First year shows demand for women’s business organization, leader says

Jayne Huston - (Photo / Submitted)

Eighteen of the midstate’s most influential businesswomen gather for three hours every month to help each other prosper.

They represent a diverse range of industries, from manufacturing to healthcare, but they often face similar challenges and can share their knowledge to the benefit of everyone at the table.

This group, the Harrisburg-area chapter of the Women Presidents’ Organization, has existed for one year. In that time, it has already hosted a major conference and is gauging demand for a second local chapter, said chapter chair Jayne Huston.

The Women Presidents’ Organization has about 1,900 members in 134 chapters worldwide. Membership is open to women who have an ownership interest in businesses with gross revenue of at least $2 million for product-based companies, or $1 million for service-based industries.

Huston discovered last year that about 350 midstate companies include women eligible to join the group. A professional business coach for ThistleSea Business Development, Huston headed a Women Presidents’ Organization chapter in western Pennsylvania and figured she would try to start a new chapter here as she expanded ThistleSea to the midstate and moved her family to the Hershey area.

She expected challenges from people unfamiliar with the organization. Instead, she said, she has found demand.

The group includes 18 members who meet monthly to discuss issues ranging from succession planning to employee engagement, Huston said. The organization is structured such that members are never in the same chapter as their competitors, giving members the ability to speak openly about their problems.

These discussions often lead to tangible actions members can take to better their businesses.

“Every single meeting I see an ‘aha’ moment,” Huston said.

The young Harrisburg-area chapter also played host Wednesday to the Women Presidents’ Organization’s Mid-Atlantic Regional meeting, a gathering of about 100 members from 10 organization chapters. The event, sponsored by PNC Wealth Management, might be one of the largest WPO gatherings outside the group’s annual conference, Huston said.

The meeting featured speaker Christine Comaford, who led the group in a day-long seminar explaining the neurological basis of employee behavior. Comaford is an internationally known author and serial entrepreneur who now leads an executive coaching firm called SmartTribes Institute.

Bringing Comaford to Central Pennsylvania has been one of many standout moments for the Harrisburg-area chapter, Huston said.

Huston would like to hear from more women-led companies as she explores the option of starting a second chapter in Southcentral Pennsylvania. More information is available at www.womenpresidentsorg.com.

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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