Focus on Future Women of Influence

by Deb Stegall
Heyl Royster

With more women in leadership roles in organizations, it is important to give attention and resources to developing women within your own business. It just makes sense.

While adding more women to the workforce helps create a more diverse workplace, it does not necessarily mean more women will advance to leadership roles. It takes an intentional effort of support and development.

Companies can assist in creating future “women of influence” with the development and advancement of their careers by providing support in a variety of ways. One such example is the Women’s Forum at Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen with chair Lisa LaConte and vice chair Dana Hughes.

The Women’s Forum provides a means for communication and coordination among women attorneys to foster professional development, strengthen client relationships, increase diversity within the firm, and enhance recruitment, retention and promotion of female attorneys.

In addition to providing value to the firm, the Women’s Forum extends into the community by supporting projects and events that encourage professional and personal development for women. For example, the firm’s women attorneys participated in a day of building for Habitat for Humanity, known as “Women Build,” and followed up by attending the Women Build House Blessing, with the new homeowner receiving her keys to the home. The Women’s Forum has also sponsored the United Way “Power of the Purse” auction in Edwardsville, which supports United Way’s efforts in five counties in southwestern Illinois. These are just a couple of ways the Women’s Forum engages its female attorneys in the communities in which the firm has offices.

This type of support of women within organizations and outside in the community provides not only rewarding opportunities for women, but enriches the community by providing women willing to take on leadership roles, developing future women leaders, and building intentional leaders who happen to be women. It offers role models for younger women in the organization, exposes women to other women in the community for networking and collaboration, and provides the opportunity to share personal and professional challenges. Finally, it provides a means to develop more self-confidence.

Independence, strength and personal accountability are fostered in an environment of support and encouragement. So often, women have talents and interests that remain unknown without a program or group to open the dialogue to discover such talents and interests. Businesses benefit from engaging women early in their careers and providing avenues for women to develop their influence. iBi

Deb Stegall is a partner at Heyl Royster, chair of the firm's Business Organizations & Transactions Practice and Agribusiness Practice, and vice-chair of its Healthcare Practice.