The Women’s Connection: A New Initiative Tackling Tough Issues Facing Local Business Women

Bob Dylan might have sung the times they are a changin’, but sometimes those changing times seem to happen very slowly. There are still a myriad of frustrations and challenges today’s local business women face, whether their field is engineering or sales, massage therapy, teaching or something entirely different.  And if you ask 25 local women what tools they need to be more successful, you’d probably get 25 different answers, however there would be some recurring themes. Typically, those answers would mirror the frustrations women around the country are still facing in order to stay in and grow their careers.

Women are seeking answers to their challenges, whether it is confronting bias on hiring women (competent men are still rated higher than equally competent women, especially in tech fields), learning new resiliency and risk-taking skills or just finding an intellectually stimulating environment where they can come together to discuss challenges and learn.

And that’s where a new initiative–the brain child of Laurie Brown of the University of Florida’s Professional Development and Jennifer Webb of Magic Communication–was developed. The idea was to create a community of successful business women and provide them with opportunities and tools that allow them to grow intellectually through stimulating discussions, mentoring and professional development programs. They named it The Woman’s Connection (TWC) and started laying the infrastructure a year ago, offering the first program in April 2018, titled “Slay, Sizzle & Soar.”

Created to empower, nourish and strengthen one another, TWC is all about life-long learning, mentoring, collaborating and sharing ideas and talents. It’s designed to give women quick and easy access to each other, to tools, resources, and to opportunities that enable them to grow personally and professionally, as well as to develop skills to model excellence in everything they do.

One element of this initiative, still in the works, is an online portal where women can ask questions and get answers 24/7 titled “Woman’s Voice.” As an example, if someone feels frustrated that a colleague has taken over her idea in a meeting, she can write the helpline to get ideas on how to reclaim her idea without sounding abrasive or frustrated. Questions can be esoteric or generic, but if there’s a problem where answers are needed, the online portal will be available.

Topics discussed in the TWC meetings will cover a broad range of ongoing issues, from finding tangible tools to alleviate stress and achieve a greater work-life balance, to techniques to become more resilient in a competitive, constantly changing environment (June 26th program, led by Gainesville Black Professional’s founder Virginia Grant).

A recent poll of women who attended the University of Florida Power & Presence workshop series requested several tools including skills on how to handle conflicts more assertively, make smarter decisions based on specific criteria and where and how to bounce ideas off of other women who have some of the same hurdles to overcome.

There is no shortage of topics to address. According to Catalyst, a think tank, which is focused on women in the workplace, women are judged on performance, while men are promoted on potential.  And often, unless there’s a cultural fit, highly successful women can still lose out. Lauren A. Rivera of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern warns that the hang-out factor means women may actually lose jobs to less-qualified candidates who share similar interests, i.e. sports they play and teams they root for.

Meeting the fourth Tuesday of each month from 3:30 to 5:00 pm at St. Leo University Education Center in Gainesville, TWC has a summer cost of only $5 and can be paid in advance or at the door. For more information on TWC contact Laurie Brown at lbrown@dce.ufl.edu.

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