AWMA Expo: Opportunities, Inspiration & Learning


LAS VEGAS -- All it takes is one person with one idea. Just ask Debbie Robins, president of Century Distributors Inc. and the initial force behind the new American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA) Women's Leadership Initiative. 

In the fall, Robins traveled from her company's home base in Rockville, Md., to New York City to attend a CEO boot camp sponsored by American Express. There, she met Marianne Cooper, sociologist at the Stanford University Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the lead researcher for "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" by Sheryl Sandberg. During that chance meeting, the seeds for the initiative were sown.

Robins brought the idea to AWMA and this morning, roughly six months later, the AWMA Women's Leadership Initiative held its kickoff program at this year's AWMA Marketplace & Solutions Expo in Las Vegas, with Cooper as the inaugural guest speaker.

According to Robins, the goal of the initiative is to provide opportunities for women in the industry, inspire through guest speakers and learn from one another.

In order to boost women to the top of their fields, however, the conversation must also include men, she noted. To that point, while the majority of today's approximately 60 attendees were female, about 10 men sat among the ranks -- including 2014 AWMA Chairman Mark Davenport.

"I learned more from that one seminar than any other seminar I have attended at AWMA," he said as he thanked Robins for leading the effort.

Leadership in general was the theme for the closing day of the AWMA Marketplace & Solutions Expo, which began on Tuesday. Football legend, humanitarian and highly regarded leader Archie Manning took the stage at the closing session, which was sponsored by The Hershey Co.

Manning played the majority of his career with the National Football League's New Orleans Saints.

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