As businesswomen continue to face artificial limits on how far they can advance in their organizations, a new initiative from the Women’s Leadership Center aims to use networking, support, and lifelong learning to help Coles College alumnae overcome these obstacles and reach their full potential.
The newly formed Outstanding Women Leaders Circle – called the OWL Circle – is a group of professional women who come together to network, offer mentorship, share their experiences, develop solutions to each other’s professional challenges, and participate in lifelong learning opportunities. Each of its members is either a Coles alumna, donor, or friend of the college.
“All of the OWL Circle’s events will be based on helping women hone their leadership skills in the workplace,” says Erin Wolf, Executive Director of the WLC and one of the chief architects of the OWL Circle. “We also want to help our members build a professional network where they can send business, make referrals, and receive support.”
Currently, the OWL Circle consists of a 42-person steering committee comprised of professional women from a variety of businesses and non-profits. Some of the organizations represented include AT&T, Henssler Financial, Turner Broadcasting, and the Southern Company.
The OWL Circle’s first major event is a panel discussion scheduled for Feb. 1, 2018 at The Georgian Club in Atlanta. Called The Unwritten Rules of Business, the event will feature a panel of two men and two women (all senior executives in their organizations) discussing nuances of business culture that men often take for granted and that women are seldom taught.
For example, Wolf says women are not taught the importance of successfully moving past professional disagreements with their colleagues.
“It’s important not to take things personally,” she says. “Guys are taught that if you fight about something at work, you go out and have a beer. You normalize the relationship before moving on. Women, on the other hand, might get into something with a coworker and take it personally.” This kind of behavior, she adds, can sabotage professional relationships.
Wolf points out that these issues do not arise because women are more emotional than men, but because society encourages men and women to express emotions differently. While boys grow up learning that aggression can bring about positive results, parents often teach their daughters to avoid conflicts. As a result, young girls grow up without the skills to diffuse conflicts when they occur.
The Unwritten Rules of Business is poised to be a fascinating examination of business culture and a great kickoff event for the OWL Circle. The panel is free and open to all Coles College alumnae. Participants will receive invites to attend future OWL Circle events and to start networking with other professional women in the group.
Wolf ultimately hopes the OWL Circle will fill a much-needed role for Coles in supporting its alumnae post-graduation. Most large business schools in the U.S. have professional networks to empower their women graduates in the workplace. Prior to the establishment of The OWL Circle, Coles College did not.
Given the struggles women continue to encounter in business, Wolf says groups like the OWL Circle are valuable tools for helping women achieve their professional goals.
“Even though women enter the professional workplace at parity with men, their numbers dwindle as they work their way up the corporate ladder,” she says. “Only 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Groups like the OWL Circle afford women the opportunity to support each other in the workplace.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the OWL Circle or in joining can contact Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org.