Extraordinary Women’s Exchange brings women together to motivate RVA

Wouldn’t it be great if several of RVA’s most successful and knowledgeable women came together and talked about their experiences? It’s happening on Thursday.

Several innovative women of RVA will gather this Thursday for an informal talk meant to inspire and mentor. The event continues the Real Conversation series within the broader Extraordinary Women’s Exchange (EWX) initiative, organized by the Greater Richmond Chamber.

“For about two years we had a monthly speaker series,” said Lesley Bruno of the Greater Richmond Chamber. While she said those lectures were successful, “when you have just a keynote speaker, it’s hard to be relevant to everyone.”

Bruno said The Real Conversations platform arose from the desire to have a diverse collection of women to “come sit and chat candidly in front of an audience.” In March, the first event featured a tattoo artist, a butcher, and a life coach, among others. “It was a really big success,” she said. Another was held in June, and this week marks the third of what will be a quarterly event for the city.

from that March panel

The moderator for Thursday’s event, Mary Foley, describes the featured women in simple terms: “Gutsy and smart.” She said that “each of them decided at some point in their career to take a risk to create fulfillment, as well as finances, in their lives.” The women will include:

“The biggest benefit to EWX events like Real Conversations is that it is a fantastic way to connect with and learn from some truly savvy, motivated, generous businesswomen who offer ideas to help you navigate your career, grow your business, and stay sane,” said Foley. “At the core of EWX is an open sharing of what’s worked, not worked, and helping each other with ideas and inspiration.”

Just as with the previous Real Conversations, Lesley Bruno said that the guests are women “who have put their neck out there” to become successful, some by changing long-held careers. “We try not to script it too much,” she said of the conversations. “We like it to be fluid and organic.” It will be Foley’s job to facilitate the conversation on Thursday.

“My biggest role is to create a comfortable, supportive, and engaging environment for open, honest, authentic conversations to happen,” said Foley. Not only for the guests, “but also for every woman in the room.”

Foley was a part of the initial conversations with Stephanie Phillips [Director of Member Value and Engagement] of the Greater Richmond Chamber late last year that helped inspire the Real Conversations initiative. “She and I share a desire to inspire area business women,” said Foley. “It shows what can happen when women get together and openly and honestly share aspirations and ideas.” She finds that local women are often eager to impart those ideas to others.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons I enjoy being a part of EWX Real Conversations,” she said. “Mentoring comes in all forms–from one on one long term relationship, to small group gatherings with a colleagues and friends, to larger events like these. EWX strives to provide different types of events and opportunities for women to connect and get the mentoring that works for them.” The Greater Richmond Chamber has no plans to get rid of the quarterly events.

“It’s got a future,” said Bruno of Real Conversations. “It’s not going anywhere.” She said that while the events feature women, they are by no means exclusive to them. “There’s no reason why this [series] can’t be inspiring for everyone.”

The EWX event will take place on Thursday, October 4th from 3:30 – 6:00 PM at the Virginia Repertory Theatre at Willow Lawn. Tickets range from $15 – $40.

photos courtesy of Lesley Bruno

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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