In 2005, Annabel Beerel, PhD, held the Ethics Chair at Southern New Hampshire University and a report entitled “The Economic Status of Working Women in New Hampshire (The Report),” produced by the New Hampshire Women’s Policy Institute (May 2005), came across her desk. The Report highlighted significant inequities between the economic status of women and men, where women clearly face a ceiling when it comes to equitable pay or opportunities for professional advancement.
The contents of The Report raised, among other things, some ethical issues. Annabel saw an opportunity to work with organizations to address some of the issues raised. The Report itself provided suggestions and recommendations of what might be done to address the imbalances such as:
- Raise awareness of the imbalances and seek to influence the culture that resides in institutions that support these inequities. Bring discussions of women’s economic issues into the public domain and invite corporations to participate in those discussions.
- Encourage women to enter more non-traditional career fields such as science and technology.
- Focus on career ladders for women and provide them with specific opportunities for professional development
- Support female owned businesses and encourage female entrepreneurship
- Provide opportunities for women to engage in business networking and mentorship.
- Develop professional opportunities for women who leave their careers to take care of families and then wish to return.
In 2009, the first New England Women’s Leadership Summit was hosted at Southern New Hampshire University. The keynote speaker was Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts. She was a huge success! The one day event “Advancing Society by Advancing Women” sought to directly address some of the issues raised in The Report.
The Summit included:
- Professional development tracks
- Exposure to careers in the disciplines of science and technology and how to enter these fields
- Exposure to international business developments
- Workshops on improving negotiation and conflict management skills
- Networking and mentoring opportunities
- Inspirational keynote speakers
Over fifty organizations across New Hampshire were consulted about the value of putting an event of this nature together. Representatives from these organizations provided advice, program input and speaker suggestions. They also provided generous sponsorship monies along with sending their employees to the event. Without the support and generosity of these sponsors, this event would not have been possible.
In 2009, The New England Women’s Leadership Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization, was created. The purpose for creating this organization was to provide a legal vehicle for fundraising for the Summit and in order to establish a stable organization devoted to the education of women.
The Summit became an annual event with inspirational keynote speakers such as Gloria Steinem, Erin Brockovitch, Fawn Germer, Barbara Corcoran and Jessica Jackley. Additional conferences, retreats and networking events were added throughout the year so as to provide ongoing education and development.
In 2015, NEWLI has been reenergized with a new board and is now focused on the disciplines of STEM in technology, healthcare, environmental, biotechnology, military, financial, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries. It is also taking an integral mind, body, spirit approach to all of its products and services. Research into people development shows that an integral approach results in a far more sustainable and transformative impact on the growth and development of those exposed to these modalities of learning. This enhanced impact directly affects people in their professional and personal lives as well as contributing to leadership capacity within organizations.
The upcoming 2016 Summit will be the 8th offering. Details will become available early next year. Every year has been extremely successful with strong attendance and growing sponsorship support!