Women's Business Organization Looking for New Focus; Local Chapter of EWI to Help with Professional and Personal Goals

By Gibbons, Timothy J. | The Florida Times Union, May 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Women's Business Organization Looking for New Focus; Local Chapter of EWI to Help with Professional and Personal Goals


Gibbons, Timothy J., The Florida Times Union


Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

When Julie Covington decided to become a financial adviser at Smith Barney, she stepped away from a position where she got to shape a division of a company and help chart its course.

The financial adviser position she's been in for five years doesn't have the same sort of responsibilities - but Covington saw no reason her experience should go to waste.

Now, she uses her leadership skills shaping a different organization: a nonprofit women's group that's reimagining its identity.

The local chapter of Executive Women International has been around since 1968, the first of the national organization's branches on the East Coast. Over time, said Covington, who took over as president last year, the business world has changed, and she wanted to change the group's focus to better fit today's marketplace.

"A lot of the members have been involved since the 1960s," Covington said - a time when women didn't usually have access to the type of positions they now hold today.

"It started as an organization for secretaries," she said. "As women's roles have changed, so has the organization's."

For Covington, that meant moving the group away from its more social activities and focusing on things that:

-- Promote member firms through networking.

-- Provide professional development.

-- Get the group involved with the community.

Covington has already benefited on the networking side, she says. A chat with an EWI member who worked for Taylor Residences led Covington to a volunteer opportunity she relishes. Covington brings her St. Bernard, Berringer, to the nursing home, serving as a form of therapy for facility residents.

The philosophical shifts that led to the changes in the organization are also reflected in the Jacksonville chapter's new fund-raising event, a breakfast seminar called Advancing Women, being held Thursday.

The event, which will feature Marci Shimoff, co-author of books like Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, is designed to hit all of Executive Women International's goals, Covington said.

In the past, Covington said, EWI-Jacksonville has raised money for two scholarships it offers - to high school students and to adults who are transitioning to a new career - by holding a golf tournament and doing smaller projects. …

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