More than 550 people attended the Idaho Business Review’s Women of the Year gala on March 6, gathering to honor 50 Idaho women for their achievements in business and philanthropy. The evening culminated with the naming of Cherie Buckner-Webb, an Idaho state senator, as Woman of the Year.
“In my most serious legislative voice, what I’m feeling right now is, ‘Mmm, mmm, mmm,’” said Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, at the event, held in Boise Centre. “I feel good. Women get things done, endow the future and change the world.”
Buckner-Webb was honored not only for her role as a state senator, where she is also assistant minority leader, but also for her philanthropy. She has served on boards for organizations ranging from the Idaho Black History Museum to the Women’s & Children’s Alliance. In addition, she runs her own successful consulting business, Sojourner Coaching.
“I’m so grateful that God saw the grace to make me a woman,” said Buckner-Webb, whose family settled in the Treasure Valley to found a church. “Women have it going on.”
The 50 awardees came from around the state and work in a variety of industries.
“We see the influence of these women in our highway system, our museums, our state laws, the feel of our neighborhoods and even the food we eat,” said Rebecca Palmer, IBR’s new special sections editor, introducing the honorees. “They are the heart and soul of Idaho, and we are proud to call them our own.”
Ronda Conger, vice president of CBH Homes and author of three books, was the evening’s keynote speaker. She was named IBR’s Woman of the Year for 2018, which she called a “bucket-list moment.” The theme of her speech, “Love wins,” emphasized what happens when you love yourself, your family, your career and your community. People who say business leaders shouldn’t talk about love are wrong, she added. It’s a powerful skill, not a “soft” skill, and when people love what they’re doing, everything changes, she said.
Conger encouraged attendees to tell people frequently, both in their business and personal lives, “So glad you’re here,” and to cultivate an attitude of “positive discontent.”
“Positive discontent is being so grateful for where you are right now, but knowing that the best is yet to come,” she said.
For example, when Rudy Giuliani was newly elected mayor of New York, he met with his five police chiefs and asked each one whether they thought crime could be reduced. Two said yes, while three said no – and he fired those three, she said.
In another story, Conger related how her then 6-year-old son attended the 2007 Fiesta Bowl football game with her. After the famous Boise State University Broncos “Statue-Left” play, which turned the tide of the game, he yelled, “Are we winning or are we losing?” She said she asks herself that question each night, considering her actions and attitudes that day.
People should also psych themselves up with self-talk, rather than dwell on how hard things are, Conger said. If you were able to wake up in the morning, you should be passionate, because that means that you have another day to be alive, she insisted. For people who couldn’t raise that level of passion naturally, there’s always caffeine, she joked.
The gala also honored nine women who are part of the Circle of Excellence, awarded to honorees who have been Women of the Year more than once.
The Idaho Business Review received a record 110 applications for the 2019 honor, which recognizes excellence in leadership, professional accomplishments, mentorship and community service.
Nominations are open for Women of the Year 2020.