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Local women getting down to business

POSTED: June 23, 2007 5:06 a.m.

Women working in business finally have a group that is just for them in Effingham County.

Brooke Burns, owner of Burns Insurance Associates in Rincon, founded Effingham Women in Business at the start of this year.

She describes it as a networking group. It also offers mentoring and education. The ladies range in age from their mid-20s on up. Anyone holding a leadership position in business and the non-profit sector is welcome to join. And you don’t have to live in Effingham County to participate.

A range of positions is represented by the group, including entrepreneurs, bank officers, realtors, appraisers, massage therapists and mortgage lenders.

“Really, it would appeal to anyone in a leadership position and in sales,” added Lainie Jenkins, a member of the group and a mortgage loan officer at First Southern National Bank.

And there is definitely a large pool of businesswomen from which to form a group.

The National Women’s Business Council reported in March 2005 that woman-owned businesses grew at twice the rate of all firms. In the U.S., one in 18 women owns her own business.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 32.5 percent of women are employed in managerial and professional positions.

The ladies admit that women approach business in a unique way.

“Women just do business differently than men,” Jenkins said. “We communicate and learn differently.”

Nonetheless, they believe that there are certain universal skills needed by men and women alike in order to succeed in the business world. Being slightly assertive, detail-oriented and creative are all essential.

Yet, while the needed skills may apply to all the working experiences of women and men indeed differ.

“I think it’s a struggle at times,” Burns admitted. 

“I think it’s a challenge for all of us at times,” Jenkins added.

Burns pointed out that women, in particular, have a hard time selling themselves.

Brandie McMahon of Effingham Victim Witness added that succeeding in business requires being a little selfish, something women have been raised from childhood not to be.

A major hurdle for women in business and other fields is trying to balance a career and a family. Flexible working hours would be very helpful, however, many women do not have that option.

“Corporate hasn’t caught up to the needs of women,” noted Brandie McMahon.

The group’s monthly meetings feature a discussion segment. At the last meeting, the ladies talked about their concerns and shared how they faced them.

In the future they plan to have guest speakers attend the meetings and organize social functions.

Their upcoming kick-off event at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center is one of many social activities they hope to have.

The all-day program will feature guest speakers, lunch, vendors, facials and networking. A play by Fran Powers, “Bernadette’s Bravo,” will be the featured performance.

The women have their own unique stories of how they reached their current positions.

McMahon graduated with a degree in religion, only to find out that there isn’t much you can do with it. Fortunately, she was able to find work in the non-profit sector.

Jackie Arden, an officer at Citizens Bank, worked her way up through the bank. She started working there right after high school graduation, marriage and a baby all within a year’s time.

Burns turned to entrepreneurship like many in her family.

“It happened naturally,” she said.

Jenkins started at the “bottom” as a childcare center bus driver. From there she rose to childcare teacher, director, regional director to her position now in banking. Along the way, she discovered that she had a talent for management and surprise — she could do math.

Recounting the progress women have made over the decades, Jenkins acknowledged, “Things have changed; let me tell you.”

To join Effingham Women in Business contact Brooke Burns at 663-0131. The group meets the second Tuesday of each month at noon. On June 12 they will meet in the community room of the Effingham Hospital.

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