Four Peninsula women – Phyllis Albert, Karen Belding, Agnes Braganza and Audrey Tyree – got together for lunch in February 1979 to discuss the possibility of forming an organization for career women. They had asked about 10 others to join them, but they were the only ones who came.
“Wouldn’t it be good if women could get together four or five times a year to discuss their careers and exchange ideas?” they said. “Wouldn’t it be a nice way of meeting other career women?” They thought that maybe 20 or 25 women would be interested.
Those four women declared themselves the steering committee and got started. A Saturday in May was selected for the first general meeting at Christopher Newport College. One hundred women from every conceivable occupation were identified and invited to attend the organizational meeting. The press was contacted and an exciting article appeared just prior to the meeting.
Seventy-five women turned out to organize a “network.” They weren’t sure what the name meant, but they were willing to spend money, time and energy to get the network started. Little by little, the founders heard of other networks and even a book. Agnes Braganza found time to go to New York to meet Alina Novak, founder of the Equitable’s “networks.” She read the galleys of Mary Scott Welch’s forthcoming book, Networking: The Great New Way for Women to Get Ahead.
As a result of that trip, the Peninsula Women’s Network was included in Welch’s book, and Alina Novak agreed to come to the Peninsula to conduct a networking workshop. Novak’s trips to the area inspired everyone who heard her speak. Her first workshop in September 1979 was a huge success, and twice as many women attended her return visit in April 1982.
Others were watching our progress and taking notes, and soon there were sister networks in Norfolk and Richmond. However, the Peninsula continues to lead the way in size, budget, programs and energy. We have grown, prospered and improved as other networks across the country have died.
Perhaps we have persisted because we still retain a small core group of loyal members who have participated from the beginning. Maybe it’s because members have formed the bonds of trust and friendship. Whatever the reason, the Peninsula Women’s Network has attained a high level of community visibility, respect and success over the years.
As an organization, the Peninsula Women’s Network’s strength is its membership: caring, sharing women who enjoy helping other women grow!