions is the best way to not only diversify perspectives but also to diversify outcomes.

Women leading the country

The U.S. political stage looked like never before during the recent and first address to the nation by President Joe Biden since his election last November. Two women were behind the Presidential podium, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, serving in this role since 2019, and previously 2007-2011, while serving as representative since 1987. 

women in charge

VP Harris joins the 2021 JSOC with Speaker Pelosi and President Biden. (Office of Vice President of the United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

It is indisputable that in the nation that denied women the right to vote until the 19th Amendment of the Constitution in 1920, women today are rising to leadership across every sector, industry, and geography in the land. 

Although we believe we are heading in the right direction, we do not intend to suggest that the right direction is a world dominated by women in charge, but a world where all humans, regardless of gender, can learn, grow, lead, thrive, and live free. And as such, we continue to take steps towards equity for all. 

About the authors:

Pilar Avila is founder of interductus | Renovad, a change management firm providing business advisory to institutions, and professional development and wellness to global leaders. Over the last three decades, Pilar has provided leadership at institutions across the private equity, hospitality, and nonprofit sectors, earning a strong reputation as a business and civic change leader. She is regarded as a strategic, innovative, multidisciplinary, results-oriented change agent passionate about the rise of diverse leadership, promoting equal access to economic opportunity and investing in education. 

Ashley Hayes is the director of global operations and programs at interductus | Renovad. As such, Ashley’s goal is to promote diversity and equality while also helping to embolden and elevate global leaders to success – whether it be in wellness, intellectually, professionally, or in their philanthropic endeavors. She is committed to magnifying the capacity and impact of current and emerging generations of leaders around the globe.

Dr. Harbeen Arora

Dr. Harbeen Arora on Sisterhood, Spirituality, and Success

Thought Leader, Global Icon & Visionary for Women, Businesswoman, Philanthropist, Humanitarian, Author, Spiritual Seeker and Compelling Speaker, Dr. Harbeen Arora manifests multifaceted leadership with strength & simplicity.

Dr. Harbeen Arora

At Annual Women Economic Forum (WEF) 2018, India (Photo courtesy Dr. Harbeen Arora)

Dr. Harbeen Arora is the Founder and Global Chairperson of the ALL Ladies League (ALL) and Women Economic Forum (WEF). With a powerful global network of 200,000 women worldwide and growing toward ‘Mission Million’, ALL and WEF are among the largest communities of women entrepreneurs and leaders worldwide offering platforms and ecosystems for personal and professional growth. 

Born in New Delhi, Arora grew up with a great focus on education, values, and the spirit of service. Both her parents worked so growing up she always knew a woman to be independent.

“At home, I saw them both share the household chores. So we saw that balance in action, and we too, my brother and I, learned about responsibility, independence and teamwork from an early age. We were both treated equally without any one of us feeling any gender bias. We had the same rules to follow at home and same opportunities for education and growth,” says Arora. 

It was due to this great foundation of equality in her household that it took her a while to understand the depths of discriminatory biases that held women back in the economy and society. However, once she saw them she could not stop seeing them everywhere. Realizing that her upbringing was unfortunately not the norm for most women drove Arora to pursue various avenues to help better the lives of women and push toward gender equality.

Self-fulfillment and following seeking your life’s path

Additionally, the values learned in childhood – hard work, team spirit, responsibility, service; have served her immensely in her career and in life. 

“I also learned en route about the importance of having endless reserves of positive energy and resilience,” she says. “My spiritual path greatly opened up that possibility for me.”  

Always a seeker, the core of Dr. Harbeen Arora’s pursuits, both personal and professional, is self-fulfillment.   Learning, evolution, expansion and self-transformation are important life goals for her, and these goals guide and drive most of her pursuits. 

Dr. Harbeen Arora

At Women Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 Los Angeles (Photo courtesy Dr. Harbeen Arora)

“The path reveals itself to the seeker. No matter where you are in your journey, if you have an open mind and pure heart, life will place you on the track you are supposed to be on for your own growth and awakening. When we listen to our inner voice, follow our intuitive guidance, take actions and steps forward on our path, we also meet our destiny en route,” says Arora. 

“I have always been most passionate about working and learning. Goals and dreams may change, but what I enjoy most is the learning part of it. Learning, working and walking in purpose greatly uplifts you as a human being. That constant opening up of the mind, broadening of horizons, change of perspective, spiritual expansion and blossoming of the energy – all these are very important to me and drive me as a person,” she adds. 

Empowering a worldwide network of women 

Dr. Harbeen Arora’s passion for learning drove her to pursue degrees in multiple fields. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Delhi University, a Masters from King’s College, London University and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), and PhD from Sorbonne Nouvelle, University of Paris III. 

