October 2018 News & Updates

These are challenging times. Lightning-swift changes in the political and cultural landscape buffet us from one emotional extreme to another.

We are experiencing a definite paradigm shift in our culture. It was just last October that the New York Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story. A tidal wave of related stories and firings followed. In this compressed window of time, it’s hard to take it all in. And there has been considerable backlash. We witnessed that backlash in the recent Supreme Court nomination process. But the die has been cast.

Behavior that was once the norm in the workplace and social settings is
no longer acceptable. We are not going back to those days of
abusive power and coercion ever again.

After much reflection, I appreciate the importance of focusing on issues in our own state. Thanks to our funding of Change The Story * , data is readily available that addresses the systemic issues related to women’s economic insecurity in Vermont. We are now disseminating that information throughout Vermont. Businesses, in turn, are learning how to examine their workplaces through a gender lens to recognize imbalances in leadership, policies, and practices. Overall, the Women’s Fund is committed to supporting the talented women and men doing their best to advance gender equity in Vermont.

I am buoyed by this progress and the growing support the Women’s Fund receives. You will read in this newsletter about the corporate sponsorship which has nearly doubled this year for our annual event on Tuesday, October 30th . Also, read about our support of women’s entrepreneurship and the inspiring results, most recently reflected by a screening of the documentary, Dream , Girl , at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland. Learn, too, about Vermont’s Society of Women Engineers and its contingent of young women who love their work and share the message that STEM-related topics are fun, creative, and lucrative.

So that’s our cure for any pessimism these days. Those of us associated with the Women’s Fund are hunkering down and working hard in our own backyard. Thanks for being a part of the solution in Vermont and beyond.

In solidarity,

* Change The Story is a collaborative partnership with the Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women. 
Revving Up for Reshma

If you follow us, you’ve heard about our upcoming annual celebration on October 30th featuring guest speaker, Reshma Saujani. Reshma’s work as the founder of Girls Who Code , and her inspirational TEDtalk about girls needing to be taught bravery, not perfection, has become a powerful force to engage young women and their mentors to seek new opportunities in tech.

I won’t reveal all of her story as we’ll hear from her live at UVM’s Davis Center. But, I will hint that Reshma’s career trajectory changed dramatically and not by her own choosing. It was a failed run for political office that led her to examine her own life and purpose—and in turn observe how our culture deflates girls’ expectations of themselves and how we are all unknowingly complicit.

My wish is that you will join us and invite a student as your guest. Also, encourage fathers to come with their daughters. Reshma speaks to all of us in different ways but the bottom line is that we need to think deeply about how we raise our daughters and what messages we send to young women as they consider their future endeavors.

I look forward to seeing you there on October 30! Click here for more information. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with me if you’d like to make special arrangements of any kind or for a block of tickets. 
Society of Women Engineers Vermont
An exciting benefit of working at the Vermont Women’s Fund, and in particular, preparing for Reshma Saujani’s visit, is my recent discovery of the Vermont Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) .

Who knew that this national organization of women engineers started as far back as 1950? The SWE has a long history of bringing women professionals together to create a unique place and a distinct voice about the profession. Their mission is to “empower women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion.” Go SWE!

The Vermont chapter of SWE has several members who work at Global Foundries in Essex Junction, one of Vermont’s larger employers. I was surprised to learn how many other companies employ women engineers in our state: Autumn Harp, Logic Supply, UTC, GZA Environmental, Grenier Engineering, and NRG Systems to name just a few.

Leslie Griffiths, President of the SWE-VT chapter, discovered the Society almost by chance not long after college when she opted to attend a national meeting in Kansas City with over 8,000 attendees. “The power of that first conference really hit me,” she explains. “It was the first time I was in a professional setting where there were so many more women than men! And the strength of the network and the leadership coaching was something I had never encountered before.” Griffiths, who currently works at Global Foundries, said that this year’s conference in Texas expected over 14,000 women attendees.

“I’ve never been shy,” Griffiths says with a laugh, “but having a safe place to practice skills and get feedback was invaluable to me and other SWE members feel the same way, especially those new to the ranks.” The Vermont SWE currently has 88 members with ages that range from 22 years old to early 70’s.
“We have some dynamic younger women who are looking for role models and professional development experiences which they get with SWE. The organization has also made our members aware of the gender imbalance in many workplaces and has ultimately resulted in more women hires,” Griffiths added. SWE is also reaching out to the younger generation with its SWE NEXT, a free program for girls K-12. “One of our members told me recently that she wished she could tell every girl that a career in engineering is so much more creative and imaginative than people think. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be an engineer!”

