Today’s electronic networking – via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms – didn’t exist back in 1980, when the Flint Women’s Forum (FWF) first began.
It’s okay, though, because face-to-face networking is the bedrock behind this assembly of women who range in age from 20-75. They’ve all achieved success at the companies they represent, such as Skaff Furniture, Birch Run Premium Outlets, Plante Moran, Becker Bridal, Cumulus Broadcasting, RE/MAX, Genesee Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, and others.
Longstanding member, Ruth Kramer, 74, joined FWF 25 years ago, and proudly remains on the roster. She served as a former president and chaired several committees during her involvement. Kramer credits the strong, forward-thinking women who bravely founded the group with a grant from Ruth Mott in 1980. “It began with local Flint attorneys, bank managers and female business leaders of the day,” remembers Kramer, who exemplifies business entrepreneurship herself, as the owner of a promotional marketing business. “Through the decades, however, Flint Women’s Forum has evolved to include many more women from a wider background, and a variety of industries are represented.”
FWF stands behind the mission of bringing women together and increasing the visibility of professional women through educational programs, keynote speakers, idea-sharing and building resources.
Cheryl DeFrain, a past president, explains, “Back when this group was founded, there were no civic or networking groups available specifically for women.” She recalls that groups such as Kiwanis or Rotary Clubs were for men only. “So, with a grant from Ruth Mott, which the YWCA administered, the Flint Women’s Forum gave professional females in the community an opportunity to gather and network.” DeFrain adds, “Two years later, the entity became an independent, non-profit organization chartered through the State of Michigan.”
The group continues to thrive, empower and draw women together. Amber Taylor, 36, joined FWF in 2016. “I attended two meetings and knew immediately that I wanted to belong to this group,” says Taylor, who in January, courageously left her career as a marketing director for a large restoration company. “I worked 40-60 hours per week at a job that demanded time away from my family. The caliber of women I met through Flint Women’s Forum inspired me to pursue my dreams. They helped me make a bold career change, and I’m grateful for that.”
Taylor, who serves as the communication chairperson, says she appreciates the positive advice from the FWF members. “They’re so encouraging, uplifting and supportive,” she says. “I now operate my own health and wellness business and I get to put my daughter on the bus in the morning, and best of all, I’m home for her at the end of the day. It’s such a gift to be working fewer hours in a field I have passion for; before, I was always sacrificing my family time. I definitely attribute the influence of the businesswomen I networked with for giving me strength to move in a new direction.”
Besides mentoring new members, the group adheres to bylaws and has a board of directors who meet on the first Tuesday of the month to plan events, select guest speakers, and brainstorm charitable community projects.
In the past, guest speakers have included Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police; Gina Thorsen, Co-owner and President of Stormy Kromer Products; Canisha Norris, Program Coordinator and Mindfulness Coach at Crim Foundation; and Ruth Cantor, Executive Director of Genesee County Humane Society.
“Last year, we adopted a family from the YWCA for Christmas and we collected blankets,” says Taylor. “The phenomenal response from the women is evidence of their commitment to giving back to others and sharing resources.”
Regular members meet for monthly luncheons at places such as Brick Street in Grand Blanc. There are opportunities for women to chair various sub-groups such as membership, programs and communication committees.
“The group is versatile,” says Kramer. “Every woman is welcome and it’s a comfortable atmosphere. Women find business networking, as well as friendships at our gatherings.”
The in-person networking seems to work best for FWF, but they’ve grown and invite prospective members to use the internet to learn more at flintwomensforum.org.
“The group is versatile. Every woman is welcome
and it’s a comfortable atmosphere.”
Ruth Kramer, Past President