“Thriving Through Challenges” panel featuring Dora Delgado, Christa Marrillia, Britney Eurton (moderator), Rikki Tanenbaum, Dr. Dionne Benson
The inaugural Horse Racing Women’s Summit at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., wrapped up Sept. 30 after two and a half days of networking, education, and informative panel discussions. The very successful summit drew a sold-out attendance of nearly 200 participants from North America with 46% of attendees traveling to California from across the United States and Canada. Attendees include a range of representation from across industry sectors including owners, racetrack executives, attorneys, breeders, accountants, jockeys, veterinarians, and consultants.
“Based on conversations with and observations of attendee dynamics, my expectations were even surpassed,” said Stephanie Hronis, chair of the summit organizing committee. “When we first discussed the idea for the summit last summer at Del Mar, I knew there was a hunger for networking, education, and inclusion among women in horse racing and on the periphery of racing,” she continued, “but I never imagined how deep that desire was and how ready so many women are to be more involved, advance their careers in horse racing, and support the industry they love.”
Highlighting the summit was Thursday’s featured keynote speaker, Susan Packard, an accomplished author and speaker who oversaw the development and launch of HGTV and DIY networks and was also the first woman to join the Churchill Downs board of directors. Packard spoke of the power of hope and drew on her personal experiences with substance abuse and recovery and her work with college students in recovery to illustrate her belief that “belonging is our deepest longing.”
The summit opened Wednesday evening with a cocktail reception featuring a quintessential California menu of In N Out burgers and providing participants a first opportunity to meet and mingle.
Thursday’s agenda was kicked off with a welcome address by Belinda Stronach, Chairwoman, CEO, and President of The Stronach Group and 1/ST, one of the major sponsors of the event. Stronach called on women to make Thoroughbred racing “sustainable and more engaging for a whole new generation of fans,” and added, “When you get a group of women together, we are really good at being team players.”
The summit offered a series of panel discussions led by an impressive array of knowledgeable women racing executives, leaders, and innovators. Lively panel sessions included discussions on creating a positive work culture, the importance of trust in the workplace, the role of connections, mentors, and male advocates, making the industry more female friendly, innovation through diversity, intentional integrity in aftercare of horses, and the ramifications of how we present ourselves through social media.
Thursday’s luncheon featured an inspirational address by Amy Howe, CEO of FanDuel Group, a business that stepped up early on to become a title sponsor of the Horse Racing Women’s Summit. Howe shared her journey, expressing that “careers are a long game, keep things in perspective.” She reminded the audience that diversity is key and that organizations with 30% or more female representation are 50% more successful.
Howe was preceded by a standing ovation for the summit’s honoree, Jane Goldstein, who was recognized for her role as a groundbreaking leader and inspirational example to women in racing during a time when women were not allowed in the press box beyond the morning hours. Goldstein paved the way for every woman who works to promote racing—whether in the press box, on camera, in marketing, or in management by being a trailblazing woman.
Hronis concluded, “This ‘good idea’ could never have come to fruition without the tireless work over the past year by our highly talented and dedicated summit committee – Jordyn Egan, Kellie Hill, Jodie Vella-Gregory, Shona Rotondo, Kathryn Sharp, and intern Sophia Eggert. To them, to our wonderful sponsors, and to all of the women who attended and exemplified the Summit’s pillars and our goal to engage, innovate and invest, thank you. We look forward to our next event, a pop-up in partnership with the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland this November!”