In honor of National Women’s History Month, the Women’s Business Council would like to share one of the innovative ways we are contributing to lift women up and empower them through our programming.
Over the past two years, the Women’s Business Council has been piloting a program that we call “Friend of the WBC.” I’m honored to share this collaborative effort and the impact that it has had on women (and men) during our pilot phase which we are proud to bring to light.
We Listened: At the end of 2016, the WBC Steering Committee leadership hosted a strategic planning session where we focused on what we wanted to “Start” and what we wanted to “Stop.” The conversation was driven by survey responses we had obtained from our audiences throughout the year paired with analysis of what other programming, training and opportunities were currently being offered to women in our region. Finally, we identified where the gaps existed. One immediate area of improvement that our group recognized as a priority was the need to focus on diversity and inclusion, and this is an ongoing effort we continue to work toward. We knew that we had access to a pool of individuals that we were missing the mark on and could immediately fix. That is how we started brainstorming around what would become “Friend of the WBC.”
We Collaborated to Remove Barriers: We worked to be more inclusive within our non-profit demographic. The WBC is known for our Adopted Non-Profit initiative where we partner with a non-profit organization in our region annually to help them raise awareness about their cause. Part of the benefit of being an Adopted Non-Profit partner is that you receive two complimentary tickets to each WBC program. We knew we could take this a step further, and through the power of collaboration, gain support to provide funding for more non-profit partners and their clients they serve to attend our programming, programming that is aimed at providing opportunity and education for women in business. We were halfway there, we had a plan in place to find individual “sponsors” to purchase tickets to eliminate the expense of our programming and enable 10 non-profit organizations and/or clients to attend each of our programs throughout the year as “Friends of the WBC.” We had a plan in place to provide these women access to professional business attire and to have WBC mentors greet these women and make them feel as comfortable as possible during events.
We Conducted Research: Initially, we were thinking of all of the ways this new initiative could benefit women in transition, women that were perhaps part of the services that some of our non-profit partners like the YWCA-GCR, Women’s Employment Resource Center (WERC), Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Schenectady City Mission, St. Paul’s Center, HATAS and beyond offer. We knew we could offer them access to networking, education and opportunity, but on the other side of the coin, we knew there would be barriers that we would have to address to make this fully accessible and comfortable.
That is when we invited Mike Saccocio, Executive Director/CEO of Schenectady City Mission in to review our thoughts. Mike addressed what we all needed to hear that morning and he flipped our thought process upside down. He said something along the lines of, “Stop thinking about how you will benefit them, and start thinking about how they will benefit you.” Our intentions were good, but I can tell you firsthand, I’m certain that the WBC has learned more from our “Friends of the WBC” than they have learned from us. These women (and men) have wisdom, perseverance, and strength beyond measure. Mike walked us through an exercise his team conducts with clients at the City Mission. They draw their “current state” and then they draw their “future state” and envision how their life can look ahead with the right support system, goals, and opportunities. That day, the WBC envisioned our future state and “The Friend of the WBC” came to life.
We Delivered: Since 2016, we have had nearly 100 “Friends of the WBC” attend our programming. Tickets have been funded by the generosity of our WBC Steering Committee members and our networks. Women have shared with us that our programming gave them the courage to update their resume and start their job search. Other women have reported back that they are starting to take steps to move back into the workforce due to connections they made at our programming. Others have said simply, thank you for giving me this chance.
Our Mission: The Friend of the Women’s Business Council (WBC) came from a place of wanting to reach out to, be more inclusive of and empower more women in the Capital Region. We recognize that not everyone can afford or access WBC programming- programming that is designed to inform, inspire and empower women in our community. The Friend of the WBC effort allows individuals and organizations to sponsor women motivated to move their careers to the next step, and thus remove a barrier for women who may not easily be able to access WBC programs.
We Want You! We share this with you in hopes that you too may want to partner with us to lift other women up through the Women’s Business Council! If you are interested in learning more about the program, please contact me directly! Thank you for your kind heart and support along this journey.