New women’s program fosters growth in leadership and life
FARGO - Lynette Lewis doesn’t care if you remember her name. But she does want you to remember what she talks about and how it could apply to your life. The 52-year-old author, business consultant and speaker from New York City and Raleigh, N.C., travels the country sharing her career and life strategies. Lewis authored 2008’s go-to guide for professional women, “Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos,” and she’ll speak at the inaugural Women Connect session here Jan. 27, focusing on concepts from her book. “I hope they leave feeling that it’s their turn to dream and that they feel they’ve got the permission and some strategy on how to go do that,” Lewis says. Launched by The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber this year, Women Connect aims to unite female leaders while helping them develop skills to benefit their lives. Although targeted at women, men are welcome to attend, too. The idea for Women Connect started a year ago. Chamber President and CEO Craig Whitney and a committee of professional women noticed that while the community has effective women-centric programs, there wasn’t yet a program geared toward women age 30 and older. The age group, Whitney says, has different needs than younger professionals because they may have a family, more time constraints, evolving career ambitions, etc. “The bottom line is we came to the conclusion that there’s nothing else like this that’s out there,” he says. “We think it’s filling a real void in the community.” The monthly events will build on each other, concentrating on topics like confidence, creativity, challenges in business environments and realizing dreams. Because it integrates “content, community, challenge and connection,” Women Connect is a smart use of women’s time, says Pam McGee, the Women Connect committee chairwoman, business consultant and assistant professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead. It’s a one-stop shop for networking and learning. “Everybody’s time-starved right now. It’s bringing together your venue for content so you can become a better leader with your venue for networking so you can become more connected in the community with your venue for getting your challenges met,” McGee says. “You’re going to get a lot out of that impactful hour.” Since Lewis will kick off the first session, we chatted with her about the value of programs like Women Connect, finding fulfillment, and what’d she’d tell people who doubt the importance of women helping women. You speak across the nation to various groups about professional, personal and relational fulfillment. How do programs like Women Connect help foster those goals? I have a real personal passion for this because as I look back on my own career, it’s so much about the people and relationships that came into my life that really opened up the doors I was looking for. I think it’s easy to fall into familiarity with our work, with our circles of friends. How many times have we all been to networking events and we hang out with the people we came with instead of really leveraging a group of people you’ve never met before? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? One of my mentors in New York City is Carole Hyatt (an author and career development professional), and she said, “Knock on every door and see which ones open because some, it’s their time to open, others, it’s not their time to open. If you knock, you’ll at least feel like you’re pursuing those things that matter to you.” We often think, “Now which door is going to open? I’ll wait to knock until I know it’s going to open.” It’s the process of the knocking, trying and working on it that we find where we’re going to go. When one dream is on hold, you go live another dream, go pursue things that are opening up and then you’re fulfilled.
Can you describe your book? Each chapter covers a strategy about how to up your sense of fulfillment. It’s really about those moments in your career where you wonder, “Should I be doing more? Is this really what I want to be doing? Is it enough for me, or should I add more? Should I shift some things?” I believe it all starts with a personal purpose statement, which I discuss in the book. It becomes a compass to point you toward the people, company and projects most aligned with what you want to do in life. What’re your thoughts on work/life balance? When did you know you were satisfied in both areas? I think it’s a journey that never really stops. There’s always that sense of balancing. I think the tendency is to kind of look at what we’re not experiencing at the time and wondering if once that happens, there will be a greater sense of fulfillment. You never get there totally. Life is really about seasons, and each season has its gifts. The point is to celebrate the season you’re in, not necessarily wish for what you don’t have in the season you’re in. In life I have found that it’s very often different in some vein than what we would have thought, but if we are strategic, it can be even better than what we have imagined. Can it be difficult for women to support other women? In 30 years, my experience is that women do love to help one another. I think that certainly there are those who are stereotyped that might be threatened by other strong women. But if we make our journey one that we invite others to join, and in turn help them in their journey, it becomes really a great source of camaraderie and helping one another and really helping each other achieve our goals and dreams and celebrating. It’s been the greatest source of joy for me professionally. I’ve had some great male mentors, but it’s really my female friends that’ve cheered me on and helped me stay the course while I waited for some of the successes I’ve had. What would you say to women who’re doubtful of women-centric programs or those who’re nervous to attend? Imagine what one or two hours on a single day could do when you focus on yourself in the company of other women that you’re helping do the same. How could that impact the next six, 12, 18 months of your life by creating passion and motivation for what you’re going to do next? I think women in particular really benefit from getting together, sharing stories, talking with one another and helping one another. Making a focus of that is very helpful for the female heart. It’s also a great leadership tool. Come for yourself, and if you don’t want to, come for those you lead, whether it’s your children or colleagues. If you go What: Women Connect, a program by The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber aimed at developing and connecting female leaders; men are also welcome. When: 3:30 to 5 p.m. Jan. 27 Where: Hilton Garden Inn, 4351 17th Ave. S., Fargo Info: The cost is $35 in advance for Chamber members; $45 at the door. Non-members pay $45 in advance, $55 at the door. To register, visit http://fargomoorheadmncoc.weblinkconnect.com/events and click on “Women Connect: Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos” under “Upcoming Events.” A link to register is at the bottom left corner under “Share. Registered attendees will receive a copy of speaker Lynette Lewis’ “Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos.” For more information, call (218) 233-1100. Donate: Attendees are encouraged to bring a pair of professional shoes to donate to Dress for Success Red River Valley.