Extending the vision to advance women in leadership
A Personal Reflection
Because it’s personal. It’s the best answer I can give when asked why I invest in the advancement of women. Since I own a strategic communications firm, why offer a social enterprise for professional women? And why now partner with UW-Green Bay’s Institute for Women’s Leadership? Well, again, it’s personal.
I grew up in a family that encouraged me to be anything. I believed an education was my ticket to a good life, and it was. Earning a bachelor’s degree opened doors and opportunities. And a master’s degree expanded my world further. But my formal education didn’t teach me how to ebb and flow through the politics of the organizations where I would work. And figuring out how to thrive within the confines of norms and realities that hadn’t typically included people like me in leadership, well, that didn’t come from my class lectures. It came from just living through it. Yet, I wondered if having access to more women in leadership would have helped soften the hard edges of those intense lessons and allowed me to go further, sooner.
When I launched my own company, O’Connor Connective, I learned of women entrepreneurs with businesses on the Main streets of Wisconsin who were looking to connect, to share, to learn together. At the same time, I realized I needed my own posse. I needed a group of professional advisors like an attorney, an accountant, a financial advisor, and a banker who understood my vision and would have my back as I built a team and a business for the long haul. But where to start? That took a lot of time but when it came together, that group of advisors (interestingly mostly women) helped me make my vision for O’Connor Connective a reality.
Then, when working with my clients, I witnessed women organizational leaders presenting different needs than their male colleagues. And I could relate.
Together, these experiences crystalized my thinking: I needed to create a forum for women leaders to network, access experts so they could establish their posse and develop programs to intentionally support the unique needs of women in leadership.
So, with the help of my O’Connor Connective colleagues, my original posse, and other colleagues and friends who said yes to this concept, we did just that. For two years, The Connective: A Community for Women in Business touched hundreds of people. Now, with a vision to expand, I’m beyond excited to collaborate and align with UW-Green Bay’s Institute for Women’s Leadership. This means more programming, more support, more networking for more women. The longer-term impact will mean more equitable leadership in Wisconsin, which research tells us will improve organizational profitability and strengthen our economy.
The Institute’s the ideal combination. It puts the formal degree or credit experiences together with the networking, programmatic, and experiential support women seek throughout their careers. Just think of the boost this will give those seeking to lead.
Here’s to rising, more, together so to advance the great state of Wisconsin and beyond.