The Vermont Women’s Fund applauds the work of SWE and hopes to see many of its members at the October 30 th event. For more information about SWE and its Vermont chapter, contact Leslie at leslie.griffiths@globalfoundries.com .
Supporting Entrepreneurship

Supporting women’s entrepreneurship is one of the ways the Vermont Women’s Fund fulfills its mission to help women achieve economic self-sufficiency.

  • The good news: thanks to the data collected by Change The Story, we know that women-owned firms in Vermont are growing at a faster rate than ever before. 
  • The not-so-good news is that these businesses are significantly underrepresented in 9 out of the 10 highest grossing sectors. And to date, the women-owned businesses are not generating the kind of revenues as their male counterparts.
In an effort to change the story about women’s entrepreneurship, the Vermont Women’s Fund sponsored a screening of the documentary, Dream, Girl , in Rutland this September in conjunction with the College of St. Joseph (CSJ). Following this inspirational film that we have shown in f our other regions around the state, a panel of local women entrepreneurs from the Rutland area spoke about their own experiences and answered questions from the audience. 
The new president of CSJ, Dr. Jennifer Sco tt moderated, asking the panel, “If you could travel back to the first few years (or months) when you started your business, what would you change?”  
Whitney Lamy, founder of Castleton Crackers , began her business 10 years ago, rolling out tray upon tray of cracker dough herself and grew the company to a national presence. To Dr. Scott’s question, she answered, “I wish I hadn’t been afraid to ask for money and had looked for financing earlier.” She explained, “I was an art major in college and assumed I didn’t know anything about business. But lo and behold, I loved Quickbooks! I discovered that I really liked the business side much more than the manufacturing which was a big surprise to me.” Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company purchased Castleton Crackers in 2013 and Whitney stayed on board until August 2018.

Paige Carerra, owner of Blush Salon , started her first business at age 19 with $300. “Just enough to get a chair with borrowed equipment,” as she described. Her first business earned enough capital for her to start Blush Salon a few years later. “The wedding business in Vermont has been a huge boon to my salon,” she explained, “and I am now starting a cosmetology school and am planning on becoming a distributor of beauty supplies. I’ve always been motivated to do better, to try a little harder, and show anyone who doubts my ability that they are wrong!” Currently, Paige manages 12 employees all of whom she coaches and trains in all aspects of running a business.

Leslie Doenges co-owns Vermont Sport and Fitness with her husband. “We have three young children, and both my husband and I work full-time as well as serve on community boards,” she said in answer to Dr. Scott’s question. “I don’t think there is anything I would change except to know that the more you have to do, the more you can do!” Doesnges also serves on the board of Rutland Young Professionals. Another adage she lives by, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is part of success.”

Rebekah Wall started Live Love Yoga with her own money. “I started an investment portfolio at age 18,” she said, “and eventually was able to borrow against that to start my business.” Wall continued, “Knowing if I failed I would lose so much, I worked very hard not to have that happen.” Wall also started OWL’s of Rutland County (OWL stands for Owner’s Women and Leaders) based on the experience of opening her own studio. “One bit of advice I have to give is to find a mentor and become one yourself—it made all the difference for me.”

We want to thank the panelists for their personal stories, candor, and humor as well as their inspirational advice. We also thank the College of St. Joseph for making the evening possible in the beautiful Tuttle Hall Theater.

The film, Dream, Girl is now available online . Watch the film yourself and get inspired! And if you would like to organize a similar screening and panel discussion, please contact us!
Vermont Commission on Women: Shhhh, We're Listening
What’s working well – and not working so well – for the women in your community?
What are the most important issues facing women in Vermont, according to your own experience or from what you can see?
Help Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) gather this information by taking a short survey (5-10 minutes max), and share the survey link with your networks. Your answers to the survey are completely anonymous and confidential, and VCW welcomes responses from anyone (not just women). Please respond by October 31st.

Thank you to our sponsors of this newsletter and our upcoming annual benefit
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