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Leaders of Hillsborough women's organizations share outlook on mutual support

Jessica Rivelli, founder and executive director of Working Women Tampa Bay. | TIMES FILES
Jessica Rivelli, founder and executive director of Working Women Tampa Bay. | TIMES FILES
Published Mar. 25, 2018

The leaders of several women's organizations in Tampa Bay offer thoughts on how women can support one another, ways to get involved in their organizations, and ways that men can be allies.

There's a genuine, cooperative spirit amongst the women here in Tampa Bay. This helps to build a supportive network across organizations in the area and makes our community stronger.

— Jessica Rivelli, founder of Working Women of Tampa Bay, a leading network community of women whose goal is to educate, motivate and inspire women professionals and business owners.

Women in Tampa Bay are supportive of each other by developing and mentoring each other and promoting our collective interests. This upcoming election cycle, The Junior League of Tampa is coordinating with nonpartisan women's organizations across Tampa to educate all of our members and our target constituencies and to get out the vote. That is an example of women coming together for a common good and rallying behind issues that are of interest to all of us. … What makes The Junior League of Tampa unique is that it's led exclusively by our 2,000 volunteers. Our focus is twofold: we develop the potential of women and we improve our community. As we work to end the cycle of poverty, we leverage our collective experience to help those who need it. The best way to get involved is through membership, supporting our programs and events, and attending our fundraisers such as the Holiday Gift Market and the Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races.

— Isabel Dewey, President-Elect of The Junior League of Tampa

Meaningful relationships, no matter the gender composition, are built on mutual respect, trust, support and empathy. If men are able to demonstrate and embrace these - it seems to me it would be natural for them to speak up and stand with us when they see behaviors and issues where we need their support and voice. What better allies to have than the presence and voices of men who "get it!" I just know there are such men here in Tampa Bay! Sometimes it is just a matter of listening and believing and understanding another woman's story. It may be the actions taken recently by the women of the Athena Society by adopting and adding to our other position statements one on sexual harassment to express our stand against such behaviors. Another example is how several women groups in our area joined the Tampa Tiger Bay Club in a panel discussion and #MeToo luncheon to show their support. What must not happen is that we become complacent, and our recent actions return to acceptance and apathy, or our support return to silence. We owe it today's young girls to clear the way so that their journey won't be the same.

—Doretha Edgecomb, President of Athena Society, 2017-2018

At the Ekhos Cocktails & Conversations, we break out into smaller groups, providing a safe space to have intimate discussions about that evening's topic or other women's issues that may be brought up during the conversation. We also provide thought provoking questions that can be used to break the ice and start the conversations. And we believe that men can be good allies to women by supporting the many initiatives that are already being provided by our local women leaders. We recommend attending open events to better understand what issues are affecting women and what is important to us. Additionally, for men who are in hiring manager roles, to take a pledge to ensure fair hiring practices and equal pay for women.

—Liza A. Mizel, President of the Ekhos

Now more than ever before women are helping women. We see it every day at the Centre for Women in so many different ways. We are all about collaboration at the Centre for Women. We look for and find ways to work together and to support each other's organizations. This year, we launched The League of Extraordinary Women as a way to recognize women who are stepping up to support The Centre for Women to make our work possible. And The Centre for Women has a long history of support from men in our community who volunteer and serve on our Board and committees, participate in our programs and serve as ambassadors for our work. Generally speaking, I think men can be better allies for women in Tampa Bay by inviting more women to serve on boards. They should also make sure that their organizations are intentional about providing equal pay for equal work, help women to become successful in every industry and support legislation that discourages harassment of any kind.

—Ann Madsen, Executive Director of The Centre for Women