Part I: How the Women’s Business Council Began 30 Years Ago
I have to admit, I was looking forward to meeting with Charlotte Buchanan and Ashley Jeffrey Bouck. I was the first to arrive at the coffee shop in Loudonville where we agreed to meet on an early Friday afternoon this past summer. I found a table suitable for the three of us. Ashley Jeffrey Bouck was the next to arrive. If you haven’t had the good fortune to meet Ashley, she is the confident, brunette, and down to earth Executive Director of Girls Inc. and the current Vice Chair of the Women’s Business Council. She is expecting her first child at the end of the year and will be the Chair of the WBC in 2017. It was the first time the two of us met, so we quickly chatted before Charlotte arrived. Ashley had already discovered via email communications that Charlotte was not the first chair of the Women’s Business Council, as we assumed. She sent me a letter written five years ago by the first chair of the Women’s Business Council while we waited for Charlotte to arrive. If you are curious what the letter said, you can read it here. After all, this is the 30th Anniversary of the Women’s Business Council . This blog post is a first in a series called “Then & Now” which will recap Women’s Business Council’s history. Current members of the WBC will be interviewing the leaders from the past thirty years to hear their perspectives.
As Charlotte came through the doors, I recognized her right away. She looked stunning and classy as always with her signature blond bun and stunning blue eyes. We had a brief chat about the weather, purchased cold beverages and began the interview. Ashley naturally led the discussion since she is most recently acquainted with Charlotte. She supports the arts and I reminded her of our past encounter (seems like eons ago) in my previous role as the Executive Director of Albany Center Gallery. “We spoke on the phone five years ago, remember? I was able to assist you in securing Steven Rolf Kroeger, the artist you commissioned for the sculpture in Tricenntenial Park to commemorate Albany and Tula as twin cities.” “Oh, yes, thank you for that”, she said. She’s so gracious and polite. I blushed. Charlotte Buchanan is the founder of the Albany Tulla Alliance.
Charlotte confirmed she was Chair of the Albany Colonie Chamber’s Board of Directors thirty years ago. One of two of her main priorities as Chair of the Board was to adopt the Women’s Business Council as an Albany Colonie Chamber of Commerce initiative. At the time, the Chamber was operating on a shoe string and there wasn’t room in the budget for new initiatives. However, Charlotte believed strongly in the mission of The Women’s Business Council and felt WBC would spark economic growth in the region by increasing its membership base. Although she was not the first chair of the Women’s Business Council as we alleged, Charlotte was able to confirm that Beverly Traa was the first chair and Arlene Clements followed. Update: I will be interviewing them in early October so stay tuned…
Our biggest takeaway from our meeting with Charlotte was hearing firsthand that the Albany Chamber of Commerce (Now Capital Region Chamber) has always been accepting of women members during a time when inequality was more prevalent in the workplace. Charlotte recalled that during the 80’s, even though she was a successful attorney and community leader, she ate lunch in the cafeteria while her male colleagues left the office for fancy lunches at men-only establishments. However, being a leader during that time didn’t discourage her from networking with a plethora of people regardless of race, age, gender or sexual orientation. Her advice was to broaden your network base in order to cast a wide net. That was the nugget of wisdom I took away from the interview. You never know where your next opportunity will be. Think big picture, and be open to all people. Listen to those who have influence and take action to help to usher in change to spark growth and opportunity for the betterment of the community.