No matter if you’re an entrepreneur who works from home or a corporate executive with a Boston office suite, the path to professional growth is often long and winding. One of the ways that many people find solidarity, support and even job opportunities is by joining local business networks. We sat down with the leaders of two organizations whose aim to empower women in business, as well as a pair of young professionals helping inspire the next generation of women leaders.
Cohasset resident; founder and president of the Boston-area business network Tomorrow’s Women Today as well as the newly formed Boston Women’s Leadership Council.
Q: What inspired you to create Tomorrow’s Women Today?
A: Over 10 years ago I attended an event held by the Massachusetts Women’s Forum and was not only inspired by the influential and powerful speakers, but also by the emerging leaders sitting around the table with me. We represented diverse industries and backgrounds but we all had one thing in common–a fire in our bellies. It was there that I had the vision of bringing together emerging female leaders across all industries and providing them with opportunities for professional and personal enrichment. Today, the network includes woman attending local universities and female executives for whom we provide a supportive community. I believe that connecting woman at an early age and fostering that sense of camaraderie will help build a better tomorrow.
Q: What type of services does the group offer its members?
A: In addition to a vibrant, supportive network, TWToday cultivates personal and professional growth through dynamic events and access to prominent leaders. Past events have included an intimate breakfast with Boston City-Councilor At-Large, Michelle Wu, a panel discussion with business women under the age of 40 and a speed mentoring event with 15 prominent female leaders. We try to help interested members find opportunities on nonprofit boards or engage them in community based activities that help expand their network and develop or fine tune their professional skills. In addition, many of our members mentor the college students in our student member program.
Q: What was the goal of the student program?
A: Our intention with this program is to empower TWToday student members with the mindset of lifting other women up as they rise personally and professionally. By pairing each undergraduate woman with a member, we hope the students will learn the value of female collaboration and mentorship and pay it forward when she they launch into a career of their own. My vision is that 20 years from now these undergraduates will be leading local businesses. Establishing them with a network so early on will increase their opportunities for success exponentially.
Q: How did The Boston Women’s Leadership Council come about?
A: Some of my longtime TWToday members aren’t “emerging leaders” anymore. They are heads of counsel, vice presidents and entrepreneurs running their own businesses. I realized that I needed to create a community for these women to continue their professional development and support one another as they elevated in their careers. The Boston Women’s Leadership Council will officially launch this fall. By then we will have built a solid foundation of charter members. Ever since our premier launch last summer, we have held several meetings with our members and are kicking off our breakfast series this month.
Q: Why do you think networking groups like TWToday are important?
A: I think that any community where women (or men) can support one another is essential for professional and personal development. While we may be successful as individuals, we thrive when we are connected and work together in purposeful ways. We all need a tribe.
Q: What has it been like balancing your work and family life?
A: I heard Dr. Paula Johnson (Wellesley College) once answer that questions by saying it was “an integration, not a balance.” I am the mother of three amazing children, Myla (8), Boston (6) and Coco (3). Boston was born prematurely and suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth. As a result he has cerebral palsy, is legally blind, has a seizure disorder and is completely dependent on us for his care and feeding. The amount of stress that my husband and I carry is sometimes overwhelming. But we have learned to appreciate the determination in our son’s eyes and the smile on his face when he hears his sisters playing. He is our gift and there is nothing we wouldn’t do for him. In the past few years, I have been able to draw from my previous work experience as a healthcare professional and being mother to a severely disabled child to help other children and their families. Since 2016, I have been on the Manchester-Boston board for the March of Dimes. I am on the family advisory council for the Department of Public Health’s pediatric and palliative care network and I have recently joined the South Shore Conservatory as an overseer with a focus on their Creative Arts Therapy program (CAT). Our days are a constant juggle. There are mornings when I am super mom, afternoons when I am a super worker and evenings when I am super community. But everything I do, I love.
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Q: What does the South Shore Women’s Business Network offer its members?
