THE BLOG
09/26/2012 12:33 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Women etics : The Power of Connectivity

My grandmother used to say, "If you want something done, ask a busy woman to do it." A woman like Elisabeth Marchant, President and CEO of Womenetics. "I believe strongly in the ability of women to positively impact the bottom line in corporations. When you have women in leadership roles, when you engage women who are passionate about the work they do and who bring diverse ideas to the table, you can create a positive ripple effect," she says.

A self-described "serial entrepreneur," Ms. Marchant founded Womenetics three years ago after serving as the President & CEO of The Leader Publishing Group, whose titles included Atlanta Woman, Business to Business magazine and several others, including 12 custom titles. "The goal of Womenetics was to put together a global media property that would focus on relevant and substantive ways that women can impact the business world," she says.

The word "Womenetics" was created in order to convey an implied sense of connectivity and collaboration. "The numbers of women at the top are not only not good, but I am concerned that the numbers will start decreasing," she says. The company's mission is to put women's needs at the forefront of public dialogue in the form of global leadership conferences, workshops, networking events and a website that has been listed by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Websites for Women for the past three years.

Womenetics is a privately-held B Corporation with headquarters in Atlanta and a strong presence in Chicago. A B Corporation is one that meets high standards for building support in the business community for public policies that support sustainable business practices. As Fair Trade USA certifies Fair Trade Coffee and U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) certifies LEED Buildings, B Lab certifies corporations for their social and environmental performance and accountability. Approximately 600 companies nationwide and five in Georgia have been awarded B Corp status. Ms. Marchant says, "They recognize that you can operate in a for-profit world and provide social/environmental benefit to the communities where you live. It's a great confirmation that the work we are doing to empower women for leadership is important." That work includes producing a website and services that offer strategies, services and programs for companies that increase their access, integration and retention of the best female talent. She says, "We have been working with corporations to provide scholarships to undergraduate students. Reaching out to and investing in the next generation of leaders is critical. These students are our future."

Ms. Marchant's intuitive skills and global vision were nurtured by her education at an all-women's prep school and college. She also attended McGill University in Montreal, The Parsons School of Environmental Design in New York and the Sorbonne in Paris. She started her career some 30 years ago in a family-owned construction and manufacturing business. Fifteen years later, she became the company's President and CEO. She says, "I was the only female on the construction side. It has been interesting. Having lived in a male-dominated world most of my life, I always considered it a real privilege to be there."

Her sense of gratitude and sense of mission embraces the world of women, not simply the world of business women in the United States. With that in mind, Womenetics will host two conferences on effective leadership and positive role models for women and girls in the 21st century economy: on October 4, at the Georgia Aquarium; and on November 1 at the Metropolitan Club in Chicago. Speakers at the Atlanta conference will include Pat Mitchell, President and CEO of thePaley Center for Media; Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro of Kenya, President and CEO of The Global Fund for Women; Madeline Di Nonno, Executive Director of the Geena Davis Institute; Pola Changnon, Vice-President of Turner Classic Movies; author and documentarian Jean Kilbourne, Ed. D.; Edit Schlaffer, Ph.D., Founder of Women without Borders, an international advocacy organization that helps women create positive change through global dialogue and international projects In Chicago, the speakers will include: philanthropist and filmmaker Abigail Disney, Jean Kilbourne, and Maria Wynne, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana . "These are all remarkable women playing on national and global stages to impact positive change for women and girls. Ms. Marchant says. "This has to do with women as agents of change."

Just as the effectiveness of psychotherapy is judged by what happens outside the therapist's office, out there in the world, the impact of Womenetics can be seen in the positive ripple effect generated by its events. After the first Women's Global Initiative in 2010 with US Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer as the Keynote, U.S. Bank's Vice-Chair Pamela Joseph invited 24 women from U. S. Bank offices around the world to form Women Leaders in Action (W.L.A). They adopted a small village school in Kenya and have since launched an initiative in Swaziland. Both are funded by the women themselves and from the corporation. In the two years since it was founded, W.L.A. has grown to include 50 women from U.S. Bank's offices around the world. "This is an incredible example of leadership by a woman who has a passion to create a positive ripple effect," notes Ms. Marchant.

Womenetics partnered with Porsche to bring 20 women from all over the country to a racetrack in Birmingham, Alabama for a High-Performance Women's Corporate Challenge that combined such leadership issues as risk-taking and crisis management with the experience of driving a racecar. Ms. Marchant got the idea for the Challenge as the result of her own invitation to the track the previous summer. As the guest of the CEO of Porsche North America, she received instruction on how to drive high performance race cars. "What came out of that program was an incredible leadership experience for me. I pushed myself in a way that I had never pushed myself before. I got comfortable taking big risks and asserting power in a way I never asserted power before," she says.

The insight she gained from that experience catalyzed into a vision for this year's High Performance Women's Corporate Challenge. Each driving exercise was presented to have relevance to a leadership situation at work. For example, the instructors put water all over the track so that participants could learn how to work their way out of a spin. "We wanted the women to get comfortable with being uncomfortable," says Mrs. Marchant. "And it worked!"

Pushing yourself and getting on the edge are essential qualities for a business leader. But women tend to be less comfortable with the risk-taking aspect of business. They are also less experienced than their male colleagues when it comes to networking. "One of our major objectives is helping women build a successful network because men do it well and women not so well. Women have so many things they are focusing on: their children, aging parents, getting the job done and then going home because they have other things they are taking care of," says Ms. Marchant, adding, "Women build networks of neighbors, their religious communities, girlfriends from school, college, etc. but they do not effectively build a business network. We help them do that."

Which is one of the reasons Ms. Marchant believes that the world needs Womenetics more than ever.

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