I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by a Mizzou student for a project. It was an interesting experience, and she had some very insightful questions, but one of the most remarkable things to me was her perception of Women’s Network. She was very intrigued by it and hoped that someday she would qualify to be a part of our organization. I explained to her that she had already qualified just by showing interest — she could come as my guest anytime she wanted. You’d have thought I just told her unicorns were real. She was so excited!

I was also recently invited to speak on a panel about niche divisions within a chamber for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. The three panelists, including me, spoke about young professionals, women, and nonprofit divisions.

It was an interesting opportunity to not only answer questions about how we handle logistics, but also to see how other communities value having resources set aside for a women’s division. The towns that don’t have it see our size and financial health with our different initiatives and wonder how we even get it all done. It was a rewarding experience for me that reaffirmed how blessed we are — not only to have over 500 women and men contributing to our group, but also to have the resources for our own full-time coordinator. We give highly distinguished awards. We provide educational opportunities. We even have our own service arm that works tirelessly to help women get reengaged in the workplace.

These conversations gave me the opportunity to really reflect on the perceptions that we and others have of our organization. Some of us see WN as something we get to do. Some of us see WN as something we have to do. Some of us see WN as something to aspire. Where do you fall?

I hear all of these voices. The ones that say we are a clique. The ones that say we aren’t a clique. The ones that say they outgrew Women’s Network, or that there isn’t anything there for them anymore. Here’s what I say to them:

If you feel Women’s Network is a clique, tell me what group you asked to be a part of that didn’t welcome you. I want to know. I’ll deal with them myself.

If you feel Women’s Network isn’t a clique, tell me the last total stranger you proactively included in conversation with you and your friends.

If you feel Women’s Network has nothing left to teach you, tell me the last thing you offered to teach us. We need you.

As we work on our strategic planning process, we are ensuring we have voices that represent all viewpoints at the table.  We need everyone engaged to help us see our strengths and our blind spots. I’m energized now more than ever to be a part of Women’s Network. We are now tasked with setting and confirming the direction of our organization, one that empowers 500-plus members, for the next decade. We need the new voices. We need wisdom and historical context. We need new, innovative thoughts.

We are privileged to be a part of this organization. We have a responsibility and a duty to uphold our mission: to connect, empower, and engage membership through leadership development, educational opportunities, and innovative outreach. 

I’m asking you again, as I do every month, not to take that lightly. Will you join me?

If you want to know how you fit into the plan, let’s get coffee and talk about it.