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Sen. Cousins Advises Local Women to Stand Out

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Over 50 women gathered in the Prophecy restaurant for a Professional Women of Westchester networking event Monday evening. Many, including Valerie Adelman, 55, were eager to catch a glimpse of New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ trademark scarf and learn why she attributed the signature accessory to her success.

“It’s a good topic. I know plenty of women who have a professional outfit. One women always wears white and another women always wears a hat. You remember them. Maybe not their name, but it helps,” said Adelman, a Scarsdale resident and financial planner running an accounting firm.

Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) told the crowd she started donning scarfs while running for the Yonkers City Council because so many voters confused her with former Councilwoman Symra Brandon.

“It occurred to me that a scarf would be a great way for me to distinguish myself and let people know when they looked at me that it was me,” said Stewart-Cousins. “[Constituents] were happy. That was one less thing they had to worry about.”

The senator, who said she would “be run out of the senior centers” if she visited without a scarf, advised women to think carefully about what piece could help clients and customers remember them.

“You’re not investing time and energy and taking away from what you could be doing just to be anybody and blend in,” said Stewart-Cousins. “Once you find it, capitalize it, grow it, advertise it, and be it.”

Stewart-Cousins, the State Senate Minority Assistant Leader, also reminded women to register as a women and minority-owned business , which may help entrepreneurs gain access to state contracts. She noted that in 2007, less than one percent of all state contracts were given to women-owned businesses and less than one percent were rewarded to minority-owned businesses. Now, all state departments are required to contract with women and minority-owned businesses for at least 20 percent of their needs.

“It’s important to me that minorities and women have an opportunity not just to have the crumbs of the pie, but to bake the pie and divide it up,” said Stewart-Cousins. “But you have to be invited to the table, and that’s what this is all about.”

Jamie Imperati, 34, the Professional Women of Westchester’s president, said she was inspired to create a women’s organization after she ran into the “good old boy’s club” while pushing an online children’s calendar forward through networking.

“There’s a need. It’s harder for women in the suburbs because the networks that have been there are men -- the chambers are full of men. Women are more at home with the kids,” said Imperati, who created professional women’s networking chapters in Putnam County, Conneticut, and Westchester over the past 18 months. “At my first event I had over 83 women. Now there’s over 300 in all the chapters.”

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