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Women Presidents' Organization launches Lancaster chapter

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Jayne Huston is launching a Women Presidents' Organization in Lancaster.
Jayne Huston is launching a Women Presidents' Organization in Lancaster. - (Photo / )

The Women Presidents' Organization is not a networking group, but its members will tell you it's the best network they've ever had.

Jayne Huston, who serves as chapter chair for the Women Presidents’ Organization in Harrisburg, describes the organization as a think tank of sorts. 

Chapters are limited to 20 members from non-competitive businesses who meet monthly to share business expertise and experience confidentially.

"They inspire each other. They look at each other and go, 'You get what I’m going through,'" Huston said. 

Membership requires annual business revenue of at least $2 million, or $1 million for service-based companies and an ownership interest in the company. Membership fees range from $900 to $5,000 per year, depending on geographic area or company size.

The New York City-based nonprofit has over 2,000 members and 137 chapters on six continents, according to the organization's fact sheet.

And now Huston is building a new chapter in Lancaster.

Huston thinks the organization will offer something new to Lancaster that the city doesn’t currently have.

"It’s an alignment of peers, that’s what I think makes WPO different," Huston said.

Huston moved to the midstate from Pittsburgh in November 2015 and launched a WPO chapter in Harrisburg in March 2016.

It was the members in her Harrisburg chapter who said she should launch a chapter in Lancaster.

For three hours every month, members gather together to express concerns and offer each other insight. 

Huston's job, she said, is to bring out the genius in the group.

During each meeting, Huston facilitates a round-table, during which a woman will share her dilemma, critical issue or something she’s trying to make a decision about.

The rest of the group will then ask clarifying questions, which is where Huston said, the magic happens.

"They ask questions and really get at the heart of the issue. Honestly, sometimes it’s the issue you think it is, and sometimes it isn’t that issue at all," Huston said.

Huston then opens up the discussion to other women to share their experiences. Someone keeps notes, which are then passed confidentially to the member who has shared their dilemma or critical issue.

"It’s really tapping into the wisdom of your peers," Huston said.

None of the 20 members can be competitors in any way.

"If there’s someone at the table from a certain industry and someone from the same industry wants to come in, they can’t. That’s why you need to get another chapter. That’s what happened with Harrisburg," Huston said.

And they must sign a confidentiality agreement.

"I can’t express to you how important confidentiality is. We’re sharing very intimate information, and without confidentiality, we can’t even exist," Huston said.

The Lancaster chapter launched the first week of July. As of July 9, the Lancaster chapter had seven founding members, and Huston believes it will take until the end of the year to fill up the rest of the 20 spots.

The chapter will hold its first meeting July 19.

"Our women, they grow such unique companies and they want to mostly give back to the communities in which they live. They think broader about their businesses. We’re there to make money, there’s no question. But women always have a broader mission at heart. And so helping them to achieve that is very satisfying," Huston said. 

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Shelby White

Shelby White covers banking and finance, law and Lancaster County for the Central Penn Business Journal. For tips, email her at swhite@cpbj.com.

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