Who’s there?

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

By: Heather Comstock

Attendees at the 2011 Women's Empowerment Conference. Photo by Nancy Arseneault.

When the Empowerment Center was being formed in 2010, an implementation team was recruited to develop a map of who we were, who we would serve, and how we would improve our community through our work with women. We had an amazing group from all backgrounds representing everything from the nonprofit sector, government, consulting, and business owners. It was an interesting, opinionated, and informed group.  The one thing we all agreed on:  Women don’t fit into nice one size fits all packages and assistance should be tailored to each specific client, filling a gap in services that existed in our area.

I bring this up because last week we took a look at the information on the clients we have served since we opened our doors for clients in early 2011.  It was very interesting and somewhat surprising (though it shouldn’t have been).  I was reminded that you can’t run a nonprofit, or a business for that matter, thinking you know who you’re serving and what they want from you.  You need to keep your eye on who is walking through your door and be responsive.

So, who did come through the doors in 2011?  We served about 60 women through our free job clubs and empowerment circles, group classes, individual coaching sessions, and phone referrals to other services in Howard County.  Our sample isn’t particularly scientific and we don’t have data on everyone we helped, but in looking at the information we do have, trends began to emerge.

The majority of the clients were 50 or older and most were unemployed.  These women had college degrees – bachelors and masters degrees.   Anecdotally, our data matched what I saw in our office.  These were professional women who were at a crossroads and trying to figure out where they wanted to go.  Some of the women were trying to get back into the workforce after years of caring for their families (including elderly relatives).  We had clients who had been laid off and were actively seeking employment.  There were also women who were restless in their careers and wanted something different: a more challenging position, a career change, or to pursue their passion or start their own business.

I am happy that that our clients came to us and that they found us helpful and our programs and services useful.  While I don’t know the specifics of each case, I do know what each woman got when she called or walked through the door.  She was treated as an individual – because that was our vision from the start and what sets us apart.

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