The removal of Jane Fonda as keynote speaker for the New Hampshire Women's Leadership Summit has officials scrambling to find a replacement.Fonda, the Academy Award-winning actress and activist, was originally scheduled to deliver the keynote at the fourth-annual summit, but a threatened protest by veterans' groups led organizers to cancel the appearance at Nashua Community College.The veterans' groups are still angry at Fonda, a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, who traveled to Hanoi in 1972, where she was photographed on an anti-aircraft gun.In selecting Fonda, the board mentioned her past, but they wound up "totally blindsided" by the backlash, said Annabel Beerel, founder of the New Hampshire Women's Leadership Institute, which hosts the summit."She's apologized many times. We focused on the fact that she's reinvented herself and is all about health now," said Beerel. But it was to no avail.The institute is now looking for another keynote speaker - "someone maybe with a bit of humor" - along the ranks of past speakers, who have included "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, Gloria Steinem and Erin Brockovich.While the keynote addresses are an important part of the program, "the real power of the day is the whole experience," said Beerel. "You're there with 500 other women talking about issues that affect your work life."The summit, which will be held Friday, June 10, at Nashua Community College, was designed for women seeking to advance their professional lives.It will feature professional development sessions, networking, keynote addresses and select exhibitors."We're trying to attract women from all age groups, especially the young, professional women who would like tips on how to be strategic and break the glass ceiling," said Beerel.Beerel first conceived the summit in 2007 after reading a report on the situation of working women in New Hampshire, in which the state fared poorly in bridging pay disparities between men and women."I said, ‘Aren't we going to do something about this?'" said Beerel. "We've got to start making women aware of the situation, get them to step up to the plate, get trained, take risks, get the skills they need. That's how the summit was born."Other confirmed speakers at the 2011 summit include Dee Lee, a certified financial planner, CBS Radio contributor and author of several books, most recently "Women & Money," a women's guide to financial planning, and Beerel, a former chair of ethics at Southern New Hampshire University who holds a Ph.D. in comparative religion and ethics.In addition to speakers and a networking session, the summit will feature both morning and afternoon breakout sessions along three tracks: leadership; professional skills; and a third that mixes targets for young professional women and global issues."We try to make it a wide range of topics," said Beerel. "We really struggle to make it as relevant as possible."A continental breakfast and healthy lunch are included in the summit, which costs $195 before May 14 and $225 before June 9. Scholarships are also available and can be requested on the summit website.New Hampshire Business Review and the Nashua Telegraph are sponsors of the summit, in addition to the Women's Fund of New Hampshire, BAE Systems, TD Bank, Salient Surgical Technologies, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Bank of America, Bellwether Community Credit Union, Lovering Volvo, Devine Millimet, People's Bank, Nashua Community College and 465-Media.com.For more information on the summit and to register, visit nhwli.org.Kathleen Callahan can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appears in the April 8 2011 issue of New Hampshire Business Review