BRATTLEBORO — New data from Change The Story VT shows that women are still not on par with men in the Vermont workforce. The Women's Leadership Circle of Vermont aims to change that story. Founded by Kerry Secrest of Watershed Coaching, LLC in 2011 and now a partnership with Marlboro College Center for New Leadership, the Women's Leadership Circle has become an integral program of the Marlboro College Center for New Leadership.
The Women's Leadership Circle is a program for professional women. It provides women in roles of power the space, support, and tools to lead with clarity and confidence. Developed for women who are already established in leadership positions across all areas, nonprofit, business, and government, their participants have the desire, drive, and motivation to push themselves towards their goals of personal professional achievement. The program also provides support and the circles provide a safe space for honest conversations to happen.
Started in Windham County, all of the circles have continued. The oldest circle has been together for six years.
"There is opportunity for long-term support," said Secrest. In all of her research, she has never found a similar program with such long term results. Together with Marla Soloman a professor at the Five Colleges, Secrest is researching the long-term impact of these networks of support. The pair will be presenting their paper at the 18th Annual Global Conference, The Dynamics of Inclusive Leadership by the International Leadership Association in Atlanta in the fall. Their work will also be seen in a chapter in the upcoming book titled: Leading and Managing in the Social Sector.
The benefits to being a part of a leadership circle are many. Assisting in aligning the participants' lives with their values, expanding their leadership abilities, exploring the link between personal well-being and leadership, practicing to expand leadership abilities in a real-world project, and community are at the core of the benefits. Each circle is intentionally drawn from the same county with the hope and expectation that circle members will sustain their connections and friendships long after their program is complete.
Secrest has visions of growing this already successful program. "I have dreams of having an emerging leaders program." She is also working on ways to meaningfully connect the already existing circles. "For the first time this spring we had a one day alumni event. We brought women from the different circles together so that they could meet one another." They are looking into the potential value of connecting the circles and the interest in doing so.
The Women's Leadership Circle of Vermont is coming back to Windham County this fall and is currently accepting applications. The deadline to apply is June 30. The process is designed to ensure a good fit and successful outcome for the participant. It is open to any established women in leadership roles in Windham County. It is recommended that prospective applicants begin a conversation with Kerry Secrest, then move on to the online application.
Michelle Stephens is a regular contributor to the Reformer, including her twice-a-month column, "Juicebox Confession." She can be reached at Michelle@JuiceboxConfession.com.