A new organization is trying to push women away from the girls table and into the boys club through mentoring and leadership. Women of Visionary Influence is a nonprofit organization and a network of women of all professions, interests, ages, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds that is working to put women in leadership roles.
WOVI Sherman held its first meeting in April. The group meets the third Tuesday of the month at Venue Off the Square.
“We used to have a chapter in this area several years ago,” WOVI Sherman President Ruth Williamson said. “That group meets now in the McKinney area. We wanted to have a group here in this area because there is a large group of young women that wanted to participate.”
There are about 20 women currently apart of the Sherman location of the organization.
“Its about developing leadership,” Williamson said. “We have a lot of vice presidents in our organizational chart. We want to give women leadership opportunities and build this development process. We want to help people take on things and grow and take on new things.”
Willliamson said that WOVI is similar to career centered social organizations.
“When I was working in information technology in Dallas, I was a part of this women’s mentoring group just for us,” she said. “The problems concerning women in technology are not new. We wanted to socialize with each other and give each other a referral network. A lot of the time, people’s response when someone is harassed at work or when someone has an issue at work is to just get another job. Well, its not always that easy and sometimes the issues that we are dealing with as women span across the career field and not just the job.”
WOVI is not career specific or age specific. Williamson said that the group even helps individuals build bilateral mentoring relationships.
“The mentor mentee relationship is not pedagogical,” she said. “They are not there to be a teacher. They are there to be a tool for you. The mentee frames what will be done. They set the meetings and the agenda. The mentor gathers their thoughts and materials and then meets with the person.”
Williamson said that men have often had the ability to socialize with each other and those relationships result in jobs and promotions.
“People would talk about the boys club and activities like golf and being invited into the executive dining room,” she said. “Those things and the long history of that has provided measurable advantages for men. Its not in our heads. Women have to construct similar things.”
In the past, Williamson said that she has worked to avoid gender specific organizations.
“I want to be at the table,” she said. “I do not want to be at the girls table. However, when it comes to women helping other women, we recognize that women work differently than men do. Mentor relationships can go beyond the demographics of age, race, religion, and all those labels we apply to people. Intersectionality is so important, and those kinds of relationships are kind of rare.”
WOVI has no attendance requirements. Every month there is a speaker and members can pick and choose which meetings they wish to attend.
“We have a dream bowl and WOVI moments,” Williamson said. “The dream bowl is just a place where the women can place their dreams for the future. A WOVI moment is a moment that happened serendipitously because of your involvement in WOVI. We like to highlight what makes this group special.”