More than 1,000 Northern Virginia women attended a combination pep rally, therapy session and daylong seminar yesterday on how women can get ahead in the workplace sponsored by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and a women's advocacy group.
The conference, at an Alexandria hotel and co-sponsored by the nonprofit Women's Education and Leadership Forum, was designed "to offer women the tools they need for professional success," said Patricia Brockman, president of the forum.
The event also offered some Warner adversaries a chance to accuse the senator of neglecting women's issues and to question his motives in sponsoring the conference, billed as "Northern Virginia Woman '90s."
Warner, 63, who faces token opposition for reelection this fall, drew fire last summer from Democratic Party leaders for using his free congressional mailing privileges to blanket households in the 8th and 10th congressional districts with invitations to the event. Warner's picture figured prominently on the invitation along with that of television anchor Judy Woodruff, who later withdrew her name as keynote speaker for the event.
Mary Dent, a legal policy analyst with the National Women's Political Caucus, and two caucus members attended the event, distributing nearly 600 pamphlets critical of Warner's Senate voting record before they were asked to leave, Dent said.
The messages proffered to the women at the event, many of whom said they hope to break out of clerical jobs, were nothing if not upbeat.
Parting words at one seminar: "There's nothing you can't do, so go out there and get out and win."
Said the leader of another workshop: "If you control your brain and control your mouth, you will be poised and in control and thinking on your feet."
The conference organizers said the Northern Virginia seminar has been the most popular of more than 40 such events the forum has co-sponsored in the last four years. Nearly 3,000 women signed up for the $35 daylong conference; a second conference was scheduled for today at a Crystal City hotel to absorb the overflow.
"It's awesome," Warner said of the turnout for the event.
"The key to the success of this is to make it nonpartisan," Warner said. "It would not be taking place if there were any political motives."
Warner said he planned to send a letter to all other members of Congress advising that they sponsor similar events for women in their states.
Warner said he has used only half of his Senate franking allocation this year. He said that of 18 other members of Congress who have co-sponsored conferences with the forum, only one declined to use his franking privileges to publicize the event.
Most of the women interviewed yesterday said they viewed the event as nonpolitical, a chance for personal enhancement. Scores crowded into a workshop on "Who Gets Ahead and Why" for advice on dressing for success. Stick to "power colors," advised workshop leader Ann Stone.
"Yellow, red and purple are power colors," Stone said. "Black and gray are the most powerful colors . . . and what do you think is the least powerful?"
"Green" was the answer.
A sigh of relief could be heard from the dozen or so women in pink.
"These are the lessons women should know," said Betty Waldow, coordinator of the law library at the Arlington County Court House, in summarizing the day.
"Some of it's common sense, but you need to be reminded by women who are out there," said Waldow, just out of a seminar on "Handling Stress With a Sense of Humor."
"Now people will ask me when the law library will be back," said Waldow, referring to a fire that destroyed the library in May. "And I'll just look at them and laugh."