A: The South Shore Women’s Business Network has been supporting women and men in business since 1991. We hold monthly focus groups that building relationships and help individuals develop the skills of networking. We also provide monthly business after-hours events and quarterly networking breakfasts that allow our members to share their business model and build their credibility to our membership. We are all about contacts, coaching, collaboration and community.
Q: Why is networking important for women in business?
A: I have heard people say, “I hate networking.” But quite frankly, networking is the most effective way to share who you are, why you are so passionate and what sets you apart from your competitors.
Q: What inspired you to create the radio show Powerful Women Revealed and what do you offer your clients?
A: I am an entrepreneur and in 2013 I realized that I wasn’t reaching the amount of people that I wanted to reach. There were (and still are) plenty of marketing and advertising opportunities out there, but they were not very affordable for an entrepreneur just starting out. I decided to create a reality radio show about women in business. I give my clients tools such as podcasts, videos and professional quality broadcasting commercial spots and I pour energy into their existing marketing strategies, because I believe that every woman with a powerful mission deserves to be heard.
Q: What advice would you give entrepreneurs who are starting out?
A: Give yourself the gift of having a business coach. So many women make small mistakes that could easily have been avoided if they had a conversation with someone with experience. Some of the key components of creating a business don’t necessarily happen in the exact order that we’d like them to happen, but if you can, try to conquer one strategic bite at a time and you will see that everything happens in divine timing.
Q: Tell me about the Powerful Women Reflections Cards you created.
A: I created Powerful Women Reflections Cards to help inspire others to let go of any limiting beliefs, increase hope and desire and stand in their own value with simple but powerful affirmations. I envision women using them just like I do. Each day I shuffle the deck and choose three random cards to start my day with words of inspiration about me, my family, my home, my business and my future. It’s like having a coach in your back pocket.
ERIN WILLIAMS and MAGGIE GIUSTI
Co-chairs of Leadership in Action, an empowerment program developed by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Connection.
Q: What is the mission of Leadership in Action?
A: Leadership in Action (LiA) is a program developed by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Connection Advisory Board (WBC). Its mission is to support leadership development by focusing on the future generation of leaders. The event takes place at Curry College and introduces female high school students to career and leadership opportunities through stories shared by motivational speakers and panels of successful women leaders.
Q: What inspired you both to get involved with LiA?
Erin: I first learned about LiA at a joint networking event with the South Shore Young Professionals and WBC. I was looking for a way to continue supporting professional development for young women and LiA was a fantastic local program that did just that.
Maggie: I was introduced to LiA by a member of the WBC, Monica Horan, who had been involved for a few years already. Once I learned what it was all about, I was hooked. I never experienced an event like LiA while I was growing up so it was important to me to become involved and positively influence the lives of these young women because it’s something I would have wanted when I was in high school.
Q: Who are some of the notable speakers who have taken part in previous years?
A: We’ve been able to have some fantastic speakers in our past seven years including Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and our first male speaker Johnny Cupcakes, who are both from Massachusetts.
Q: How many students typically attend the event and what schools do they attend?
A: We’ve had up to 200 high school sophomore and junior girls from numerous South Shore schools attend the event.
Q: Why do you think programs like LiA important?
Erin: I learned quickly how just one day can impact a girl’s life. It’s been eye-opening and inspiring to read the cards and emails from the attendees.
Maggie: I think it’s important that these young women know that there are people who want to make a difference in their lives. LiA can offer a lot of information, care and love.
Q: How does it feel to be a part of LiA? What have you taken away from the experience?
Erin: I am always overwhelmed with a sense of satisfaction and pride as we go through the day and interact with the girls. Reading the girls’ evaluations of the day only adds to this sense of accomplishment.
Maggie: Pride is definitely the key word. As stated before, everyone who makes this event happen does so as a volunteer so it’s really an act of genuine kindness and compassion. Being part of the event has enhanced my life and motivates me to want to do more. I’m so thankful to work alongside the women who initially developed this event and who have mentored me along the way to make it better every year.
Q: Are there ways that members of the public can show their support for LiA?
A: The success of LiA is completely reliant on volunteers and donations. Anyone who can help us provide further exposure for the event, recommend speakers or become part of the volunteer planning committee would make a difference.