Executives in a women’s networking group met at a bar for a recent event.
A traditional bar to gather for drinks?
A bar that is used for ballet class?
That’s the out-of-the box kind of networking that a Harrisburg attorney is trying to encourage.
“We were all inspired to do a workout class together,” said Amanda Lavis, an attorney at Rhoads & Sinon LLP and founder of the group Women Empowered.
Networking needs to be creative, she said, and Women Empowered, or WE, is re-writing the book on developing work and personal relationships.
Late-night mixers might not work for those needing – and wanting – to get to home obligations, she said. And yes, the WE exercising event might have been awkward at first, but it worked in this case.
The women did feel a little vulnerable, Lavis said, but they laughed a lot and they developed relationships with each other.
That’s key for a successful networking group, especially for women. A safe environment allows them to freely communicate, and develop relationships.
You want to get to know that person before you start working with them, Lavis said.
“Is it someone who I can trust, getting to know someone past their title. We are looking to learn who they are.”
Making WE a priority
WE started in November with Lavis at the helm. Like many meeting groups for women, her group is initiating change, even in her own profession. Only 18 percent of women are at the leadership level in the legal field. That’s missing the mark.
“It’s surprising and disheartening,” she said. “I wanted to do something about it. In the past our firm has had women initiatives,” Lavis said. The ideas gained some traction, but then fizzled out.
“I’m treating this as a priority. It’s not only women issues, it’s not just gender specific,” she said.
A successful initiative needs support from and participation by all genders.
For each event the group brainstorms what would be of interest to them. And timing of events is key. Many want networking events to start at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., so they can wrap them up by 5 p.m.
It might cut into work time, but so far there hasn’t been pushback from the the members’ workplaces, Lavis said.
For another event, the group met at Elena Macris’ business, Macris Chocolates in Lemoyne, where members paired chocolates with wine, craft beer and bourbon. It was called “Better Together” and the premise of the meeting focused on men and women. While both might be fine working on their own, they are much better working together.
What are the parameters for joining?
Women who either own their own business or who are in leadership positions.
What’s next for WE?
A women’s institute, a larger event on advanced leadership opportunities for women executives in the community, Lavis said.
Want to learn more?
Contact Annie Etter, Rhoads & Sinon LLP’s marketing director, AEtter@Rhoads-Sinon.com; 717-237-6721.