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It’s exciting’ time for women to lead in Triangle, says Greater Raleigh Chamber’s female CEO


RALEIGH – On the topic of women in leadership, Raleigh Chamber CEO Adrienne Cole has a personal story to tell. 

“I’ve been in economic development for a really long time, it feels like, so since 1996-ish, when I finished graduate school,” said Cole, “and there were like, a handful of women in the field then. And now there are far more women in economic development and in the fields of community building.” 

When Adrienne Cole became President and CEO in 2017, she was the first female named to lead the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce in its 129-year history.

“For many years, I was often the only woman, and that’s less and less the case, which is exciting,” said Cole. 

In an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire, Cole commented on the state of women leaders in the Triangle ahead of the Chamber’s upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference. 

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“I’m excited about women in leadership in the Triangle,” said Cole. “When you look around at some of the women who are leading organizations and companies, man, they’re a bunch of dynamic, incredible people.” 

Cole specifically called out some of the women leaders in local government, like Raleigh City Manager Marchell Adams-David, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, and Wake County Public School System Superintendent Cathy Moore. 

“Not only women but from diverse backgrounds,” said Cole. “They’re a diverse group in and of themselves, which is exciting.”

She also referenced some of the women business leaders in our region, like Sepi Saidi, CEO of SEPI, Inc.; Anna Lynch, CEO of Lynch Mykins; and Cindy Eckert, CEO of The Pink Ceiling and Sprout Pharmaceuticals. 

“I think that the Triangle is actually a really exciting, dynamic place for women at various stages of their careers and in various stages of growth as leaders,” said Cole. 

The diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation

“When I first started my career, I was just supposed to adapt to the workplace. And I often felt pulled, and felt like, if I was taking care of this part of my life, that I was somehow shirking this part of my life,” said Cole. 

She described how she thinks the landscape is changing thanks to leaders who are willing to engage in DEI conversations. 

“I’ve seen that evolve to a place where there’s so much more awareness, and this is for women, gender diversity, certainly, but more broadly—diversity, equity, and inclusivity broadly in the workplace,” said Cole. “Just much, much, much more awareness, much more willingness among area CEOs, to have the conversation and then to be honest with themselves about maybe what’s working and what isn’t working within their own companies.” 

She also called out local organizations that have been champions of these conversations. 

“I think people get used to the big global companies being engaged in this space, but I’ve seen local companies,” said Cole. “Like Mike Munn, who’s the CEO of McAdams, he really, really embraced this work and has made major changes. Gary Greene of Greene Resources is a champion of this work. And those are local companies, in addition to the companies that you would expect to be further down the road on some of these issues.” 

Cole said that she thinks the Triangle presents an “exciting opportunity” for all women but especially for young women. 

“With our rich rich college and university and community college ecosystem here, buoyed by a really diverse set of industry clusters—information technology and life sciences and advanced manufacturing and professional services—I think that, for young women, even as early as middle school, there’s an opportunity to really look around and see career paths that maybe their mothers and grandmothers didn’t consider.” 

Upcoming Conference

The Chamber will host the 2022 Women’s Leadership Conference on Tuesday, May 24, at the Raleigh Convention Center.

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  • Source: https://wraltechwire.com/2022/05/24/its-exciting-time-for-women-to-lead-in-triangle-says-greater-raleigh-chambers-female-ceo/

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