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2023 Leading Women Dinner

September 26, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

September 26, 2023

701 Whaley, Columbia
6 p.m. – Reception presented by South Carolina Ports Authority

7 p.m. – Dinner & Awards
Business Attire

Join us as we recognize and celebrate all the brave South Carolina women who have stepped forward to seek elective (win or lose) and appointive office. The Leading Women Dinner honors women who have blazed trails in civic leadership so that others may follow and builds a support network to encourage women to vie for civic leadership roles.

The event includes a V.I.P. reception for sponsors and special guests, open beer and wine bar, seated dinner, and awards for women in local, statewide, and appointive office that have devoted themselves to community service, demonstrated a commitment to working across party lines, and whose civic work has improved the quality of life for all South Carolinians.

Due to institutional, socio-economic, and cultural barriers that persist in South Carolina, running for elected office is daunting for female candidates. Although 51% of South Carolina’s population is female, only 14.7% of seats in the state legislature are held by women and women are similarly underrepresented in local elected office and on public appointed boards and commissions. SC WIL’s goal is to triple the number of women filing to run and seeking appointment at all levels of government in the 2023-2024 election cycles through the More in 2024 recruitment effort, infusing more than 800 more women into the pipeline to public leadership in South Carolina.

Proceeds from the event support SC WIL’s mission of recruiting and training women to run for elective and appointive office in South Carolina.

View photos and videos from last year’s event here.

About Our Honorees

Leading Woman Honoree
Barbara Melvin, President & CEO South Carolina Ports Authority

Barbara Melvin is the first woman to lead a top 10 U.S. operating container port. During her more than 20 year tenure, Melvin has held several senior leadership positions with SC Ports and her leadership style exemplifies the principles of cooperation and collaboration that SC WIL promotes to bring economic prosperity to South Carolina for generations to come. In addition to overseeing numerous infrastructure projects, Melvin led the historic and monumental Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, resulting in the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet.

Learn more about Ms. Melvin.




Photo courtesy of Audra Melton for The New York Times

Leadership Legacy Honorees
South Carolina’s Sister Senators (L-R)
S.C. Senator Sandy Senn (R-Charleston/Dorchester)
S.C. Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington)
S.C. Senator Mia McLeod (I-Richland/Fairfield)
S.C. Senator Penry Gustafson (R-Kershaw)

S.C. Senator Margie Bright Matthews (D-Colleton)

The “Sister Senators” come from different political positions, but have united to demand women’s views be heard and protect their freedom as equal citizens. SC WIL recognizes them for their example that cooperation and respectful conversations, rather than political partisanship, can make our state a better place to live and work for all citizens.

Read their individual bios.



Rising Star Honoree
S.C. State Representative Heather Bauer, District 75

As a freshman legislator, S.C. State Representative Heather Bauer’s focus on government accountability had a direct impact on the 2023 legislative session and South Carolina residents. Since taking office, she has asked more of her colleagues than they may have expected of themselves, inviting everyone to do better for our state. Representative Bauer, is one of four children raised by a single mother with the help of public assistance. She fights for a South Carolina where every child who works hard has the same opportunity she has had.

Learn more about Rep. Bauer.





Reception Sponsor

Table Sponsors

Abacus Planning Group | Alliance Party of S.C. | Allison Dean Love Consulting, LLC | Burr Forman, LLP | The Campbell Consulting Group | Chernoff Newman | City of Columbia, Office of Mayor | Conservation Voters of SC | Elise Bidwell, CFP, Edward Jones | First Citizens | Ford & Ford Group | Lucy & Pat Hunt | S.C. State Senator Margie Bright Matthews | Dr. Marcia Iszard | Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough | Ogletree Deakins, P.C. | Planned Parenthood | Richland County Democratic Party | The Riley Institute at Furman University | Senior Women Lawyers | Ann Marie Stieritz | Truist | University of South Carolina, Office of the President | Women’s Rights Empowerment Network


September 26, 2023
6:00 pm
Event Category:


701 Whaley
701 Whaley St
Columbia, SC 29201
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