Lynn A. Chiavaro coached one of the first college girls' basketball teams three decades ago and was inducted into the Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in the sport.

Today, she serves on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization called PowerPlay NYC, which focuses on educating and empowering girls with self-confidence through sports. She's also a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual and appreciates the fact that women now have more job choices available to them than teachers or secretaries.

Chiavaro stood before a group of roughly 60 successful females in the financial field and shared a story of how she had just attended a memorial service for a woman she knew who was heavily involved in the creation of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions.

If it were not for her, Chiavaro and many of the other attendees at Wednesday's Connecting and the City networking event in New York City - organized by Nancy Fox of Fox Coaching Associates, a New York-based business development coaching company for lawyers, accountants and service professionals, and Marcia S. Nelson, a senior vice president of business development at the business advisory firm FMV - might be home cooking dinner instead of out drinking wine and eating hors d'oeuvres while celebrating the end of tax season.

It was an intimate affair held in Manhattan's Oak Room at Morgan Lofts, one that included "bump-up" make-overs that help women transition from day to night events, a digital photography company offering head shots, and catered food and wine to enjoy over vibrant conversation.

Networking can often be intimidating and for many it's a necessary evil. Most women, however, recognize that business people have to be social in order to acquire new clients. But in the business world, where many networking events include a round of golf or cigars, women have traditionally been excluded.

A few women even admitted that they typically avoid awkward networking situations in which they are forced to engage in small talk with people who are not interested in what they do. But they looked forward to and enjoyed this event - the first of its kind - because these were people they wanted to meet who had interesting stories to share.

Like the woman who started a business making fish-shaped cufflinks in her London kitchen with the help of her family and mailman, who has since grown her jewelry company into a worldwide operation. Or Anita Katzen, a CPA who serves clients in the entertainment industry and who also will work as executive producer for a film aimed at 13- to 26-year-olds.

Many of them are helping women address issues that are tied to business, but not necessarily on most people's radar screens.

Like Susan Sommers, an image consultant and former fashion editor who helps newbies at accounting firms learn the appropriate way to dress in order to represent their firms, and teaches more seasoned partners how to "mentor" these younger folks, simultaneously helping them sharpen their own appearance.

While she may not recommend the leopard-print shirt and taffeta gray jacket she was wearing to an accountant, she explained that breaking out of the mold is OK. It's not about the clothes, but how the clothes make the person who is wearing them feel, she said. It all comes back to confidence - and how women want to present themselves to the world.

All around the crowded room, the outfits worn by these women varied from black cocktail dresses to red business suits. Each offered her own flourish that gave a glimpse into her personality. But one image was consistent: poise and pride.

They all knew how far they had come and how much further they wanted to go. And they were ready to guide the next generation in finding their own way.

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