Friday, June 25, 2010

CWLI (Chattanooga, TN)

The first organization that I am meeting with is the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute (CWLI). Maybe it’s the fact that I went to a women’s college, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been asked no less than 7 times in one visit to Home Depot if I needed help with something—“honey, can I get that for you?” “are you looking for the paint section?” “are you sure that’s what you’re looking for?”—or maybe it’s the mind blowing stats about the number of teen moms in Buffalo (read the sixth bullet point) that are alone in providing for their children, but regardless, I feel a certain connection to women’s empowerment programs. Oh yeah, and I’m a woman…though some days I wouldn't know it with my carhartts and tool belt, up to my elbows in mud. This is not to say that there should not be men’s empowerment programs, because in fact, there probably should be. Men need as much encouragement in exploring non-traditional career paths as women do! Certainly not with the same priorities as women’s groups, but needed nonetheless.

In starting my search for this road trip, I had in mind a few people/orgs I wanted to interview: a) green/natural building companies b) non-profit community building groups and c) women-specific groups or businesses. Obviously, CWLI falls under category c.

CWLI is a non-profit organization that seeks to enhance women’s roles in our society by training leaders and coordinating women-only networking sessions, providing a comfortable atmosphere for females in which they can interact and see other women in successful career paths. For me, this seems important, though not totally (I think) in the way that they are approaching it. What seems most valuable is the inter-generational connection that this Institute could potentially provide.

The Women to Women Mentoring Program that is mentioned on their website that I thought I should mention in this post. From what I understand, the program takes women already involved in a career of some sort and engages them in training to become a mentor for other women. Beyond that though, it is unclear how these women further the idea of choice--of career, of partner, of whatever--and I do not see a mention of any real mentor program, just the mention of training mentors. What is the purpose of the group? To build equality among women or build women's role in society or helping individual women realize their potential or all of the above?

After reading through their website, I have a few more questions for CWLI:

  1. Does the organization actively pursue job placement for their members?
  2. Are eight 2-hour sessions enough for women to become mentors? And once they become mentors for other women, is there an established program that pairs people together? Or is it that they are just a mentor for other women generally in their everyday life?
  3. Who is their target audience? It says on their website, “women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds,” but who realistically can get to the workshops, can pay the dues and attend networking sessions?

I guess we shall see the answers to all of these when I visit! Next installment: CreateHere, a placemaking/art organization that supports community artists, beautification, etc.

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