founder, Tarana Burke, has been invited to speak at the annual Inforum Capstone dinner. For women and men alike, "Hearing Ms. Burke’s words with a group will be powerful and the table conversations will provide new perspectives," expresses VP of Corporate & Member Engagement at
, Becky Puckett-Wood.
Rapid Growth: What is Inforum
Becky Puckett-Wood: It’s hard to comprehend this now, but in 1962 when Inforum was founded, women were not allowed to belong to business organizations or attend their meetings. We were a pioneer for the advancement of women in business by giving them a place to learn, network, support each other, hear from thought leaders, and find speaking opportunities.
Here, our work is advanced by the West Michigan Regional Council whose members are visible and active in the community. They’re also important to making sure our programming is important and relevant locally. For example, they were the impetus behind bringing #MeToo
founder Tarana Burke to keynote our annual Capstone dinner.
RG: How is it different than our local Econ Club?
BP: We and the Economic Club
both believe in informing and inspiring our members with new ideas and exposure to thought leaders. But that’s just one of the things we do [at Inforum]. We also provide a broad array of leadership development programs and networking and volunteer opportunities to women and companies.
RG: Why do you think it’s important for women to specifically connect with other women?
BP: Women share common experiences and face common challenges. Connecting with other women builds professional and personal networks and provides a circle of trusted allies who can advise, aid, support, and amplify your efforts.
RG: How do you keep women active and engaged within the organization?
BP: We offer a range of affinity groups focused on commonalities including emerging leaders and living and/or working in the lakeshore area, and conversations at breakfast, lunch, or dinner! These are all volunteer-led and we create new groups as member need arises. We offer STEM role model volunteer opportunities through partnerships with other local organizations. Members also serve as ambassadors who volunteer at events and as regional council and committee members, among other things.
RG: What are some specific issues our local female leaders are facing right now?
BP: Historically, women in West Michigan have played very significant roles in our businesses and community, but they have not always received recognition for their efforts. We are a city that often recognizes the efforts of men (i.e. "founding fathers") when we talk about our history, and that translates into the women and girls in our community not always having visible role models that show what is possible through hard work and dedication. Recently, we have been delighted to to see women very recently named CEO at two very large local employers: Tina Freese Decker at Spectrum Health
and Andi Owen at Herman Miller
. These are very visible and important appointments, but we still have much work to do.
RG: What does your annual Capstone dinner highlight?
BP: It’s an evening of celebration and connection and we’ve had great speakers. For example, CMS Energy
CEO Patti Poppe was our keynote last year. Inforum works year-round to provide exceptional content. Our Capstone dinner highlights timely leaders to provide insight and inspiration to attendees. This event provides access to true trailblazers, while also inviting attendees to network with each other and build relationships through facilitated, thoughtful table conversations.
RG: How did Tarana Burke (#MeToo movement founder) come to be your Capstone speaker this year?
BP: The #MeToo movement has sparked important conversations around the globe, but as the founder of the movement, Tarana Burke has been thoughtfully considering these issues for some time. She speaks with authority. When talking about sensitive topics, it is exceptionally important to provide access to knowledge. Ms. Burke offers a key historical perspective, personal knowledge, and real-time insights. Her perspective will be rich and welcome.
RG: Why do you think it’s important for Inforum to highlight the #MeToo Movement?
BP: It’s really about recognizing the movement’s visibility and impact. It’s opened the door for the productive conversations that lead to good results. We are seeing leaders in all areas and at all levels being held accountable for behavior, but more importantly, we see dedicated work to create environments that are safe to all. This isn’t fast work, but it is important, and stretches across industries and sectors.
RG: Have you received any pushback from wanting to bring this issue further into light?
BP: The companies who support us are committed to unleashing their best talent — which means considering the entire talent pool and taking intentional steps to provide opportunities and remove the barriers that get in the way. We’ve received significant corporate support specifically for this event.
RG: What do you hope your guests’ biggest takeaway will be?
BP: We hope they’ll have a better understanding of the history and impact of the #MeToo movement, and leave feeling inspired and energized, with new knowledge and new connections. Hearing Ms. Burke’s words with a group will be powerful and the table conversations will provide new perspectives. This collective experience will be transformative for many.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.