Gen. Marcia Anderson, the first black woman to become a two-star general in U.S. Army history, knows she isn’t what most people imagine when they think of top military brass.

Hence her advice for the hundreds of predominantly white CEOs, bankers, business and nonprofit leaders gathered in the Kohl Center for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s annual IceBreaker luncheon on Thursday.

“You will be in a position to hire, mentor and promote amazing people — men and women in your organizations who are innovative, creative and who also possess unlimited potential,” the Beloit native said. “I know this can happen, but only if you are willing to see it.”

Anderson was one of three women of color who shared their own stories of innovation, creating and realizing their potential at the IceBreaker, an event the Chamber organizes to highlight its accomplishments, showcase Wisconsin talent and outline its hopes for the city’s future.

As it has been in prior years, IceBreaker 2018 was a colorful production: This year featured floodlights, a fog machine and giant LCD displays showing slick SportsCenter-esque animations.

Also like past years, the talk bluntly focused on topics related to race and gender.

Chamber president Zach Brandon noted that women of color, like the keynote speakers, face challenges as entrepreneurs and leaders, from discrimination to lack of capital. He said that changing those dynamics in Madison was critical to the city’s economic future.

“This is about an economic imperative,” he said. “(Inequity) is stymieing economic growth.”

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