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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 24, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 25
GSBA's Women at the Top
Combining business development and social justice
Section One
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GSBA's Women at the Top
Combining business development and social justice

by Joshua Michael Rumley - Special to the SGN

It's no longer a 'man's world,' to reference the title of a famous James Brown song. Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and allied women are advancing quickly in the business world by obtaining influential and important positions. The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) has answered the call for a local women's business networking event with Women at the Top.

'Women at the Top was launched in 2010 to ensure its women members were engaged and to increase involvement of women business owners,' said Louise Chernin, president and chief executive officer of the GSBA. 'Business organizations traditionally under-serve women-owned businesses.'

The GSBA is the nation's largest LGBT business chamber, with around 1,000 members. The GSBA has a variety of cocktail hours to meet the specific networking needs of their members; including business luncheons, Prime Time cocktail hours, Young Professionals with Pride (for the 21-39 year old demographic), and Women at the Top.

Why exactly does there need to be a female-oriented business and entrepreneur networking event?

'Often women feel overwhelmed if they are at a mixer where they are in the minority,' said April Thanos, GSBA program manager. 'WATT [Women at the Top] provides a place for women to be the main focus and it gives women a chance to really appreciate themselves and see what they have accomplished.'

It wasn't that long ago that it was unheard-of for a woman to be in a position of power in a major corporation. The feminist movement of the 1960s ushered in a time when women were finally being elected to positions and major roles such as board executives and company CEOs. Though there has been progress, female workers are still paid substantially less then men in similar positions.

'Many people feel that the feminist movement has taken care of the gap between men and women in business,' said Jessica Swetin, GSBA membership services coordinator, 'but what we know from real-world experience is that while women have made an enormous amount of progress over the years toward equality, the reality is that women are still a marginalized population in this country.'

Through networking events such as Women at the Top, the GSBA has maintained their dedication to its membership to expand economic opportunities for their LGBT and allied female members.

'GSBA has a commitment to both engage and provide support to our women-owned businesses,' said Chernin. 'Our women members enjoy the company of other women CEOs, business owners, and elected officials in a relaxed environment.'

The name 'Women at the Top' is symbolic not only for the progress made by LGBT and allied females but also for the event's location. The networking event is always held at a GSBA member venue on a top floor, giving attendees a dramatic view of Seattle. Most recently the event was held at the Sheraton Seattle in their sky-high Cirrus Room.

The Women at the Top event is designed to bring together women from diverse industries, backgrounds, and life experiences to give them an inclusive environment to meet and connect. While business development is the primary objective, social justice is an important component that is woven into everything that the GSBA does.

'Since our women members like to connect business to issues, we invite one nonprofit that serves LGBT and allied women to share a bit about their organization,' said Chernin.

The GSBA was pleased to welcome Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, at the April event. Kendell spoke to a crowd of over 100 individuals about the importance of community engagement in the continued fight for LGBT equality.

When asked what she would like to see as an outcome of the Women at the Top event, Thanos said, 'I would love to see women getting to know women they might not otherwise come into contact with in their normal lives. I would also like to see these women donating to or volunteering with some of the non-profits we feature.'

The next Women at the Top event will be held on July 28 at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront.

There is a registration fee for the event: $10 for GSBA members and $15 for guests. To register, visit www.thegsba.org or call the GSBA office at 206-363-9188.

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