A new professional networking group is aimed at helping women in communities along Route 9 gain an advantage in business.
Business Forward Females, part of the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce, is a forum where women can advise and support each other, while overcoming challenges specific to working women, organizers say.
“Women have unique issues,” said Business Forward Females member Janice Bogasky. “If you’re married and have children, that’s a whole-life balance. In addition to work, you’re also doing the shopping and the cooking. Women are wonderful multitaskers. We’re amazing.”
Business Forward Females began in May, and its first two meetings both drew 80 women.
“We thought we’d get 30, and if it grew to 50 it would be a success,” said cochairwoman Pam Stevens, a lawyer with Seder & Chandler LLP in Worcester. “To hit 80 was terrific, more than we ever imagined.”
“The program has taken off, hugely,” said Corridor Nine vice president Karen Chapman. Its success reflects the interest among women cq for their own forum, she said. “They have their own topics to address that are not found anywhere else, such as negotiating for a raise with a male boss, or working in a male-dominated field. . . Women are looking for advice, and looking for a safe environment.”
According to Stevens, many women have not taken a traditional, linear career path because they often find themselves stepping out of the workforce for years at a time to raise families.
Bogasky, a mother of four, said she recognizes the trade-offs that come with parenthood and careers.
“It’s a lot harder being a full-time mom, but I did that for 13 years,” she said. “What a woman gives up is 13 years of earning power, 13 years of saving for retirement, 13 years of career advancement. But my own personal belief is no one can raise your kids but you. . . but not all women are able to stay at home.”
The group’s other cochairwoman, Denise A. Kapulka, started work as a reservation agent at Knight’s Airport Limousine in 2006 and worked her way to become marketing manager. As a single mother, she said, she understands the difficulty of balancing the dual roles of work and parenting.
“I think women have come a long way in the working world,” said Kapulka. “We want to be career-driven, but we also want to be family oriented. . . Most are looking to find the right work-life balance.”
Stevens said that she chose to change jobs or reduce her hours if conflicts arose when her children were young.
“For me, personally, I made choices in my career that allowed me to spend time with my family,” she said.
Stevens said navigating the reentry back into the workforce presents unique challenges. However, she said, she can now impart lessons she learned to other women in similar situations.
Chapman said the group’s women-only environment allows them to speak more openly and freely about their aspirations and concerns.
“Everyone is there for the same reason,” said Chapman. “It’s not about competing with each other. It’s about bonding with each other, and also about being good friends for each other in this business world. . . It’s almost like a sisterhood.”
Chapman added: “In hearing the personal struggles of women in their career, there’s always some value and benefit.”
Kapulka agreed: “Sometimes it’s easier to express yourself with another woman.”
Bogasky, who is also president of the Women’s Business Network, through the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce, said face time is still important for any networking group.
“Men go out on the golf course. Women are verbal; we go out to lunch and talk,” Bogasky said. “You do business with people you know and trust. You can’t just do a woman’s group, unless the only population you sell to is women. This is an adjunct to a chamber.”
Bogasky, a financial representative with Baystate Financial Services, recalled working at another company, and how the ratio of men to women there appeared to be even. However, she said, as she climbed the corporate ladder, she began seeing far fewer women at each new level.
“I started going to meetings and seeing 90 percent men and 10 percent women,” she said.
Stevens said she has seen a similar phenomenon in her own profession.
“I think women and men enter and graduate law school in similar numbers, but 10 years out, who’s practicing? There are still more men than women,” Stevens said.
The next meeting of Business Forward Females is set for Sept. 10 at 11:45 a.m. at the Marriott Courtyard, 75 Felton St., Marlborough. The cost is $20 for preregistered Corridor Nine members, and $30 for nonmembers.
The guest speaker will be Karyn Polito, who is president of Polito Development Corp., and previously served as a state representative and selectwoman in Shrewsbury.
Call 508-836-4444 or visit www.corridornine.org for more information.
John Swinconeck can be reached at email@example.com.