For Rose Catherin, it began at the board meetings where often she would look around and see mostly men.
As a long-standing member of the board of the French American Chamber of Commerce Atlanta-Southeast, she was determined to discover a way to galvanize the professional women with whom she was engaged through her work and through her friendships into a new program.
That program — “The Women’s Series” — is to celebrate its fifth anniversary on April 30. Although she was and has remained its catalyst, Ms. Catherin is quick to point to partnership as a key factor for its success. Its success has been such that the event has been sold out already for two weeks.
“It’s a collaborative initiative,” she insists, “of the Belgian, French, Netherlands and German American chambers of commerce as well as the British American Business Council and the Japan America Society of Georgia.
While her initial support came from a cluster of francophone women friends — yes, including those who wouldn’t always attend the French chamber’s events — she quickly learned that similar women’s groups already existed such as the Netherlands American Chamber of Commerce‘s women’s luncheons and Women in Bio‘s numerous networking events.
The alliance with Women in Bio lasted only for a year or so because it was interfering with some of their other programming. No matter, Ms. Catherin pressed on making permanent alliances with the the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce of the Southeastern United States, the Belgian American Chamber of the South and the German American Chamber of the Southern United States.
Soon enough the group was joined by the British American Business Council and the Japan America Society of Georgia. Now the events rotate among the partners which allows, she says, for a diversity of speakers and topics as well as greater attendance.
Even with the support of women already active in these organizations, however, she admits that their quarterly events can be somewhat panic inducing while being involved as a volunteering board member and working a demanding job. “Sometimes we go on ‘high alert’,” she confesses in preparing for a program with only 20 acceptances until the last minute when they finally are able to attract 60 or so attendees.
While 60 seems to have settled as a regular number, the range has gone from 32 attendees who came to the first meeting to learn “How to Efficiently Brand and Market Yourself” to the most recent which drew 80 to learn about Women in Philanthropy from a panel including Sarah Fonder-Kristy of the Atlanta Community Food Bank; Teresa Wenzel of the Atlanta Dream; Kari Love of the Atlanta Women Foundation and Allison Chance of the High Museum.
The lively discussion was moderated by Allison Turner of the consultancy firm BCI Global.
The range of issues brought forth are in keeping with the organization objectives of providing “educational and stimulating content to our attendees, while facilitating professional opportunities and networking among peers.”
Ms. Catherin breaks down the formal mission statement to “personal and professional development and experience sharing.”
Traditional themes such as empowerment and success have been included as have the personal experiences of women in startups and science.
Occasionally, Ms. Catherin told Global Atlanta, the topics wander from the beaten path with a program such as the one on “emotional self-defense.” She added that she personally was especially helped while transitioning jobs by the “effective communication” program.
A native of France, she first came to the U.S. 16 years ago on an internship. Her first job in Atlanta was with the global transportation and logistics provider Mid America Overseas.
A customer told her of a position for a project manager at the French business development agency, Enterprise Rhone-Alpes International (ERAI), headquartered in Lyon, France. From project manager, Ms. Catherin was promoted to eventually head up its U.S. operations with offices in Atlanta and Philadelphia. ERAI established one of Atlanta’s early incubators for French companies based in the Southeastern U.S.
For the past three years Ms. Catherin has been working in the healthcare group of the Brussels-based multinational firm Solvay Specialty Polymers.
In regards to The Women’s Series’ success, she is quick to thank the support that the organization has received from the Alliance Francaise and the Goethe-Zentrum in Atlanta for making their jointly owned space in Midtown available for its programs, as well as the members of the different organizations with which she has worked.
Ms. Catherin said that The Women’s Series will be planning quarterly events as long as they meet a need in the community. Registration to the events is done through the partners’ websites.