In 2001, The Women’s Council on Diversity had its first planning meeting in the offices of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga. The plan was to brainstorm how we would build an network that included women of diverse backgrounds: generations, religions, race and ethnicities. Instead of a small group, the room was packed. The date was September 12, 2001, the day after 9/11. Instead of a small group, the room was packed. We came together to mourn, to comfort each other, and to build community.

Over the next four years, the Women’s Council met monthly to talk about our increasingly diverse city. Some times we would have women talk about their cultural  traditions so that we could better understand them. They shared stories of holidays and family traditions. They talked about the arts in their culture, about education, and entrepreneurship. The Council held full day forums on diversity and economics, and diversity and healthcare. We called these forums Think Tanks and circulated a newsletter reporting their findings.

Here’s how we branched out from the Women’s Council on Diversity. Based on the trends, requests, and surveys over these four years, we created the next phase of our work. In 2007, three major initiatives were launched: 1.) Global Leadership Class 2.) Women Ground Breakers and 3.) American Diversity Report.

1.) The Global Leadership Class met monthly throughout the school year. Participants were self-selected and included men and women from around the city. They came from nonprofits, government agencies, education institutions, and corporations. Shaped by the work of the Women’s Council on Diversity, the guide for the Global Leadership Class was a loose leaf binder with worksheets and group exercises that led to the development of a global mindset. Today, that guide is now a textbook and workbook, the Matrix Model Management System. The two graduation ceremonies were community events hosted by EPB and BBS of TN. The following year, we morphed the class for teens in partnership with Sheila Boyington and her daughter Nisha. The textbook, Inspire Your Inner Global Leader, was created especially for these leaders-in-training.

 

2.) Women Ground Breakers was a natural next step to the Women’s Council on Diversity. The WGB was created to demonstrate how women were central to development locally and globally. We focused on a Women’s History Month event using the storytelling techniques of our earlier projects. For the past five years, there has been an onsite storytelling performance and an online website. We share the storytelling videos of Chattanooga ground breaking women. The 2015 event theme was Women in STEM and videos are available online for educational uses as is the STEM Women Study Guide.

3.) The American Diversity Report (ADR) was created using open source technology for social networking in 2007. The ADR grew out of the Women’s Council pdf newsletter as Chattanooga became international. Our goals were to document our transformation into a global village and to provide an internet route for the global village to come to us. could be documented. With an emphasis on women, the ADR has hosted articles by dozens of writers from around the world and trained new writers to write for an online global audience.

ADR articles also document the Women Council on Diversity and its early transformation into the Women Ground Breakers. Next, the ADR reported on the current partnership with the international Lean In movement. Soon, the number of members on our Diversity Women Facebook page reached 1,000.  Now, our Lean In circle has access to the resources on the www.leanin.org site which complement the resources displayed on our own site at www.womengroundbreakers.com. Lastly, these ADR articles are syndicated to The Huffington Post where they have an international  audience.

Onward and Upward!