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Guild builds community amid professional women of color


An organization serving as a voice for young professional women of color in Cleveland is getting a rebrand.
 
The Women's Leadership Guild (TWLG), formerly The Cleveland Young Professional Minority Women's Group, changed its name and logo earlier this month. While its handle is a little shorter, the organization is still long on enhancing the careers of members through networking, mentorship, community engagement and leadership development.
 
Now with 150 paid members — along with 5,000 to 6,000 social media contacts — the guild provides a supportive space for minority women. Members are typically age 21-32, and derive from a diverse range of industries including the nonprofit sector and real estate. While the organization is geared toward women of color, it welcomes all women into the fold.
 
"What's great is that everyone's aspirations are so different," says Lauren Welch, a marketing manager at Cleveland History Center who founded the leadership venture in 2014 with Jazmin Long. "You get women in the community together, and there's a thread of camaraderie and wanting to learn from one another."
 
"Women in Action" is a typical professional development event held by TWLG, offering its young members an opportunity to connect with mid-level female executives. In the last couple of years, the group has hosted Kristen Baird Adams, chief operating officer with PNC, and Cleveland Clinic gynecologist Dr. Linda Bradley. This year, the organization will welcome WKYC-TV director of advocacy Margaret Bernstein and a host of other top-level professionals.
 
After-work social activities are another important component of guild membership, notes Welch. Yoga classes, brunch get-togethers and sexual wellness talks foster a much-needed sense of community, she says.
 
Welch and Long initially launched the networking group to meet what they saw as an unmet need in the Cleveland networking community
 
"When we first started there wasn't an organization giving women of color a voice in this city," Welch says. "We created a space where they can talk about their office experiences."
 
In many cases, women of color are one of only a few minority women in their workplace. This sense of "otherness" finds them encountering unique challenges as compared to their co-workers.
 
"They're asking themselves how they should wear their hair, or what they should dress like," says Welch. "We want them to make the best of their time here while living authentically."
 
TWLG strives to position minority females as assets within the community, with new recruits engaged through the group’s website, social media marketing and networking. Organizational partners like Engage! Cleveland and the Society of Urban Professionals refer additional potential members to the guild. As the only Cleveland organization with a database of women of color, TWLG will move boldly forward in adding names to that list, its founders say.
 
"Cleveland is a place of opportunity," says Long. "We want more women rising in the ranks."
 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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