LIMA — Despite making up 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, women still have a way to go to find the same sort of representation in leadership positions.
With those statistics in mind, a new group organized by community leaders has plans to advocate for women, provide mentorship opportunities and create a welcoming group for women to discuss community issues.
Group founders Linda Chartrand, Jackie Fox and Sharetta Smith said the three had been discussing the potential group for roughly a year before they decided to move forward with the project. That planning came to fruition this past November when the newly-formed Women’s Leadership Collective met for the first time.
Smith said roughly 25 women attended the first meeting, but with the initial kick-off out of the way, the group will now be working on better defining the potential issues they would like to highlight in the community.
“The real important work begins and that is, as a collective, ‘what are the things we can do?’” Chartrand said.
Chartrand said the collective will be listening to its members over the next year to see how the group can best serve its members and influence the community.
One aspect of that work will be providing advocates, mentors and networks for women looking to advance their careers at all levels.
Fox said she began her own career as a teen mother with no high school diploma. She said was able to move forward thanks to the support of community groups and the advocates she met along the way.
In the same way, the collective was formed to be a similar network of advocates for women of all backgrounds, no matter where they may be in their career.
“There is a way, and we’ll help you find a way,” Fox said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Head Start mentorship,” she said.
Fox heads the Western Ohio Community Action Partnership.
The bipartisan group is also considering pushing on particular community issues and shaping public policy.
Smith, who currently works as City of Lima’s chief of staff, said group founders aren’t looking to create a political group, but there are community issues that could be better highlighted.
In the group’s initial mission statement, it lays out three areas the group is looking to focus on — “ensuring economic security for women and families, promoting opportunity and fairness for all women in the workplace and improving women’s health and well being.”
The final aspect of the group is to create a space for women to talk about some of the issues they may be facing.
“Sometimes, women just need someone to listen at the end of the day,” Chartrand said.
The group doesn’t have the date of its second meeting set quite yet, but at this point, the three initial founders plan on holding quarterly networking events similar to its kick-off meeting as well as monthly brown bag luncheons.
For details, contact Chartrand at 419-604-9835. Men, who would act as allies, can also join.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.