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When Jen Simon, Michelle Bukowski and Chandra Allen first met and discussed women’s leadership and mentoring, they never suspected that several years later their dialogue would result in the creation of an entirely new program. As their discussions with each other and other women unfolded, they recognized a very real (yet often left unspoken) desire among women to connect with one another in deep and substantive ways, not simply as professionals or mothers or spouses or partners, but as women—women who wore a variety of hats and juggled many different demands, who held together complex pieces of their identity at any and every given moment. In learning about leadership and navigating their worlds successfully, these women sought genuine relationship, not workplace-mandated mentoring partnerships. These women wanted to bring the entirety of their persons to their considerations of what it means to express leadership, not simply one dimension of their self-understanding. Thus far, none of the women had experienced a mentoring relationship quite like the one they envisioned. While they had engaged in some admittedly worthwhile leadership programs, they articulated a desire for something different. And so Woman to Woman was born.
The Timeline of Our Unfolding
- 2009-10: A women’s leadership panel event, initially a project sponsored by the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership, sparks conversation about how women’s mentoring programs might look different and better cater to women’s needs. Jen Simon, an organizer of the event, and Michelle Bukowski carry the project forward with the hopes of devising a new mentoring program model. Under the umbrella of the Cal Turner Program, the two later join with Chandra Allen of the Scarritt-Bennett Center.
- 2011-12: A steering committee is established to create a new mentoring program. As they pursue deeper conversations, the committee members realize that what they envision is less of a mentoring program (a hierarchical, top-down structure) and something that is instead more organic in which women in different stages of life learn from one another. Members structure a schema that will accommodate and in fact promote such mutual relationships.
- 2012-2013: On the first weekend of September, the Steering Committee gathered at the Curb Center for a community-building and planning retreat. Lo and behold, at the retreat, through laughter, frustrations, and stories, facilitated by the gifted and lively hands of Heather Lefkowitz, the Steering Committee realized that they in fact had been modeling what they dreamed for their program. That weekend, the program assumed its shape: Woman to Woman would seek to establish a space in which women could form small group relationships to encounter different life experiences and stages and to enjoy honest conversation.