Great Dames and founder Sharon Kelly Hake faced a crisis in March.
The empowerment, mentoring and networking community thrived on in-person events
Panel discussions and Q&A sessions featured frank discussions of women overcoming barriers to success that ranged from troubled inner-city neighborhoods to the workplace and pay discrimination.
Sellouts were not unknown at the ballroom at Harry’s Savoy Grill in north Wilmington. An increasing number of men were also in attendance.
“We are high touch, high impact,” Hake says of the organization.
Covid-19 shutdowns changed that approach, but also presented an opportunity.
Even before the pandemic struck, Great Dames had been focusing on smaller in-person groups that took a deeper dive into issues and opportunities.
Hake had earlier formed a chapter in Philadelphia and was trying to figure out how to deal with the growing number of requests for Great Dames to expand.
Long before the pandemic and despite Google searches for “Great Dames” turning up posts on “Great Danes” women from overseas and sparsely populated states found the website and wanted to form chapters.
As the shutdown got underway, pleas poured in to not stop the discussion as workplaces shifted to home offices and member-owned businesses struggled with damage from the pandemic.
Zoom provided some of the answers.
Hake says that the hugely popular and sometimes overused meeting software came with a learning curve that intensifies with large meetings.
“To my surprise, it worked,” Hake says of the first event which attracted 100 people.
Hake also notes that Zoom sessions featured a more intense level of engagement and what the group has long described as “powerful conversations” on issues such as gender bias, families pushing for traditional gender roles and overcoming fear of failure.
On the increase were invitations passed along to friends and associates by members of the Great Dames community.
The technology also opened the door to options that included virtual and national chapters.
Great Dames has since grown from two to six chapters as well as a global virtual chapter. The number of meetings has increased sharply and the organization has members from six nations.
Sustaining the organization remains a challenge, but the number of dues-paying “Circle” members continues to increase.
Great Dames will hold its first Global Virtual Conference & Pitch Event next week. Click here for information or to register.
The event will run for five days between Sept. 21 to 25 from noon to one.
The challenges continue for the Great Dames community. Many businesses and organizations managed by members of the community are “hanging by a thread,” Hake says
In-person events will not go away (once a year is required for each chapter once things settle down). Whatever happens down the road, Great Dames has found its way in the virtual world.
Enjoy your evening and if you haven’t done so already by mail, vote in tomorrow’s primary – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.