The Founding Women
When Jen Simon, Michelle Bukowski and Chandra Allen first met and discussed women’s leadership and mentoring, they never suspected their dialogue would result in the creation of an entirely new program. As their discussions unfolded, they recognized a very real (yet often unspoken) desire among women to connect with one another in deep and substantive ways, not simply as professionals, mothers, 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. They wanted to bring the entirety of their persons to their considerations of leadership. 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, this was a desire for something different. And so Woman to Woman was born.
Timeline of Program History
- 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.
2013-2014 In mid-July, the steering committee, recently renamed the Core, including continuing and new members, will gather at Scarritt-Bennett Center for it’s second annual planning retreat. The goal of this retreat will be to choose a new mode, think through the story for the coming year and enjoy time together as a group. Circle members will enjoy a kick off Retreat in late September followed by monthly Tuesday meetings that conclude in May 2014.
2014-2015: In mid-September the group gathered for an opening retreat of community building and discovery. The retreat centered on the Enneagram as a tool to become more self-aware about some of our leadership tendencies, preferences, and growing edges. It was the starting point to explore the year’s theme of” Identity: Culture, Community, and Self”. Over the course of the year we talked about the impact of culture on our individual and collective models of leadership and how we might be more intentional about the way we engage with the power of culture to define certain norms and paradigms. We also discussed ways that we could challenge cultural norms to be more inclusive of diverse leadership practices, styles, and models. Another important highlight of the year was creating space to think about our own leadership contexts and styles as we explored tools that could help us be more effective leaders like non-violent communication, mindfulness, and various creative practices. A thread throughout the year, and a critical component of Woman to Woman, is building meaningful community in which we can explore, learn, be challenged and grow.