Throughout her years pursuing her education and later in her career, Arora again and again experienced great revelations about the strengths we each hold. 

“In 2000, going to Paris for my M.Phil and PhD, without knowing a word of French, and then writing my doctoral theses in French, was a revelation to me of the immense inner strength we hold to accomplish whatever we set our heart and mind on. It greatly built my self-belief, spirit of risk-taking, and self-reliance,” she shares. 

Receiving Award for Women Empowerment from the H.E President of Egypt. (Photo courtesy Dr. Harbeen Arora)

“Then again, in 2011, we sowed the seeds of a dream to unite ALL the women of the world as a worldwide web of women. We started the ALL Ladies League (ALL), that forms the backbone of our now famous conference platform, the Women Economic Forum (WEF), and then instituted business and industry chamber Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI) that gives policy recommendations to the government from time to time, and now our global e-commerce marketplace for our global community, SHEconomy.” 

As of 2020, the Women Economic Forum (WEF) completed 41 global editions across 25 countries. Their last annual event was in March 2020 in Egypt. Since the lockdown the WEF has held their events virtually, which has given them the opportunity to expand their digital reach. 

“We have a Mission Million for 2022 and the digital outreach is, now more than ever, integral to the realisation of that vision. Our completely free e-commerce platform for women entrepreneurs worldwide, SHEconomy, is a game changer in this direction,” says Arora. 

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In ALL’s decade-long engagement, they have fostered a worldwide ecosystem of “sisterhood,” for empowering support networks and safe spaces where women can come together to help one another. Arora says, “Empowering women’s social and economic leadership is at the heart of ALL what we do. We are non political, non religious and non dogmatic.” 

Sisterhood, Spirituality, and Success 

With a massive network of 250,000 women and supporters connected worldwide including in Latin America, the WEF are surely and steadily on their way toward realizing their “Mission Million” dream. 

“It helps that we are founded and headquartered in India, the cradle of civilization that has forever welcomed and embraced ALL, with a most inclusive vision for humanity and the world as ‘One Divine Family,’ as said in the Vedic phrase ‘Vasudeva Kutumbkam’,” says Arora. “Our guiding spiritual mantra is ‘Love ALL, Serve ALL.’ I’m a devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and I strongly feel a divine hand and guidance. I’m in absolute awe of what is unfolding for I know the divine feminine is manifesting through this bond of sisterhood, through each one of us who carries a piece and part of the greater feminine.” 

Fostering the spirit of sisterhood is a crucial step toward closing the gender gap, according to Dr. Arora. “We believe that in order to close the He/She gender gap (and by extension, education gap, security gap, respect gap, opportunity gap, wage gap …), we absolutely need to first close the She/She gender gap,” says Arora. “Thus ours is a She-for-She movement, with outreach toward She-for-He and She-for-All. Ours is a movement of Gender Equality without Gender Divisiveness; from a place of Positivity (of attitude/approach/conduct), Power (of self-belief) and Purpose (of the collective aspiration).” 

At Women Economic Forum (WEF) Tunisia 2019, with Nobel Peace Laureate 2015, Ouided Bouchamaoui (right), and then Minister Neziha Labidi (left). (Photo courtesy Dr. Harbeen Arora)

Through the various platforms– ALL, WEF, WICCI, and SHEconomy–Dr. Arora has helped women come together and create a solidarity of “sisters beyond borders.” In this process of pursuing Oneness as sisters Dr. Arora has been spiritually uplifted by a vision of Equality, spirit of Equanimity, and surrender to Eternity. 

“We all have our challenges, and everyone is fighting their own battles. My humble learning over the years while facing challenges big and small is this – our Self-Belief and “Atma-Vishwas,” viz. our faith in the eternity and infinity of our own Soul and Self is the source of tremendous inner strength. By tapping into this inner (divine) strength, one can face all kinds of challenges with courage and resilience. This is the education of the heart and spirit.”

Throughout life, Arora says her greatest challenge has always been understanding herself and her purpose in life and how to implement her highest vibration in her day to day work. This is especially true for many who may think that one’s highest spiritual goals are incompatible with the pursuits of business and real life challenges. However, Dr. Arora says she has learned throughout her journey that it is possible to match both and lead a happy, fulfilling, balanced and successful life. She defines success as awakening. 

“Success is about awakenings and openings, about finding doors so to say, and we indeed hold the key to that. We succeed every moment by simply holding up the attitudes of ‘never say die’, not quitting, and always doing whatever we can to the best of our abilities even in the worst of our circumstances.”