Local programs are helping women recover from the pandemic
Women were hit hard by the pandemic. As the economy suffered and schools closed, child care demands fell largely upon mothers, leaving many to struggle with layoffs, furloughs, and other employment challenges. And while the economy has bounced back on paper, many women remain in difficult circumstances with uncertain futures—particularly as they seek to reclaim lost time and opportunities.
While The Salt Lake Chamber has been a leader in the fight for equal pay with the development of the “Best Practices Guide for Closing the Gender Wage Gap,” an initiative that assists businesses with identifying specific actions and policies that can create a more fair and equitable pay environment, much remains to be done in this area in order to reclaim economic opportunity for all. Whether a woman wants to start a business, ascend to the C-Suite, run for public office, or grow within her current professional environment, there are programs and organizations available to assist.
For those looking to develop professionally and personally, there’s no better place to start than with the Chamber’s leadership program, Business Women’s Forum (BWF), which brings together businesswomen to create authentic networking opportunities, recognize accomplishments, and grow skills. The BWF focuses on building a community and influencing positive change. Regardless of the current state of a woman’s career, this program has something to offer everyone.
If entrepreneurship is the goal, the Women’s Business Center of Utah (WBCUtah) is just the thing to help women start and grow their businesses. The team provides education, mentorship, and support systems―no matter the stage of a business. Anyone with an idea can work with WBCUtah through free, one-on-one business advising sessions. These efforts complement workshops and events, as well as online webinars and training materials crafted to hone critical skills related to business ownership.
Recently, WBCUtah created a first-of-its-kind Utah Women-Owned Business Directory to connect the community to these ventures. In addition, WBCUtah seeks to empower women entrepreneurs through open access to capital as a Kiva program Hub and Trustee. Kiva is a large crowdfunding platform where potential entrepreneurs can detail their business plans for lenders to join their effort through microfunding.
To help elevate the “stature and talents” of women, the Salt Lake Chamber houses the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) with three areas of service—ElevateHER Challenge, Career Development Series, and Political Development Series. These services are offered through an annual ElevateHER Challenge as well as a political and career development series. ElevateHER is a nonprescriptive and research-based model to improve companies by including and raising the status of women employees. The Career Development Series has been called an “executive leadership course” tailored for mid- to senior-level businesswomen that helps to improve career trajectory and up-level with new skills and vision.
A signature part of the WLI is to inspire and train women to run for political office. The Political Development Series is a six-month program designed to give women the skills necessary to throw their hat in the ring. Each group of interested candidates forms a cohort, connects with numerous experts, and participates in workshops that help define the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of winning elections.
Finally, the annual Women & Business Conference and ATHENA Awards Luncheon, hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber and WBCUtah provides attendees with an opportunity to hear from inspirational speakers, learn valuable business insights for professional growth, and foster relationships with other businesswomen in the community. The Women & Business Conference and ATHENA Awards Luncheon also recognizes the accomplishments of local business leaders for their dedication to helping women reach their full leadership potential and improving the community.
There’s a saying that “empowered women empower women,” and that can be taken one step further—empowered women empower communities, they run businesses, head households, and serve others. Women helped build Utah, and today they lead unicorn companies, serve in high offices, run universities, and provide a resource to ensure that no one is overlooked when rebounding from the pandemic and embracing the future.