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WOMEN SHARE IDEAS, INSIGHTS

The theme of the first Women in Business Forum & Expo appeared to resonate with most of the participants. - Called "A Balancing Act," the event was from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and featured several motivational speakers and more than 40 exhibitors from local businesses. It was sponsored by the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. - How women juggle family and work priorities has been fodder for debate for many decades. - Where are women in the struggle to find balance in the 21st century? What is it like being a woman in business today? Have they made any strides? Are there still obstacles? - Responses from some of the women who attended Wednesday's event provide some insight into the joys and challenges women face, whether they are executives at large organizations or lone entrepreneurs.

Here's what they said

"Women are giving up the idea of doing it all. Women know they have to take care of themselves to be useful to others,"

Kathy Pabst Robshaw, owner, the Total Telephone Effectiveness Company

"We are getting better at intermixing professionalism with home. We are still wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters while being financial contributors. And we do it with grace,"

Lila Jane, professional development coordinator, Pinecrest Place

"In making our strides we've created obstacles for ourselves. We feel we have to do everything; we have to compete with men. We forget the big picture. Even when we are successful we're forgetting to take time to stop and enjoy the success,"

Bevv Beirl, CEO/editor in chief, Bay Area Business Magazine

"There are stereotypes. People believe women are more gentle with their pets, but it is not true. It always depends on the person. I have hired male groomers and they are just as caring and gentle as the female groomers,"

Tina Castle, owner, Cute Cuts Pets Grooming

"Things we thought would make life easier - e-mail, cell phones, PDAs - actually take more of our time. Women's nature of connectedness makes us more inclined to always stay in touch. We can't even find peace in our cars,"

Lois Miller, executive director, Sun Coast Hospital Foundation

"We're living longer. There's life after children. Our life experiences are invaluable in business. Shows like this are so important - it shows the diversity of women and the diversity of interests,"

Judy Turnbaugh, president, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Pinellas County

"This is a great time to be a woman in business. Women are networking and doing business with other women. I'm not against men. I think women just share a sense of bonding,"

Stephanie Allen, owner, the Caffeine Gourmet

"We get overextended. We work 36-hour days, 10 days a week. We need to think of ourselves and take care of ourselves. I have a sign on my desk to help me remember: Success is a journey, not a destination,"

Patricia Hall, executive director, Guardian Association of Pinellas County

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