RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Speaking to a sold-out crowd at Boxyard RTP, a panel of women leaders from across the Triangle shared a clear message: It’s time to let women be themselves at work. 

The event was hosted by the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022. Four women leaders spoke about “breaking the bias,” the official theme of IWD 2022, and encouraged attendees to show up authentically.  

Women gather in RTP to discuss workplace equality. (Photo by Sarah Glova)

“I remember being taught that in order to be successful, I had to play like a man,” said Kelly Pfrommer, CEO of Cloud Giants and Co-Founder “I heard things like, ‘You can’t be emotional in meetings.’ I felt like, Oh my gosh, there’s just no way I can succeed. I felt like I had to be a robot.” 

“Breaking the Bias” 

The other members on the panel included Earlene Gibbons, executive director of United Therapeutics Corporation; Valerie Jordan, founder of Hunter J. Group, and Daisy Magnus-Aryitey, co-executive director of Code the Dream.

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Each shared their own perspective of what it looks like to “break the bias.” 

“My first DOT boardroom meeting, I was the only black woman in that table, in an ocean of men,” said Jordan. “And my heart just started pounding, and my hands started sweating. But I remembered why I was there. I deserved to be there. So the imposter syndrome—I turned it against them and said, ‘You’re the imposter.’ And I still do that today.” 

Starting with Leadership 

The women also shared their vision for what workplaces could look like if leaders encouraged women to show up authentically. 

“One of the moms on our team brought her daughter to the office on a snowday,” said Magnus-Aryitey. “And I thought, This is exactly what I wanted to build. She did not ask for permission. She did not call. She just knew, because we were moms, because we understood, that she could bring her child. That is what I tried to build every day.” 

Panelists at Tuesday’s “Break the Bias” event spoke out for equality in the workplace.  Left to right: Earlene Gibbons, Executive Director of United Therapeutics Corporation; Valerie Jordan, Founder of Hunter J. Group; Sarah Chick; Daisy Magnus-Aryitey, Co-Executive Director of Code the Dream; Kelly Pfrommer, CEO of Cloud Giants and Co-Founder Triangle Foundation photo)

Flexibility for working parents was another recurring theme. 

“We need more acceptance—opportunities for people to be parents,” said Pfrommer. “Dads included.”

The panel was moderated by Sarah Chick, Manager of Strategic Engagement at RTP, who spoke about the role of leadership and company culture in attracting and retaining diverse talent.  

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“Creating a space where authenticity is acceptable is huge in company culture,” said Chick. “And I think that begins the conversation of that equity lens. When you have to come and show up to work and be somebody else, or try to be act like a man, or whatever, you’re creating a complete false culture. And then you wonder why people there’s turnover.”

Support for the Triangle

Gibbons called the RTP a place where she could, “collaborate with some of the best and brightest people.” The other panelists agreed, also voicing their support for the Triangle region.

“It’s really a place where people are collaborative, people are working together to elevate everybody,” said Magnus-Aryitey. “We like doing our work here because we know that when we train up people, that we’re putting them into a space where they’re going to succeed, where they’re going to be mentored by others where they’re going to be carried along in a way that’s bringing up everybody.”

All four panelists represented local organizations and currently operate at the CEO or Executive Director level. Jordan, who founded her company in 2017 and who serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historically Utilized Businesses, spoke about women in the Triangle starting their own companies. 

“The attraction of seeing women lead and doing their own business—they’re using this particular region to do it,” said Jordan. “Let’s continue to grow and glow together.”

In 2020, the Raleigh-Cary area ranked 12th in the nation on Smart Assets’ list of Best Places for Women Entrepreneurs. The same year, Durham ranked No. 7 on Fundera’s list of Top 15 Cities for Women Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

International Women’s Day 2022

The panel was held on March 8th, in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), a global holiday to celebrate the achievements of women and to call for action to accelerate women’s equality efforts. According to, the first IWD gathering was held in 1911 and attended by over a million people. 

This was the sixth annual celebration for International Women’s Day hosted by RTP, with last year’s event held virtually. 

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