SheSays Central PA For Women of Harrisburg
Start small and messy.
After three nights of sleeping under the stars on an organic farm in Hopland, CA, at what San Francisco Magazine has described as Ted Talks with tepees, I came back to Harrisburg with dueling feelings of serenity and restlessness.
When I reflect on the Do Lectures, I feel almost guilty for having had the privilege of being in the company of so many gutsy people. People who literally became so conflicted with the status quo that they decided to completely disrupt it. People like Alessandra Lariu, co-founder of SheSays and CEO of Shout.
My trip to the Do Lectures happened just a few months into a professional transition that had turned upside down my perception of what it meant to be driven professionally…female…and in the company of men. It was probably that disposition that made me connect most with Lariu’s honest and humorous story of climbing to the top tiers of some of the world’s most renowned ad agencies only to find frustration in the fact that when she got there, it was rare to find another woman in her company.
That experience lead her to co-found SheSays, the now leading global network for creative women, dedicated to their advancement in the largely male-dominated fields of marketing and advertising.
When you sit in an old barn at the Do Lectures and listen to a 15-year old beekeeper (who was recognized at the White House) enthusiastically proclaim that “failing is as interesting as succeeding” and encouraging you to “make a lot of mistakes,” you start to really assess where you’re at in life and you ask yourself lots of questions like what am I doing?
As a freshly anointed Do alumna, I came back to Harrisburg replaying Lariu’s advice that “when you’re dissatisfied, you do.” Within three weeks I quit my (new) job to work part-time so I could explore a new collaboration with two colleagues. Over a Downtown lunch meeting, I asked them if they thought we could (and should) explore launching our own SheSays chapter. My inquiry was met with more enthusiasm than I had expected.
Three weeks later after a Skype call and several emails with Lariu, we were the official founders of SheSays Central PA. Joining a roster of cities like L.A., N.Y.C., London, Montevideo, Sydney, Vancouver and Seattle is both encouraging and frightening. Especially when your chapter is rooted in a struggling Third-Class city and defining the geography (ours includes Harrisburg to Philly and everything in between) and name (we originally explored SheSays HILLY) was literally the most challenging aspect of getting the chapter off of the ground. Nonetheless, we were thrilled to join SheSays as the 19th of the now 21 chapter worldwide network with more than 7,000 members across the globe.
One of the notes I have scribbled from Lariu’s Do talk is “start small and messy.” We’ve fully embraced this as a new chapter. Because of our location we don’t have the luxury of a rich network of agencies and tech companies on which to rely for sponsorship and funding. In some respects, that’s the very essence of why our chapter exists. Through our participation and support of other area creative networks, we are acutely aware of the tremendous amount of talent in this region. A pool of innovative folks—many of them women—deeply committed to the success of their companies and communities. At a time when many of Central PA’s creative agencies and its few tech companies are closing their Harrisburg offices to move to larger cities—to, I presume, tap into what is perceived to be a more lucrative client pool and hungrier, sophisticated creative talent—we want to celebrate the tremendous talent and potential that exists right here in our own community. We strive to nurture a community where creative culture, entrepreneurship and innovative thinking thrive, but more importantly act as a mechanism for positive change in the communities in which our members work and live.
There seems to be a groundswell of citizen action happening in Harrisburg lately.
SheSays is an organization committed to creative women helping other women advance. It accomplishes that through free events; a job platform called Shout that allows women to create real work for prestigious brands with the opportunity to be compensated if selected; courses in digital strategy, production and execution as well as mobile development; and a mentorship scheme that pairs women who are established in their careers with those just starting out. Community action is not mandated by the organization but will be a cornerstone of the Central PA chapter’s mission. After all, we see this as being about creating and keeping opportunities here in the region and giving talented women a support network to assume leadership roles within the community.
Founded in October 2012, after our first month in existence and just one networking event under our belts, our membership was up to over 50 members representing 21 different companies and organizations from the region, in industries ranging from non-profits, publishing and media, to photography, financial services and web development. Along with my two co-founders Kerry Mullen and Karen Roland, and our team of Power Organizers—Serena Fedor, Nichol Martin, Shauna Powers and Margaret Saunders—we are currently scheduling our 2013 program year and are planning (sponsorships willing) to host quarterly networking events, two annual speaker events, community workshops that allow others in the community to learn from the collective skills sets of our members, and intend to sponsor an annual community project.
There seems to be a groundswell of citizen action happening in Harrisburg lately—little pockets of creativity aimed at leveraging the city’s human capital with the goal of making this a better place to live. SheSays is simply our way of trying to leave the community in a better place than we found it this morning. Here’s to doing, Harrisburg. Start small and messy.
For more information on SheSays Central PA, click here.