The term “old boy’s club” often gets bandied about when decrying gender discrimination and nepotism. But what if there was a “club” that sought to bring people into the fold rather than keep them out.
Enter the PVD Lady Project, a nonprofit organization based in Providence. The group hosts bi-monthly events in Providence’s most popular places, including The Dorrance, Local 121 and The Providence Athenaeum. Its goal is to allow women to connect, get inspired and learn about what other talented, creative females are doing.
Each event benefits a local charity or organization that is either run by women or benefits women in our community. Past organizations have included the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island, Sojourner House, Girls on the Run Rhode Island and YWCA of Northern Rhode Island.
Sierra Barter of Clementine Lime is co-founder of the group.
PBN: How did your team identify a need for this type of organization?
BARTER: Julie [Sygiel of Dear Kate and the group’s other co-founder] and I met a few years after we graduated from Brown University and Johnson & Wales University, respectively. When we first met, we kept telling each other about a cool, driven woman we knew from college or an internship and realized there should be a place where they all knew each other and could work together. We wanted it to be organized but also causal – like you’re going out for drinks with your friends, but still purposeful and structured. We didn’t expect it to grow into what it is now. It’s amazing!
PBN: How is Providence Lady Project different from other community-focused women’s organizations?
BARTER: The mission of the PVD Lady Project is to connect, inspire, and showcase awesome women doing amazing things in Providence. Our events are fun [at least we think so], are cost effective and we always have some sort of ‘activity’ for our members. At each event we also benefit a local organization that either benefits or is run by women. Attendees have the option to make a donation when they buy their ticket. In our first year we raised over $1,000 for organizations like Girl Scouts of Rhode Island, Girls on the Run Rhode Island, and Sojourner House. We place a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship but members do not have to have their own business to join. Our end goal is for our members to do business with each other. Our members come from all different industries.
PBN: What do you think women are getting from your events? Are they primarily social or do you feel real business connections are being formed?
BARTER: [It’s] both! I have met some great friends and mentors at events. Everyone talks about how small Rhode Island is and then I meet someone super awesome and I can’t believe I hadn’t met them before. We hear a lot from our members that they hired someone they met at our event or they connected another member to one of their contacts. We also have a private Members Only Facebook group where members will post business opportunities, tips on where to get a manicure or recommendations on where to get a sign printed. We are aiming to create a trusted network where ladies can bounce ideas off each other, share resources and contact each other easily. We want members to learn from each other.
PBN: What is special about the Lady Project Summit as a professional development day?
BARTER: We have three amazing speakers – Debbie Stoller from BUST magazine, Barbara Tannenbaum from Brown University, and Payal Saha from The Kati Roll Co. – and awesome workshops throughout the day. The workshops are on the shorter side, about 45 minutes, with 15 minute “networking breaks” in between. After the workshops, we’ll have a fun after party by BUST. We’ll also have a headshot booth and a mini spa station. Our goal is for each woman at the event to leave with a skill or mindset that she didn’t have when she came in that morning and to meet some other amazing women throughout the day. It’s going to be an amazing day!
PBN: What do women get from female encouragement, support, and networking that they cannot get from other sources such as the work place or male colleagues?
BARTER: So much. In my experience, it’s sometimes easier to talk to a woman about questions you may have, or people they’ve worked with. As women, we’re social and want to hang out with our friends. We may as well talk business, too. We’re hoping to create an Old Boy’s Club for driven women here in Rhode Island where women can lean in for support, ideas, and someone to talk to.