“Be in Charge of Your Life.” So reads the slogan of the Women’s Empowerment Conference, taking place next month at the Clarion Inn in Seekonk. The lineup of speakers includes some real power hitters: there’s Judith Bowman, President of Protocol Consultants International (and an expert in business etiquette). There’s Katy Giffault, Vice President of Global Consumer Insights at Hasbro. And there’s Melissa Murray, keynote speaker and founder of the D-Strong Foundation for families with pediatric cancer.
But the origins of this conference are pretty grassroots: The Women’s Empowerment and Business Owners Networking Development (WEBOND) is a loose collective of women entrepreneurs who get together every other week at the East Bay Chamber of Commerce and talk shop. WEBOND has been helping female business leaders connect for about a decade.
“We have speakers all the time,” says Beth Carter, lead organizer of WEBOND. “It’s just a great way for women to interact with each other.”
Carter runs her own company, Beth Carter Enterprises, which specializes in speaking, coaching, and training. “I do everything,” Carter says with a knowing chuckle. A New York native, Carter spent 23 years in Fairfield, Connecticut, but it wasn’t until she arrived in the East Bay that she found such animated support.
“It really is a wonderful group,” she says. “We have a lot of transplants. We have people who are in transition. It’s quite a mix – from people selling skincare products to professional services. We bring different best practices.”
WEBOND has an easygoing membership, and most people find it through the website Meetup, where the group claims over 500 members. In-person, scheduled speakers usually present for about 20 minutes; between meetings, members ardently communicate through social media. Most participants are East Bay residents, but women visit from as far as southern Massachusetts. Even after a decade, this first Empowerment Conference is a major step for WEBOND. Carter expects about 120 attendees, and she hopes that the event’s popularity will snowball in coming years.
Business aside, Carter is also a single mother and “almost an empty nester,” and she’s met many WEBOND members in a similar stage of life. “To be honest with you, I’ve met most of my friends through WEBOND. I don’t want to say it’s like a sorority, but in a way, it is.” Meetings take place at 16 Cutler Street Warren, Meetup.com/WEBOND. For admission to the Empowerment Conference, visit EastBayChamberRI.org